Gerry Georgatos – Homeless Australians on average die in their forties, not only living depleted lives but also half-lives. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Census counts nearly 117,000 Australians in some form of homelessness with more than 7,000 living on the streets. I argue that homelessness is now in excess of 300,000 Australians – likely closer to 15,000 roughing it on the streets. There are 150,000 applications for public housing on the waiting list, that’s more than 400,000 Australians without a permanent home.

Several years ago, Bethlehem House, the only men’s shelter in Hobart, found that the average age of death of the homeless they supported was in the 40s. That’s pretty much corroborated by like establishments and services throughout the nation.

Poor health is the obvious deal for the homeless. There’s little relief for the homeless, particularly the street living homeless. A six dollar ‘goon bag’ is all that may keep someone warm, weathering the frightening cold of the majority of winter nights. Denying a street sleeping homeless individual a goon bag on a near zero Celsius night is like telling them to freeze. They fight to maintain body heat. They fight to dull and dim their senses so as to maintain sanity.

A passer may begrudge the coins a homeless individual begs for, that it may go to smokes and alcohol but that is what keeps them going despite the impacts on the lungs and liver.

The majority of the homeless I know are smokers. I’d say nearly 90 percent despite Australia overall with one of the world’s lowest smoking rates; fourteen percent of Australians smoke cigarettes.

Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest nations – 12th biggest economy, among the highest median wages, and ranked number one in the world for highest median adult wealth. According to the Global Wealth Report 2018 the median wealth of adult Australians is $264,903. The median wealth of the world’s adults is $5,820 AUD.

Yet, it is highly likely that the average age of death of homeless Australians is 45 years of age. Australia’s overall life expectancy is over 80 years.

With more Australian children than ever before finishing up homeless, many more than ever before street homeless, we should be alarmed. Nearly one-fifth of Australia’s homeless are children aged 12 years and less.

Finland has much less adult median wealth than Australia, $45,606 but has managed to do away with street homelessness in Helsinki. Australia has no justifiable excuses for the neglect of its homeless, for the shortage of public housing. It is a sin, one so putrid that the right-minded heavy as moral and political abomination.

Homeless shelters and homeless friendly precincts aren’t enough to save lives, they at best provide slivers of dignity, some services and supports but physically, psychologically while people are homeless they do it as tough as it gets.

What is the point of Commonwealth and State and Territory Ministers for Homelessness when they do next to nothing?

Outside of natural disasters and civil strife, the Northern Territory and Kimberley region have among the world’s highest homelessness rates, with over six percent of their total populations in some form of homelessness.

 

  • Gerry Georgatos is a suicide prevention and poverty researcher. He is also the national coordinator of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project.
  • Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636.