Chair of the Homelessness Inquiry and Northern Metropolitan MP, Fiona Patten, reflects on a day of public hearings.
Yesterday, I chaired the Legal and Social Issues Committee’s second Melbourne public hearings into Homelessness
Much to my surprise, it was a day of relative optimism.
We heard from a range of witnesses doing innovative and effective work. The message I gleaned from nearly all those I heard from was – this is not just a government issue but one for the whole community.
Wonderful businesses like HoMie (Homelessness Of Melbourne Incorporated Enterprise) are taking up the challenge of addressing the stigma that comes with homelessness. They provide shopping days for young people experiencing homelessness and run a successful paid internship program for youth suffering hardship so as they can gain valuable on-the-job retail training. You can show your support by popping into their store on Brunswick street in Fitzroy. Read more about their brilliant work here. www.homie.com.au
Of course, a lot of the individuals and organisations appearing before us recognise that employment is one of the greatest protections against homelessness.
While developers often get a bad rap (because some of them deserve it!), we had a bunch of them along with accountants, builders and bankers in for a lively roundtable conversation about what they can do to help. I had assumed that they would want tax relief or other concessions but no, it was more their desire for fast track approvals for projects that created sustainable social housing or affordable housing. Many of the top builders, developers and architects have already come together to work on projects that refurbish empty buildings for short to medium term accommodation and are keen to do more. This is what we must encourage.
The amazing Kids Under Cover (www.kuc.org.au) provide studio, one and two bedroom apartments for young people aged between 12 and 25 years deemed, due to various circumstances (overcrowding, family conflict, mental health etc) to be at risk of homelessness or family breakdown. Many set up in the rear yard of the family home, it enables young people to have a sanctuary and remain connected to their family. We heard from Brittnie a young woman who had one of these wonderful spaces to live in for a number of years behind her grandmother’s home. She was able to finish school, go onto further study and is now a registered nurse looking after people with dementia. Inspiring stuff.
There are so many good ideas out there!
For instance askizzy.com.au is a website for people who may be homeless or just in a difficult space. It provides information about where you can find a bed, free food as well as services for family violence, mental health etc.
Finally, we heard from ‘Homes for Homes’, operated under the Big Issue umbrella. In a nutshell it arranges for home sellers to donate 0.1% of the sale of their house. But this is being scaled up and developers have got on board and are donating 0.1% on all their sales. You can find out more about them here – www.homesforhomes.org.au.
With the stats around homelessness frightening and the job of fixing the problem sometimes feeling like a mountain too high to climb, its days like this, when somehow it seems possible.