HOMELESS LIVES MATTER (AUSTRALIA)
Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.
A famous American Indian proverb
Motto: “Home is Where the Heart Is”
Values: I CARE - Courage, Awareness, Respect and Equality
Purpose: To deeply listen to the stories of homeless persons in order to raise awareness, respect, equality as homeless lives matter.
Homeless Lives Matter (Australia) is about making homeless lives visible and to deeply listen to hear their voices. When people are seen and heard this opens awareness, respect, equality and empathy for those living through the experience of homelessness. Homeless Lives matter will collect stories to learn more about those who are homeless and tell the emotional story of what life is like homeless and inspire those in this position to have their voices included in the solutions. In the words of Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
We must Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Susan Carew, the founder of Homeless Lives Matter (Australia) has been homeless for 2 years due to an eviction and cancellation of welfare due to conscientious objection. Through her own hardship she has experienced real disconnect. Susan is educated, a former analyst with economics training. She has found that she was unable to gain access to homeless services, one provider taking down her details and then on the next visit indicating her file was not found. She realised without Centrelink she was not a ‘consumer’ and this gave the impression that she had lost her right to access homeless services. The rights issue is a critical one as the right to welfare is being challenged. Moreover, the economic paradigm entering into social policy influences approaches to welfare transforming a right to welfare into an economic drain on the public purse. Philosophically and practically welfare is a critical safety net for those who may be unwell, disabled, in trauma, unemployed, aged and so on. It is the mainstay of social harmony. Economics as a doctrine has entered the social narrative and undermined the social democratic right to free service provision paid for by public taxation to reflect economic supply and demand expectations where a citizens becomes a consumer and fee for service is subtly enforced. This has been called ‘users pay’ which introduced income discrimination into service provision on the basis of affordability. Thus, inclusivity and exclusivity generated greater economic inequality as those who can’t afford a service cannot access it. Those who can do. This is starkly highlighted in the case of cancer where those with private insurance can access quality private hospitals immediately and if they can afford the best treatment, receive it. Those in the public health system have to join queues and do not have access to the best treatments. This example makes clear those who have money deserve the ‘best’ and those that are poorer ‘do not’. This is the discriminatory division that economics without social policy (social democratic) ensures. The poor increasingly become excluded from access to services that the mainstream may take for granted. as the new rights to access.
Homelessness is a national and global crisis and an emergency.
According to Homelessness Australia refer https://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/about/homelessness-statistics:
The ABS Census is conducted every five years, with the most recent release being for 2016. It is estimated that:
116,427 people were counted in the Census as being homeless on Census night (up from 102,439 in 2011)
The rate of homelessness (which takes into account population density) is 50 out of every 10,000 people —up five per cent from the 48 persons in 2011, and up on the 45 persons in 2006
20% (or 23,437) are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (down from 26% in 2011)
30% are born overseas.
- NSW 37,715 (50.4 people per 10,000) +37% since 2011
- VIC 24,817 (41.9 people per 10,000) +11% since 2011
- QLD 21,671 (46.1 people per 10,000) +14% since 2011
- SA 6,224 (37.1 people per 10,000) +7% since 2011
- WA 9,005 (36.4 people per 10,000) -2% since 2011
- TAS 1,622 (31.8 people per 10,000) +6% since 2011
- NT 13,717 (599.4 people per 10,000) +11% since 2011
- ACT 1,596 (40.2 people per 10,000) -8% since 2011
Where are people staying?
- Improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out 7% (8,200)
- Supported accommodation for the homeless 18% (21,235)
- Staying temporarily with other households 15% (17,725)
- Boarding houses 15% (17,503)
- Other temporary lodging 1% (678)
- “Severely” overcrowded dwellings 44% (51,088)
How old are they? **
- Under 12 14% (15,872) +11% since 2011
- 12-18 10% (10,913)
- 19-24 15% (15,325)
- 25-34 18% (19,312)
- 35-44 14% (14,484)
- 45-54 12% (12,507)
- 55-64 8% (8,649)
- 65-74 4% (4,174)
- 75 and over 2% (2,028)
Homeless Lives Matter understands the importance of gathering data but wishes to highlight the importance of balance in respect of ensuring people do not feel reduced to a statistic or just another ‘number’, passed from pillar to post or not responded to. Effective and sensitive communications which emotionally and intelligently acknowledge how a homeless person feels is critical to survival. Moreover, those engaged in this area or citizens seeking to help must become aware of the emotional discord, humiliation and embarrassment in asking for help has to be addressed with training coupled empathy building as a priority. The sense of disconnection and social isolation grows with the dehumanisation that occurs as digital transformation, data gathering, surveillance and detachment becomes the features of a technocratic society.
In the view of Homeless Lives Matter homelessness is an economic externality whereby the market is unable to provide full employment and distribution of profits (trickle down) to ensure equity and parity. Equality or fairness is essential for social stability and ensures peaceful coexistence of citizens. Unfortunately the normalised stigma of homelessness is the reason why there is non responsiveness from civil society to this problem. This condemns it to continuing. The stigma acts as a barrier to empowerment and assistance as fear holds people back from involvement and proactive problem solving.
In the mental health area new narratives are emerging in respect of involvement in the prevention of suicide as everybody’s responsibility. In Australia, R U OK? Day is an initiative to train people to have the courage to ask a person if they are OK. The publicity and promotion of R U OK rehumanises mental health issues and sensitises people to participating in the wellbeing of others and directs them to take action. This builds community. Therefore, the problem requires not a market response as a solution but primarily a human response as a socio emotional solution. We are all sensitive and we can be hurt, marginalised, disappointment and feeling isolated. Money can’t solve that problem only caring, kindness and well coordinated services directing people to the right people who will ensure they are empowered and cared for to get back on their feet.
Refer R U OK? https://www.ruok.org.au/
The emotional disconnect is apparent, this is the core problem. Our society appears paralysed to respond to homelessness as a real crisis and is not asking the right questions about how to solve the problem from the perspective our who we are as a society and how to empower the homeless to develop skills to re-frame how they see themselves and how to heal the hurt and develop confidence to envisage a different future for themselves and their families.
The market design of service delivery turns citizens into consumers, the homeless into disadvantaged, crisis into need, service provision as a delivery model without outcomes and so on. This is where homeless people get lost in the system and why some are deciding to completely opt out in favour of sleeping under bridges. Some feel so alienated that they reject society all together, as they feel no hope of reengagement. The most devastating experience is the feeling that no-one cares, as one watches talking heads unable to connect, unaware of real empathy or concern for another. This is where the social fabric unravels. We are moving into times where this type of attitude is revealed in official narratives and the lack of real solutions to the homeless problem. This is evidenced by the investment in infrastructure, defence, IT products and services and property markets. Society witnesses this prioritisation which further communicates the homeless are worthless. It is a real problem if our aim is to Advance Australia Fair.
The homeless lived starkly different lives to the mainstream community. They cannot afford quality food, they cannot afford basic accommodation, they may not be able to sit at a coffee shop to feel part of a community, they cannot afford to travel on public transport as their incomes are so low. Entertainments like theatres, movies, sports events, music entertainment are out of their reach. They cannot afford health care and overtime become worn down by the exclusion and sense of worthlessness. This is why they will appear on the streets dirty, depressed and distant. They lost respect for those walking past as they realise they don’t care. Some may take drugs to sooth the emotional pain they are unable to reconcile as all would not know conflict resolution or conflict transformation or basic social welfare skills to deal with emotional confusion. They confront judgement moment to moment and this is the invisible barrier that silently excludes them from entering society as people feel fearful of their presence without understanding the history they have endured that has landed them their. Some may sit down and talk with them but the majority plug in and walk past. In other situations homeless people may live in their cars, they may camp or house sit if they are socially acceptable. They absolutely cannot tell people of their dilemma as there is instant judgement and it is harsh. The norm of social reliance, working as part of the economic norm is expected and people are often blamed if they do not get work. There is little common knowledge of the competition for jobs and the fall of real wages and lack of conditions in jobs that would be viewed as menial. Therefore, face different challenges, obstacles, barriers and are forced to move constantly so they do not overburden anyone or become harassed. They all live in survival mode, which as an instinct means ensuring basic needs are met.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is a hierarchical pyramid which delineates different levels of social aspiration starting at basic physiological needs (food, shelter) and moves up to safety needs, love and belonging, esteem and then self actualisation. Those who are homeless are at the two bottom rungs of society.
