The charade of ‘homelessness’ week, the annual August calendar event, is once again around the bend. Shire councillors and parliamentarians will strut their stuff, mayors will cut red ribbons, speeches will be made, but the lies cannot be sold, they should not be sold, they must not be bought. Our shires and governments do ever so little for the homeless but we need to change this for our most vulnerable, the homeless.
Homelessness is on the increase, more acute than before, and it will continue to get worse, more vicious and with pernicious impacts for society unless we step up and force the doing of difference.
In recent weeks, I, and others, have been meeting with parliamentarians, shire officials around Perth – in campaigning for homeless friendly precincts and homeless friendly precincts in addition to other objectives. Homeless friendly precincts are a sliver of human dignity for our homeless, the least that must be done. I have had positive responses from the Liberal member for Perth, Eleni Evangel, from the long serving Greens parliamentarian, Robin Chapple and from the Wanneroo mayor, Tracey Roberts. We will be meeting with parliamentarians from across the political spectrum in seeking a multi-partisan approach to homeless friendly precincts and homeless friendly cities as a minimum standard.
I have written widely about what should constitute a homeless friendly precinct and a homeless friendly city.
I am concentrating on Perth however I have met with parliamentarians and mayors in other states and territories. Perth can lead the way and it should lead the way as this nation’s most affluent city per capita. It can become Australia’s first homeless friendly city. It is a moral abomination to live in a city or town that is not ‘homeless friendly,’ that does not treat with due respect the homeless, that does not do everything it can or should do.
The other day, I returned from a trip to China, where on behalf of a Perth-based charity, Wheelchairs for Kids, we donated hundreds of rough terrain children’s wheelchairs to institutions and orphanages through the Shanghai Charity Foundation. I talked with Chinese officials about producing these rough terrain wheelchairs in China – they have puncture-proof tyres and durable frames so maintenance is not required. In many regions of our world there is no capacity for maintenance. Chinese officials and other parties and I are now mapping out the path to this. Where there is a will there is a way. China carries the burden of caring for one in 6 of the world’s children. This will is what our City of Perth needs to pick up rather than the shame of neglecting our homeless, even at times demonising them. This will is what our State Government needs to pick up rather than suggesting that enough is being done for our homeless through overburdened charities and not-for-profits when this is not the case.
In the very least Western Australia has more than 10,000 homeless people on our streets, though I believe that the reality is nearly double this figure. Western Australia has more than 21,000 applications for public housing. These applications translate to 50,000 people. Thousands of them will never secure a home. If Western Australians understood the extensiveness of large homeless families on our streets, they would be shocked. Babies are born on our streets and people die on them. This is the wealthiest jurisdiction in Australia. Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy. Australia has more than 20,000 children aged 12 years and less homeless on our streets.
There is no greater legacy than to improve the lot of others to the point of changing lives, to the point of saving lives. This is my view, and I repeat it again and again.
I returned to Western Australia to read the following news report by Scott Cunningham of Channel Nine News:
But it is not unheard of – this cruelty has been tried by many who lost their moral compass. See here:
But media coverage and outrage from concerned citizens has seen sprinklers removed or turned off. However it cannot stop at this. The media has the capacity to sustain coverage and people have the power to empower social change. We can bring about the change agency that is needed to start up real change with homeless friendly precincts and homeless friendly cities.
There are good people out there doing good things. We have to get mayors, councillors, parliamentarians and bureaucrats likewise to start doing really good things and I qualify this by insisting they start with a focus on the most vulnerable and poor.
We will have homeless friendly precincts, we will have homeless friendly cities and we will make the difference. We will insist on compassion and human decency.
To join the campaign to make this difference please email Jennifer Kaeshagen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Gerry Georgatos 0430 657 309.
Before we help ourselves further we must help the homeless – their story is our story