I am often asked by some members of the community why people are homeless. So I decided to put together the top 10 questions asked about the Homelessness.
1. How come they don’t have housing, they get paid unemployment benefits?
A shortage of affordable housing and high rents means people on low incomes are increasingly vulnerable to homelessness. Single parent families, in particular, spend the most on housing as a percentage of their weekly gross income.
To put things in perspective, a single person on newstart gets round $535.00 per Fortnight. To rent a one-bedroom unit costs a minimum of $250 per week or $500 per Fortnight.
In addition to this, they would need to put away $30 per fortnight for power, excess water and mobile phone. That leaves a total of $5.00 dollars for food, medications, and essentials per fortnight. However, before that, they need to have saved $1,000 bond plus 2 weeks in advance and pay a 50 dollars bond deposit for power. That’s a total $1,550 all whilst living on the street.
Not exactly a lucrative business model.
2. Why can’t they get a job like everyone else instead of lazing around all day.
For a job interview at a warehouse or even at McDonald’s people need clean clothes, shoes in good condition, access to a shower and hygienic products so that they can appear as their best selves.
Resumes, transportation and a stable telephone number are also needed.
Even if they have these items and or the skills, most homeless and marginalised people are just trying to survive at the most basic level, of a time-consuming search for food and appropriate shelter.
In addition, in an environment where jobs are as rare as hens teeth homeless people have little chance.
3. They are all drug and alcohol addicts?
It’s one of the top reasons most people refuse to give homeless people any money:
The widespread stereotype that homeless people only want money for booze and/or drugs. First of all, some homeless people live sober lives. However, for those who do suffer from addiction, the issue is far from black and white. In some cases, an individual might have become homeless because an addiction went untreated for too long and wrought havoc on that person’s life. In many other cases, drugs become a coping mechanism after having to live on the streets.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, addictions should be viewed as illnesses and require health care treatment, counselling and support to overcome — resources often not afforded to the homeless or unattainable because of cost.
4. Why aren’t they sleeping in an emergency shelter instead of the streets?
Simply put, there is not enough emergency housing on the Sunshine Coast and in the case of men, there is no emergency shelter. — The nearest men’s shelter is either Brisbane 100km south or Maryborough 180kms north.
5. Why do they keep urinating in public places?
It is easy to take for granted having a home, a job or being able to dine at restaurants where there is at least one working bathroom to access when nature calls. Those essential facilities are non-existent for homeless people. A lack of open public toilets means homeless are forced to try their luck at fast-food restaurants, 24-hour service stations many of which lock their doors after 10.30pm or post “customer only” restrictions or bathroom keys as a barrier to ostensibly homeless-proof the facility.
The problem has reached a crisis point in many areas. When I have been speaking with some of the homeless people around Cotton Tree. “Most didn’t ask me for money. They didn’t ask me for a place to live they asked me for a feed, access to the toilet and a hot shower”.
After raising the issue and having discussions with the Council, regarding providing access to an after hour’s public toilet in the area for the homeless the fact remains that people who have a home have a toilet to pee in — as for the homeless, I can’t say the same.
6. Why do they have a pet if they can’t even take care of themselves?
Pets are often sources of fun and companionship, especially if you are homeless or struggle with an issue such as depression. According to “Pets of the Homeless”, there is a sense of normalcy and reality that comes from providing food and water for pets.
There’s also a protection factor, given that this is about surviving life on the streets —and the very real threat of being robbed, assaulted or worse.
University of Colorado sociology Professor Leslie Irvine explored the phenomenon in her book, My Dog Always Eats First. “Homeless people stated how their dogs encouraged interaction with others and kept them from becoming isolated,” Marc Bekoff wrote in a review. “Former addicts and alcoholics described how their animals inspired them to get clean and sober. People who had spent years on the streets explained how they responded to the insults they heard from strangers who thought they should not have a pet. And they praised those who provided pet food and a kind word.”
7. What’s stopping them from taking their medication for mental issues?
One of the most important elements of retaining job security or a stable income is the ability to get basic health care. It’s one thing to have access to seeing a doctor, but affording the medication is an entirely different issue. Unfortunately, because homeless people aren’t making a stable living, they can’t afford medication if there’s no way for them to find adequate assistance.
The National Homeless Coalition notes that even public assistance programs may not be able to effectively help the homeless because some individuals have complex issues that require sophisticated treatment and observation. Meanwhile, since 2011 in Queensland, programs that included mental health treatment and assistance to the homeless faced massive cuts that made the situation even worse.
8. Can’t they just go home to their family?
Not everyone has the privilege of having a supportive family. An individual may very well be without a family they can return to for any number of reasons. Perhaps their parents died, and they don’t have a large extended family they can depend upon. On the other hand, they may have left an abusive home situation, decided it was safer to be on the streets and ran into trouble financially or health wise.
There’s even the reality, as is the case for some young people, that their parents kicked them out for simply for trying to find their own identity.
9. Don’t some people choose to be homeless?
The overwhelming majority of homeless people want to get off the street and into stable adequate housing. A homeless existence is characterised by demeaning environments, numerous threats to survival, and the most abject poverty affecting every aspect of daily existence. Some people who find themselves without housing do choose to avoid using some or all of the emergency shelters because of the potential for violence, theft and so on. When the range of choices is limited to an emergency shelter or making do elsewhere, it is difficult to call this “choosing to be on the streets.” Among the general population, many people make bad choices at some time in their lives.
For those living on the poverty line, a bad choice can result in becoming homeless. The alienation and deprivations that accompany life on the streets do not help people learn new and better choices. Sometimes, the effect is just the opposite. Most people will never know what it is like to try to survive without housing.
Homeless people and those who assist them list the following as just some of the realities:
• The constant search for safe shelter
• Inadequate food and nutrition
• No adequate access to an after hour’s toilet
• Safe storage for personal belongings
• Physical assault & victimisation
• Harassment and physical assault
• Negative or low self-esteem
• Social isolation
• Development of mental health and/or substance abuse problems
• Poor prospects for employment and appropriate permanent housing.
10. Why did they allow themselves get into that situation in the first place?
The conversation about homelessness should not be about how an individual ended up homeless because, in truth, it could happen to virtually anyone. More Australians are experiencing homelessness, with the fastest growing group being women over 55; the majority of older women who experience homelessness do so, due to separation, widowhood or domestic violence.
Alarmingly, family homelessness is also on the rise in Australia due to rising rents and utilities prices. Staff at the Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre have assisted a number of family’s living in cars to access housing in Mackay and Gladstone, where the housing has become more affordable.
Homelessness does not discriminate. Homelessness is not a choice. Homelessness can affect anyone – from young, single people to families with children, to our older generation. A staggering 20,000 people in Queensland are experiencing homelessness on any given night.
The biggest cause of homelessness is family and domestic violence, followed by financial difficulties. The largest proportion of Australia’s homeless population are unseen, living a vagrant lifestyle, moving from one place to the next, are often forgotten, and can become lost in the ‘system’.
As a country that has the ample resources to make homelessness history, we need to do more. We need to take a closer look at current government policies, including the funding of social and affordable housing, wage fairness and a tax breaks that doesn’t favour the nation’s wealthiest. So that there is more awareness of the root causes of homelessness around the region.