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Breaking the cycle of homelessness

My thoughts on the @ceosleepout, by Joey King  

How did I get here? I’m educated, articulate and used to be involved in my community through work and volunteering. Then, how have I found myself living in my car for almost three years?

Because I am a 53-year-old woman. The highest growing demographic for homelessness in Australia and I have had a severe and persistent mental illness for most of my life.

Have I asked for help? Yes! I used to work and teach Community Services and know how to do the research to find and ask for help. Have I been helped? No, I have received no assistance because I am a 53-year-old woman without children and I am the Government and any social services lowest priority. I am looking at least another two years before housing becomes available.

I am constantly stressed, afraid and triggered because my mental health is so unstable because of my financial and housing situation. I stay in the country because it’s safer for me to park in the bush somewhere than the city, but I have to constantly move because the rangers will fine me.

But the CEO’s have it handled. By spending a night sleeping ‘rough’ through the St Vinnies CEO Sleepout, with their sleeping bags, pillows and toilets close at hand. While receiving an encouraging nod that seems to give them permission to think they understand what I or any homeless person feels. I look at the photos and I see volunteers handing out coffee and snacks.

I look at 2020 and because of Covid, the CEO’s slept rough in their cars in their garages or on their couch. I look at the money raised and I wonder if the people donating so these CEO’s can feel good about themselves, even think of the people they’re supposed to be emulating. I look at the blurb where St Vinnies states “determined to help break the cycle of homelessness” and I know I have seen no break in my cycle with their assistance.

I know the money is put to good use through crisis accommodation, hardship and supporting homeless youth but there is no talk of helping women like me. I am not helped because I have a dog, I’m not prepared to give up, so I can be given accommodation and I’m considered low priority.

I don’t look like what people assume homeless people should look like. I am resourceful enough that I can maintain my hygiene and present well and I’m therefore not considered desperate enough to be helped.

To the hundreds of business, community and government leaders who participate, please do not think that this is an eye-opening experience. All you are experiencing is a hard floor, maybe being cold for a night, camaraderie in your joint self-righteousness, laughter, conversation and a hot shower, food, a warm bed and a clap on the back by your loving family when you go home the next day.

You will not experience uncertainty, fear, loneliness, truly being cold, vulnerability, mental and physical health decline because of the exposure, lack of mental and physical health support, risk of being assaulted or being moved on by police, discrimination, judgement, assumptions you are an alcoholic or drug addict, that you chose to be homeless.

If you truly want to be effective; then use your influence to pressure State and Federal Governments to do something about this ongoing crisis. Perth homelessness rose 60% in 2021 and is not going to stop until people that the Government is prepared to listen to speaks out loud and demands true action, not the token effort of one night, that raises money for a few.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan is poised to deliver a record budget surplus of about $9 billion this year. This money has the potential to end all street homelessness in Western Australia and end all public housing wait lists.

While the continued support of all housing service agencies is vital, this is a national and state problem that needs the support of business, community and government leaders across Australia, to ensure we, the homeless are heard and supported.

And as a side note, I’m betting a majority of the CEOs bring a hip flask to get them through a cold night. A bit like how they judge the homeless for being addicts or alcoholics.

 

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7 comments

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  1. Clare De Mayo

    I hope something does break the cycle for you soon Joey. I know that one small bit of bad luck can lead to any of us being in your situation. I join with you in having a beloved dog and understand your choices, and the consequences of them too in my own life.

  2. Keitha Granville

    I don’t even have the words to reply that will actually mean anything. I do not understand how such a wealthy country has ppl living in cars. WTF is wrong with us!!!! $25 mill for a flagpole, are you actually kidding!!!!! In Hobart $750 mill will give us a stadium and as promise of an AFL team. Whoopee effing doo !!!!!

    What can we do? How can we help? If I had space in my home you’d be in it.

    I will keep writing to MPs, the newspapers, it seems hopeless but it can’t be can it??

  3. Kerri

    If the CEO’s are genuine about homelessness they would forego the sleep-out for the fantasy it is and instead donate a week’s pay to assist with accommodation for those in need.

  4. Michael Taylor

    It’s such a pity, Kerri, that those in greed care little for those in need.

  5. Joey King

    Thank you for your support and very kind words, it’s appreciated.

  6. Arnd

    All you are experiencing is a hard floor, maybe being cold for a night, camaraderie in your joint self-righteousness, laughter, conversation and a hot shower, food, a warm bed and a clap on the back by your loving family when you go home the next day.

    Rather like one of those weekend bush walks my mates and I venture on occasionally. All good fun, including the sore legs on Mondays.

    Joey, I’m sure you will be pleased to learn that the house next to us is practically unoccupied. The owners come up maybe once a month, to organise the lawn mowing contractor, or something. Also, they had quite a bit of remedial building work done. Why on Earth they bother owning the place beats me!

    Heather – our neighbour on the other side, finally moved into an aged care home. At well over 80 years old, and following a stroke. Her house got sold, to a Sydney couple who are up here maybe every second weekend.

    Generally speaking, walking the dogs at night here in Blackheath, I find more houses with no lights on and no car parked in the drive way, than houses with actual signs of occupation.

    Much was made of Scotty from Marketing selling his weekender up here a few years ago.

    It’s what thirty years’ worth of profit-driven housing policy does for a nation’s housing situation.

    I first experienced housing stress after moving to Stuttgart for work in the 80s. I did camp out in my boss’s workshop for weeks on end.

    As carpenter and sometime builder, I have a bit of an interest in domestic housing, and I made myself part of the local ALP during the middle 90s to raise some issues which I thought needed attention, in regards to affordability as well as sustainability and livability. Couldn’t get a word in edgeways.

    Now look where it’s at.

    Not that any of this is of any help to you, Joey. Damn it all!

  7. Fred

    How people are expected to live off $40 a day is beyond me. The concept of a Living Wage seems to work (https://www.epi.org/publication/bp170/). Without appearing xenophobic, there are many countries where one cannot own real estate without being a national, it might be helpful if we restricted ownership to residents rather than being a safe haven for foreigners and governments to park their cash.

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