The 1st to the 7th of August marked Homelessness Week 2016. This campaign is coordinated each year by Homelessness Australia (HA) to shed light on the reality of homelessness in Australia.
A number of amazing initiatives and campaigns took place during this week to support and elevate the cause.
Shelter WA kicked off Homelessness Week 2016 with the first ever National Launch in Perth and Ruah, one of our service agencies, hosted Homelessness Counts Arts Day and are collaborators on the 50 Lives, 50 Homes Perth project.
Over 15,000 people visited Ruah over a period of six months seeking emergency assistance, noting a 30% increase over the past 3 years.
St Bartholomew’s House hosted its annual Street Party where the homeless and those at risk could come out and have a great time as well as enjoy the services on offer. Homeless Healthcare also took part, hosting several fundraiser soup kitchens.
Here at HFB – Perth, we caught up with Jethro from Foyer Oxford to get the facts and find out a little more of the work his organisation is doing to combat homelessness:
- Tell us a little about yourself and your work with Foyer Oxford
I’ve been working in youth homelessness services for about 15 years after doing a Youth Work qualification. Overtime I’ve become really interested in looking at how we design programs that not only meet immediate needs but help people out of homelessness over the long term. Foyer Oxford is the latest project that I’ve been working on for the last 5 years or so. It’s a partnership between Anglicare WA, Foundation Housing and North Metro TAFE. Onsite at the North Metro TAFE campus in Leederville, we’ve built a 98 apartment complex that supports young people to connect with Employment and Training and find a long term exit from homelessness – its called Foyer Oxford and is based on the international Foyer model (worth checking out www.foyeroxford.org.au).
- Is Homelessness a big problem in Perth? Could you help us understand this a little?
Homeless is definitely a big problem in WA, with about 10,000 people homeless on any one night. Lots of people think that homelessness is represented by the guys living in cardboard boxes on the street, but that’s a bit of a stereotype. Most homeless people in Australia don’t sleep on the street (though the most worse off do), instead they bounce around, couch surfing at friends places one night, then somewhere else another night, or in a caravan park, or in a really badly overcrowded housing situation. We’ve seen an increase in people sleeping in cars for example. If you have a friend who is couch surfing, that’s actually homelessness.
- What are the main causes of homelessness? Who is the most susceptible to homelessness?
It depends on the group that you are talking about. For young people, its mostly caused by family breakdown, conflict or abuse – for Women, Family and Domestic Violence is the big issue. All of us are only a few steps from homelessness though, if you lost your job, had a car accident, and then your marriage broke up, its quite possible you could end up homeless. If you stay homeless for a long time, that’s when the other issues really start to kick in, like bad mental health, drug and alcohol abuse – these are often symptoms of homeless, rather than causes of homelessness.
- What is Homelessness Week and does it help the cause?
Homelessness Week is a time for us to remember that homelessness is everywhere, and it’s one of the worst forms of poverty that we have. We have to make sure that we are all committed to ending it, because there are solutions out there. For example, the way that lots of services for homeless people are funded is through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, that ends mid next year and as of yet there’s no long term commitment to keep it going.
“Homelessness Week is a time for us to remember that homelessness is everywhere, and it’s one of the worst forms of poverty that we have. We have to make sure that we are all committed to ending it, because there are solutions out there.”
- How can the community get behind your work?
There are lots of opportunities to get involved through fundraising, advocacy, donations or volunteering. For Foyer Oxford there is opportunities through our website www.foyeroxford.org.au. The biggest impact you can have though is to make sure to connect with homeless people in your community and treat them with warmth and dignity – you don’t have to give money, but you do have to be decent to them. Also if you know friends that are struggling to find a long term place to stay, make sure they get support. www.option.housinghub.org.au is a good place to start. Many people from migrant communities don’t access the services and resources that are available – and I know that for Foyer, we want to do more to support these communities.
A massive thank you to Jethro (Foyer Oxford) and the teams from Ruah, St Bartholomew’s House, Homeless Healthcare, Homelessness Australia, Shelter WA and all others that take part working towards eliminating homelessness in Perth.