Together we can end homelessness
How many of us have walked through the city’s streets and crossed the road to avoid passing a homeless person? Not for lack of caring, but for fear of confronting something that’s simply easier to ignore. Or, perhaps we’ve wanted to help, but other than parting with a handful of spare change, are unsure of what we can do to really make a difference.
Homelessness in Australia is reaching crisis levels. Statistics tell us that over 100,000 people across this beautiful, bountiful country have nowhere to call home. They are homeless. It is a national issue and it is not going away.
So how does homelessness happen?
Sometimes we think homelessness is the result of addiction, laziness, bad decision making. The truth is it’s not that simple. Common factors that lead to the deterioration of a regular home life include mental health issues, family crises and instability at home, escaping abusive relationships, poverty, inadequate affordable housing and substance abuse.The truth is homelessness is a complicated issue. There are so many individual or combinations of circumstances that result in a person living on the street. Often something or a string of somethings happen that forces a person to leave their home for one night, two nights, a week and then it’s a year and then a period of years. In an annual survey on homelessness conducted by the City of Melbourne’s 2016 StreetCount in June, a total of 247 people were found to be sleeping rough on Melbourne’s streets. 68% of these people have been homeless for more than a year! Once on the streets, it can be devastatingly difficult to get off the streets and find a permanent home.
Alarmingly, over 50% of the homeless are under the age of 35. This means a large number of at-risk youth are facing a future of uncertainty. Homeless kids may or may not still be in school, or they may flit from one school to the next, as they struggle to maintain a ‘normal’ life while living on the streets or crashing on friends’ couches.
It’s not easy to keep up with the daily pressures of school or work if you don’t have access to a shower to get clean, a laundry to wash clothes, or a safe, quiet place to study. It’s as simple as needing a roof over your head — what should be a basic human right for all.
An innovative idea to end homelessness
Melbourne property developer, Rob Pradolin is someone who is keen to take action on the issue of homelessness. Rob, a former General Manager of Frasers Property Australia and a board member of the Property Council of Victoria, is campaigning for the use of vacant office towers marked for redevelopment, as temporary popup housing for the homeless.
With a shortage of crisis accommodation available in Melbourne — the Salvation Army says extreme-risk candidates wait on average 12-18 months for a bed — making use of empty CBD buildings could provide some relief, especially during the winter months when the homeless are particularly vulnerable, roughing it in cold, harsh conditions.
According to Rob, simple adjustments could be made to any open-plan office building, adding partitions and lockable doors, which could be removed at the end of the housing period and installed in the next available property. The key, he says, is getting property owners on board with the idea. Rob’s project already has the backing of Launch Housing, an independent Melbourne-based advocate for the homeless, and interest from the Victorian Government.
How can you help the homeless?
You can help us raise funds for free to get young homeless people off the street and provide them with job and education opportunities. To do this, click here and provide your details. Energy Pledge will be in touch to review your current electricity plan. If we can save you money and you change providers,
Energy Pledge will donate $40 to Lighthouse Foundation.Eradicating homelessness in Australia is by no means an easy task, but it is possible. By supporting established programs run by social welfare services such as Lighthouse Foundation, every one of us can play a part in giving homeless people a second chance by getting them off the streets and back into permanent homes.