Homeless Lives Matter will focus on the love/belonging/esteem and self actualisation levels in order to step them up to opening to their potential and self worth.
The planning of HLM is inspired by the author Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People a process that outlines how to move along the path to empowerment.
The first three habits surround moving from dependence to independence (i.e., self-mastery):
1 – Be proactive
- Take responsibility for your reaction to your experiences, take the initiative to respond positively and improve the situation. Recognize your Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Focus your responses and initiates on the center of your influence and constantly work to expand it. Don’t sit and wait in a reactive mode, waiting for problems to happen (Circle of Concern) before taking action.
2 – Begin with the end in mind
- Envision what you want in the future so you can work and plan towards it. Understand how people make decisions in their life. To be effective you need to act based on principles and constantly review your mission statement. Are you – right now – who you want to be? What do I have to say about myself? How do you want to be remembered? If habit 1 advises changing your life to act and be proactive, habit 2 advises that you are the programmer! Grow and stay humble.
All things are created twice. Before we act, we should act in our minds first. Before we create something, we measure twice. This is what the principle is about. Do not just act; think first: Is this how I want it to go, and are these the correct consequences?
3 – Put first things first
The next three habits talk about Interdependence (e.g., working with others):
4 – Think win-win
- Genuine feelings for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten their way. Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration.
5 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood
- Use empathetic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to be influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem-solving.
- Habit 5 is greatly embraced in the Greek philosophy represented by 3 words:
- 1) Ethos — your personal credibility. It’s the trust that you inspire, your Emotional Bank Account.
- 2) Pathos is the empathetic side — it’s the alignment with the emotional trust of another person’s communication.
- 3) Logos is the logic — the reasoning part of the presentation.
- The order is important: ethos, pathos, logos — your character, and your relationships, and then the logic of your presentation.
6 – Synergize!
- Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals that no one could have done alone.
The final habit is that of continuous improvement in both the personal and interpersonal spheres of influence.
7 – Sharpen the Saw; Growth
See also: Kaizen (continuous improvement)
- Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, good prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.
Covey explains the “Upward Spiral” model in the sharpening the saw section. Through our conscience, along with meaningful and consistent progress, the spiral will result in growth, change, and constant improvement. In essence, one is always attempting to integrate and master the principles outlined in The 7 Habits at progressively higher levels at each iteration. Subsequent development on any habit will render a different experience and you will learn the principles with a deeper understanding. The Upward Spiral model consists of three parts: learn, commit, do. According to Covey, one must be increasingly educating the conscience in order to grow and develop on the upward spiral. The idea of renewal by education will propel one along the path of personal freedom, security, wisdom, and power.
Increasingly as narratives and ideological beliefs turn to victim blame homeless people, the vilification is used as a reason to cut or stop funding and excise responsibility for those who are not ‘economic units’ but citizens in a society. The business narrative as it infiltrates government narratives loses sight of the original intention of government for the people by the people. This appears to be the disconnect.
The issues of homelessness are complex and at the same time mirrors back to society the moral and ethical landscape that is largely invisible but traditionally socialised by families and ideologies. The more complex and underlying question is – What and who do we value in our society? To become aware of how we include or exclude on the basis of perceived value typically attached to work, status, income, wealth and property. Those who do not reflect ‘success’ in material ways are deemed ‘failures’ and of lower value.
