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Sleeping rough – all these years and nothing has changed

By Andrew Klein

I spent last night sleeping ‘rough’ behind a row of shops in the outer eastern suburbs. Not because I like sleeping rough, but to get a clear picture of that which is available to the many hidden homeless that do the best they can.

It was a cold and miserable night, Donna lay on the back seat in her blanket and we both had the luxury of being in a car. Looking suitably ‘poor’ and ‘homeless’ I found myself quickly moved on when I tried to get a cup of coffee, a little company and warmth in the much marketed multinational venue marketing food!

“You are making others feel uncomfortable,“ with a hint to finish my coffee and take my two bags (specially packed).

I then tried to find a toilet, topping up the car with a couple of dollars of fuel. “Sorry, mate, we keep the toilets locked, its company policy.” Turns out that the area is regarded as a ‘high crime area‘ according to company policy, although I cannot find an indication of this in the reports written by the local police command.

Used the ‘Ask Izzy’ app to see if there are any service providers in the area. I typed in the age group, ticked the box re homeless, looking for a meal and crisis assistance.

I know that there is one service provider that opens from 9 am and runs to 5 pm. They are nice people and I have met their manager. They provide food hampers (cans, instant soup and such like) and if I need a shower they will give me a voucher to the local ‘Aquatic Centre’. Having discussed the homelessness crisis with that service provider I know that their funding has been cut and that they are seriously stretched. I also know that if I needed clothing, they will give me a voucher to take to a small op shop in Bayswater where the caring volunteers will do their best. They have had their funding cut! If I was hungry, there are a couple of places further out where I could find a meal and maybe some human company. The real problem is one of actually getting there and one is only open for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon. Friday is a long time away, had I no car I would be facing serious problems even getting there.

Thankfully I am not ‘homeless’! There are few services for men that find themselves simply homeless and not suffering from drug addiction or other substance abuse, they just do not exist. So I have to claim some form of dependence problem, maybe ad a mental health crisis to get some practical support.

I walked into a medical centre seeking advice as to counselling and guidance regarding a mental health care plan (as I do know people that are in urgent need of such). Of course these services are available; I can get medical care if I have a Health Care Card otherwise I’ll have to find the cash to pay up front. Now if I find myself suddenly homeless for a variety of reasons, I may not have any sort of card until I have worked my way through the maze of ‘service suppliers’ and Government Agencies. The receptionist at the medical centre was less than kind, that which I call the ‘gate keeper mentality’. Why should anyone be forced to share their personal trauma with a receptionist simply to get some guidance and advice?

I am sitting at home now, reflecting on the serious challenges faced by those without homes in the outer suburbs. I know from experience that had I called into the local police station and asked for advice, I would have been told to get myself a motel room; police stations are not a place to expect a welcoming smile and a cup of coffee and some ‘guidance’ in the early hours of the morning!

Then there is all that debate, such as it is, about the homelessness crisis in the Melbourne CBD. That too is very valid as there is a crisis. If I was homeless right about now I would be heading in there to try and get some assistance because I know that is where the services are.

My local member of Federal Parliament is Alan Tudge MP. I get his self-promoting flyers in my letter box. “I’m working hard to represent the people of Knox as the Federal Member for Aston. Let me know your views about any issue of concern, local or national. Minister for Human Services, Federal Member of Parliament for Aston.”

I was ever so pleased when I received the last one that informed me that he had been working hard for my interests; a highpoint of this help being the encouragement and support he offered when the local Knox Council needed a memorial board for ex- Mayors.

This morning, reflecting on the past few hours, I am underwhelmed. There is no local plan for those that are homeless, although council is prepared to share links.

That does very little for a man that is homeless in the early hours of the morning! To get anything done out here requires access to transport, access to the Internet. Heaven forfend my few ‘possessions’ were left unguarded at a railway station if I sought to take a train into the city; there are no lockers although there is a secure place for bikes at the Boronia Railway Station.

The other man that was desperately trying to get two dollars for a cuppa and is sleeping on the ground, in a car park that belongs to a shop; he had more serious problems than mine.

Homelessness is not an issue, it’s a crisis! I repeated something I did a few months ago, something I experienced a few years ago. After all the reports, after all the academic insights and opinions there is a serious national crisis that is not even being talked about in a realistic way. Maybe that is the way things are done. Lots of talk, glossy magazines and self-promoting publications giving the appearance of change whilst changing nothing.

 

Image from azquotes.com

 

Note: This piece was originally written in 2017.

 

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16 comments

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  1. King1394

    My son and his girlfriend , both with severe mental illness, are fortunate to have a unit. The girlfriend’s entire benefit pays the rent and electricity. My son’s benefit goes to everything else, including petrol and meds. They often run out of food before the fortnight is up. They may have a roof but other than that they struggle from week to week.

  2. Bruce White

    I’ve just been working up in the Northern Rivers region on flood relief. Red Cross estimated that homelessness caused by the floods is more than three times that of the Black Summer bushfires. A different type of disaster. But it highlights serious problems in Australia with land use, an already overstretched nationwide housing crisis, market failure in the housing sector , an increasingly serious problem with poverty, federal and state health sectors under serious threat of collapse, serious problems with insurance unaffordability. But don’t panic. It’ll be all right in the long run (as the old Redgum song goes).

