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Vinnies focuses on homelessness to assist the whole community.

3 Aug 2021 8 Aug 2021

The St. Vincent de Paul Society is focusing on homelessness this week. August 3-8, 2020 marks Homelessness

Week across Australia. Homelessness Week is not so much a commemoration, but an opportunity to assess

how well we are performing as a community in our efforts to assist homeless people and those at risk of

homelessness.

The Society’s CEO, Lara Alexander, said homelessness is a systemic issue for all charities and governments,

which will be exacerbated as the effects of COVID-19 hit families and communities across Australia.

“The more the Society does for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, the more there is to be done. In

the past year, the Society has provided more than 25,000 instances of emergency relief, with a total value of

almost $1.1m, to the Tasmanian community. We have served hot meals, secured accommodation for people

in need, and helped families and individuals with financial assistance, including food vouchers and utility bills.

Our priority is to keep families together in a home, while finding secure accommodation for those on the

streets,” Mrs Alexander said.

“At a local level, people experiencing homelessness, and those at risk of homelessness, are among Tasmania’s

most socially and economically disadvantaged. The Society is always grateful to the Australian and

Tasmanian governments for funding services that support people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness;

but we appreciate the amazing generosity of the whole community that makes it possible for the Society to

assist so many homeless Tasmanians. This year, the CEO Sleepout, an event dedicated to raising awareness

and funds to combat homelessness, raised over $100,000,” she added.

“Homelessness is the result of many social, economic and health–related factors. Individual factors, such as

poor education, lack of stable employment, domestic violence, ill health and mental health issues, disability,

trauma, and substance abuse contribute to becoming homeless. Structural factors, including limited access to

affordable and available housing, also increase the risks of homelessness.

“One of the challenges facing the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and other charities that work with the homeless,

is there is not a clear definition of what constitutes homelessness and how we measure poverty. The Australian

Bureau of Statistics defines homelessness, for the purposes of the Census of Population and Housing, as the

lack of one or more elements that represent ‘home’; but this is just the beginning. In 2017, the poverty line was

considered to be $433 a week for a single adult living alone; or $909 a week for a couple with two children. In

total, there were approximately three million people, including 739,000 children, living below the poverty line

of 50% of the median income.

“Poverty is also defined through other indicators such as level of education, health, access to services and

infrastructure, vulnerability, social exclusion, and access to social capital otherwise described as ‘non-income

factors. The Foodbank Hunger Report – 2019, highlights that more than 59% of Australians experiencing food

insecurity sought assistance from a charity at least once in the previous 12 months.

“It is obvious to everyone that we have been fighting homelessness and poverty for a long, long time. So why

is it an unresolved issue? Why we are still talking about unaffordable housing, risk of homelessness, and

homelessness? Why are we not talking less, cooperating more, and addressing the issue?

“We must concentrate our collective resources on prevention and addressing issues before vulnerable people

end up on the streets. Is Australia’s response to homelessness contemporary or should we be looking abroad

to other countries that have addressed issues of social inequity and homelessness more efficiently and

effectively? Maybe it’s time to move away from ‘the staircase model’, where people move from one form of

temporary accommodation to another until they finally secure independent accommodation. In some of the

most successful overseas models, wrap-around services are crucial to the success of the programme. This

includes practical help navigating bureaucracy, enrolling in education, training, and work placements

programmes; and learning, or re-learning, basic life-skills, such as managing money, cleaning, and cooking.

“Working together as a community is by far the best way to ensure we work toward eliminating homelessness

and assisting those at risk of homelessness. This means government and community organisations must come

together, set aside differences of approach, to deliver greater benefits for communities across Australia,” Mrs

Alexander said.