“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” said Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Albanian born Indian Missionary who won the Novel Prize in 1979.
August traditionally in Australia is a very bleak month weather wise. Windy, Wet, Cold and Grey. Even if the sun does come out it doesn’t really help the people displaced in our society who have nowhere to be. For them it’s the hardest month of the year. Homelessness is a universal journey, and is not necessarily by definition just about shelter, it is also about an intrinsic state of unrest. Monday 1 – Sunday 7th of August is National Homeless Person’s Week in Australia. This initiative is supported by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. But, because homelessness is a condition most people do not want to think about, let alone come to terms with this initiative does not really receive the support of the media or public as it should.
StreetSmart Australia, that excellent organization that tackles homelessness at the grass roots level, has a new initiative this year. As well as having people in Restaurants add $2 or more to their bill at the end of a meal, they are now asking people to grab their friends on Friday August 5th and harness their coffee habit to help the homeless.
As a community we all have a social, moral and ethical responsibility to care and foster its most vulnerable members. On our streets at the moment are living children as young as 7 years old, cold and frightened, wondering why it is that no around them seems to care. Growing up during the 50’s in Australia playing hopscotch on the pavement with your friends was for my generation a carefree stress free way of life watched over by a caring community of neighbours. The baker on his rounds, the shopkeeper in his corner store, the policeman walking his beat, the boy delivering the ice or, the Dr outside hosing his lawn in between patients, would have seen your child passing by and you would be re-assured all was fine. Today in a culture that endears itself and equates successful people with being good, law abiding, kind, generous citizens in order to succeed what messages are we sending to those individuals who also posses these same qualities, who find themselves marginalised in ever increasing numbers. Does it beg the questions; how just is our society? And, is it indeed about being fair and equitable?
It is a terrible thing to suddenly find yourself without anywhere to live, without any way of supporting yourself, or being able to call on the help and assistance of a family member of a friend, simply because of the stigma attached to people in need. This is happening far too regularly in our society.
We are not progressing at all when we are being judgmental. We need to accelerate creative change in our communities because its not helpful, but massively hurtful. Believing you are being judged by others can so damage a person’s spirit that they fall far below the medium line and need a helping hand to rise again.
When you are on the medium road an optimistic view can carry your forward, climbing the ladder toward success. When you are seeking success everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon with you. Worse than that, if you falter on your way up they flee in droves so fast it can make your head spin. The only support you can usually rely on is that of friend’s who have known you since childhood and family, and even they sometimes disappear without explanation when the going gets tough.
If you are traveling the medium road and instead of going up with some support around you, then the only place to often go is down. Once you are there just getting back to the middle can seem entirely insurmountable let alone, crossing the bridge to begin the ascent again.
I have heard people say that many choose to be homeless, which is so far from the truth it’s alarming. Even scarier is that they would think that way.
What does happen is that people on the streets have learned how to care for, and about each other. Leaving behind that support system to climb the ladder again towards success, whatever that is, is for many of them just to hard and frightening.
StreetSmart Australia provides a unique bridge between the community and small, ‘hard to reach’ agencies and projects that assist people experiencing homelessness or at risk. They support critical services and emergency aid as well as projects that promote social inclusion, empowerment and sustainable change for people who are homeless.
When money is raised from the public through their ‘dine out …help out’ fundraising events, 100 per cent of donations are distributed in the form of grants. To date they have raised and distributed over $1,600,914 to 362 grassroots projects.
No one really wants to live on the streets , it’s not a matter of choice, but it’s about heartbreak. So, please help the homeless this August by buying a coffee and make a contribution that will help others too.
Be sure to ask your boss from some free time off this Friday to help others in our community who need your support. Helping the Homeless is a Smart Strategy. Tell him not to be a ‘bum’ and to help you Find a Cafe and join you.
For more information about how you can be involved please contact Adam Robinson at StreetSmart Australia http://www.streetsmartaustralia.org/
Carolyn McDowall August 1, 2011