Man sleeps homeless at Circular Quay Sydney

24 January 2018

Street Homelessness can be ended

Just a few weeks before Christmas I stepped off a ferry in the beautiful city of Sydney following a SHINE for Kids Board meeting.

After the glittering jewel of the harbour, at one of the gateways to this city, I saw some of our fellow brothers and sisters sleeping rough.

Here was someones son, cousin, a fellow human forced to sleep out while pigeons bathed in front of him.

In August 2017, 386 people were sleeping rough in Sydney. As a prosperous and compassionate nation we can fix this.

In fact we can eliminate street homelessness across Australia, already Adelaide has committed to having no-one sleeping on the streets by 2020.

This commitment is part of a global movement through the institute of global homeless.

And its part of a commitment that every city in Australia should make, and can afford to make.

Homelessness does not just mean not having a roof over your head. It means being unsafe, not having anywhere to store your gear, nowhere to call your own and take time out.

Homelessness denies people access to education and employment. It’s hard to get a job when you can’t provide a forwarding address.

There are many great organisations providing services to those experiencing homelessness in Australia, from refuges, to day centres to case work.

But there is not enough. We know that the quicker we can get someone off the streets the better the chances for that person to get back on their feet.

Some people need a short term bed while they leave an unsafe environment, others will need years of support, but while there needs to be a range of service options, no should need to sleep rough, ever.

Having led one of the largest homelessness services, the Mathew Talbot hostel, I know the difference access to a bed, medical care and dedicated workers make.

But I also know the importance of listening and being there too. I often talk to people about the transformational experiences I’ve had talking to those who are experiencing homelessness.

And as one man pointed out to me, “At least you get to have a say, no-one listens to us”.

It’s time to listen to those on the streets and ensure no one need sleep rough.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, but this is an aspect of homelessness that we really can solve quickly.

So what can you do? Especially if you do not work in the sector, it’s important that the community hears that we all care about this issue.

So some quick things to do:

Talk to your local MP – State and Federal,

Talk to your Mayor and Councillors,

Talk to each other.

Let’s all share that eliminating Street Homelessness can be done, and can be done by 2020.

And most importantly if you get the chance, say hello to someone sleeping rough. Everyone has a story.