  3. GL

    Out of sight and therefore out of mind for the LNP. If they don’t see them why should they care.

  4. Caz

    One thing I hate more than anything else is the Sleepout of comfortable middle class and upper class people one night each year. It is insulting to the men and women who sleep rough all year long. Thank you for actually experiencing just a few of the hurdles facing homeless people and sharing this this us. I no longer have a large home and wish I did so that I could offer accommodation to one or two homeless women but I now live in a one bedroom unit. Surely the government could come up with a scheme to encourage house sharing.

  5. New England Cocky

    The answer is straight forward ….. stop government ”funding” of foreign owned multinational corporations, especially miners, and re-direct that funding to the basic needs of Australian voters, like housing, welfare and a Universal Basic Income. The UBI was tested in a Canada city and shown to pay for itself by the reduced accessing of the Health Service.

    However, it is ”London to a Brick on” that nothing will change with yet another COALition misgovernment after May 2022.

  6. Jim Jacobsen

    Open the doors of all the churches that are tax exempt and let the homeless sleep there with a roof over their heads, and a toilet out the back. We should start with Hillsong. It would be a start!
    NEC – Well said again!

  7. John Brown

    Leadership and humanity is lacking in people who are willing to spend billions on bombs and submarines and million upon million on all sorts of other things deemed necessary for the profits of corporations and mates while spending little and next to nothing on the things of real importance to human beings and the things we value and need as human beings

  8. wam

    A tiny bit of empathy, Andrew,
    The kids and I, mum was at london uni. had a few days of car roughing in scotland, where the hotels were too expensive, but we had cash for living. so mini-rough but it was cold and cramped.
    The photo shows the character of the rabbott who is still a nasty piece of influence. ps Jim, we could legislate all churches to build an annex with 10-20 beds and a kitchen with their tax savings(are they ‘frankers?) and utilise their xstian charity to run it by volunteers?

  9. GL

    Wam,

    “We could legislate all churches to build an annex with 10-20 beds and a kitchen with their tax savings…” Good luck with that admittedly good idea while the LNP is in charge. I could even see Labor skirting around that idea. Don’t want to upset religious groups, we might lose votes.

  10. wam

    Thanks, GL,
    there are many loudmouth xstian pollies in canberra that may be shamed into doing something actually xstian?
    There are several xstian sites in sydney and melb that could be role models.
    If there are any jesus people here they could ask their priests?

  11. Canguro

    Off topic perhaps but still within the paddock; will the Houstons of Hillsong be forced to sleep rough after the big poobah, Scummo’s now ex-buddy, faced the wrath of the board over his drunken and drug-addled unwarranted and unwanted interference with women other than his wife and consequently forced to resign his position in the pulpit? A most delicious fall from what may passingly and grudgingly be called ‘grace’. I do love it when the religious types are exposed as utter hypocrites.

    A paedophilic father founder, the son a molester of females; yet they still managed to rake in an obscene amount of money through their pseudo-pop shtick of tra la la Jesus loves you hallelulah bullshit, apparently sufficient to fool enough people often enough to make these eye-rolling amounts of money.

    My wish for 2022, that Hillsong immolates, crashes, burns, is reduced to a smouldering ruin.

  12. New England Cocky

    @ Canguro: Agreed. But let us get serious for a moment and remove all the tax advantages from the organisations that have had members or hangers-on charged and convicted of interfering with children. Thus would eliminate government funding for many church schools, force churches to pay council rates and reduce the transfer overseas of Australian funds that correctly should be spent providing housing, mental health services and better pay for emergency services, nurses & hospital staff.

  13. Canguro

    NEC, having just watched the three-part documentary, Hillsong-A Megachurch Exposed, released less than a week ago, all I can say is that’s it’s a pity and a shame that these sorts of exposes are not mandatory viewing and required to be repeat broadcast as widely as possible so that in the broadest sense the widest community can be informed of the deceit and criminality that continues to be expressed under the hidden guise of the ‘name of God’.

    The amount of personal damage, emotional & psychological, that is extracted as the cost of personal enrichment of the leaders of these types of institutions, in this case Brian & Bobbie Houston – mega-millionaires both – is appalling.

    And equally appalling is that these fraudulent enterprises do their dirty work with the complete endorsement of our federal government, and often, as is the case with Hillsong, along with personal friendships with the executive, witness Morriscum’s closeness to Houston, or Howard’s closeness to the Exclusive Brethren and its senior leadership, Bruce & Stephen Hales, and Warwick John.

    Thank you for your comment, and yes, total endorsement of your suggestions.

  14. Maria

    In reference to the footnote “This piece was originally written in 2017” Could author please clarify when they slept rough and which council they refer to?

  15. Michael Taylor

    Hi Maria. I’ll try and get hold of Andrew and get your question answered.

  16. Michael Taylor

    Hi Maria. It was in the Knox City Council area.

    The “exercise” was repeated a few days ago, hence the reference to nothing having changed.

    Andrew, I believe, is a priest.

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