“What do you do when you want something to look like a horse?”
“Usually we just tape a bunch of cats together”
The Simpsons: Radioactive Man
Season 7. Episode 2
Homelessness is not a choice. It is a systemic failure of policies and laws, and of procedures and systems. It is caused by the failure of successive governments to fully, adequately and comprehensively address the issue of homelessness from the cause to the cure.
It’s not as though they haven’t had time.
Governments are either cutting funding or ploughing it into an ineffective system that burns through funds without providing any real outcomes. This affects not only the people experiencing homelessness, but also their families and the support workers trying to asssit them.
And the numbers are rising every year.
Around 260 people are turned away form homelessness support services every single day. This is not only crushing for the person seeking help, it’s soul destroying for the support worker trying to asssit them. Imagine looking a Mother in the eye and telling there’s just nowhere for her and her children to sleep that night. Imagine telling a Father that he will just have to keep sleeping in the car with his kids because there are no beds, or telling a young gay man the only place you have for him is the same rooming house with one toilet and one shower where he was bashed and sexually assaulted last time he was there?
No one has taken ownership of homelessness. The system is made up from a myriad of different grass roots charities, hundreds of small independent service providers, large private organisations and several government departments who are all underfunded. None of which talk to each other, leaving the client at their wits end unable to understand and navigate the impossible just to try and survive.
Why don’t these services talk to each other? They can’t. There is no National plug in service that allows for a person navigating the system to receive end to end support. In fact the homelessness services system isn’t really a system at all. It’s merely a jumbled bunch of services taped together to look like a system.
We saw this coming. The scourge of homelessness across the country wasn’t a pandemic that we didn’t have time to prepare for. We knew it would end up like this but it was never a focus of successive governments to really do something to finally address once and for all.
Homelessness needs a top down approach, where funding is channeled into more efficient and effective services that provide end to end support on the ground and follow the person through their journey to from homelessness to housing, and beyond.
A home is a fundamental right which is something our governments past and present seem to have either forgotten or chosen to ignore. Living on the streets only becomes a choice when you’ve given up on trying to navigate an impossible cluster of hard to find services, taped together to look like a system.
I have never met a person who wanted the pavement for a pillow, or who preferred to freeze to death than have a warm safe bed.
We as a society need to understand homelessness better so we can use our collective voices and voting power to insist on effective change and permanent positive outcomes for those left to suffer in this so called system.