There are other assumptions which allow people to ignore homelessness. They assume in a wealthy material society they can get on welfare. What is not understood as that welfare payments are not enough to cover rising rents. This is occurring because of foreign and domestic property market speculation creating boom and bust conditions. In property booms the price of real estate rises. Moreover, infrastructure projects with private equity investment under Private/Public Partnership Agreements increases foreign investors building new residential properties. Increased liquidity, investment and credit availability attracts buyers from the upper socio-economic bracket or professional classes abroad. However, this is subject to market variability if large infrastructure project beneficiaries are funded and then the predicted demand does not appear. This can create a scenario of empty new buildings (vacancies) which are unaffordable to those who need accommodation.
The stigma of poverty undermines and lowers expectations of a better future. Moreover, the embarrassment of where a person lives is amplified when the dwelling is aging or dilapidated properties reinforcing the ‘worthlessness’ of occupants. Tower blocks, wind tunnels, squalid conditions, surveillance, poorly designed residential mixes and police indifference reinforce the stigma that those in poverty are worth-less and uncivilised.
Jane Elliott the Texan educator who produced the Blue Eyed Brown Eyed experiment proved that what we think about we bring about. This division of a class provided evidence of the power of suggestion which embeds discriminatory attitudes. It works off the basis of inferior and superior. Therefore, if we put people down, withdraw privileges, stereotype, cite biological reasons for poor treatment, lower expectations, project negative assumptions about intellect and personal capability on the basis of a characteristic we artificially create the conditions that will be used to validate that assumption. If we practice the reverse and start to value people, empower them, help them to envisage a new future then we are in a position to lift people out of the poverty mentality, which is where the real trap is.
Refer Frontline documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mcCLm_LwpE
The growing inequality resultant from structural barriers trap people in what is popularly called The Poverty Trap. Inequality is about the prejudice around material wealth emotionally connecting to self worth. The more you have the more you are, the less you have the less you are. These signals are unmistakable and render many potentially gifted lives stuck in mediocrity, social isolation and survival.
Apart from those on the street, homelessness is largely invisible. It is estimated in Australia that there are approximately 116,000 people known to be homeless, the figures are likely to be higher given invisibility. Socially, many feel shamed and embarrassed as they recognise they are seen as less and this very disempowerment becomes a glass ceiling they cannot break through. Once a person become labelled they are viewed through a distorted lens (less than equal). This prejudice adds to the overwhelming situation a person finds themselves in. Powerlessness is a key issue.
In the future the word ‘homelessness’ will be replaced by a new narrative that inspires, challenges and empowers a renewable life.
Homeless people have the same dreams, varied skills, diverse backgrounds, inherent wisdom, extraordinary resilience and strength to be able to live outside of what is perceived as the ‘normal’ life. This requires great strength, courage and random acts of kindness.
The voices of homeless people is not only about collecting research but develop socio-emotional understanding to empower change to solve the problem not hate the person (conflict resolution). There is a significant chasm between those with lived experience and the social services/homelessness sector, government agencies/Ministers, business leaders and the wider society. Ultimately you cannot know homelessness until you become homeless.
Below are videos Susan Carew compiled from a lived experience perspective to provide insights into the homeless issue from the perspective of homeless people. She is making her life visible and transparent in order share given significant social and political misunderstanding.
Homeless Persons Do Not Vote – A Message to Politicians and the Public
Homeless Lives Matter Electing to Walk to Parliament House
Project: Homeless Lives Matter: Vote to Walk With The Homeless, Canberra
Courtney Herron Homelessness and Violence Part 1
A few links to inform and start a conversation:
Testimonials of Homelessness: https://homelesslivesmatterbook.com/
Homelessness in Australia: https://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/fact-sheets
Australia history of homeless convicts (history) https://theconversation.com/the-story-of-australias-last-convicts-89723
Homelessness and repeat offending http://theconversation.com/homelessness-causes-offenders-to-end-up-back-in-prison-heres-how-to-break-the-cycle-52059
Most ex-prisoners unemployed or homeless six months after release, study says http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-25/australian-study-of-ex-prisoners-finds-high-rates-homelessness/5548430
A new approach to poverty reduction http://www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/learning-from-the-experts-a-new-approach-to-poverty-reduction-south-african-homeless-peoples-federat