Tuesday, October 13, 2009
No Place like Home
Home is where the heart is. A cheesey expression that sounds like kitchen wall hanging, maybe a little to 1930's mid-west for some but the intensity, the sheer magnitude, the actual weight of this statement hits me more and more each day. Without a home your world becomes unravelled, fast. Imagine not having a place to go after work where you would cook a meal, rest, close your eyes and know securely that all behind your closed door were safe from the elements, from crime, from social debasement. Imagine trying to get you kids up and ready for school without a kitchen, a bathroom, without a roof. Imagine not having a place to express your irrationalities and despair in privacy. Imagine always having to remain expose and vigilant.
This is something that more and more people are facing in this country, this land of the quarter acre block, the 3 bed brick veneer job in the suburbs. They tell us jobs are getting scarcer, but there is ALWAYS a housing worker position vacant. Why wouldn't there be? Who would want to work in a job where you are, day after day, receiving plea after plea for a "place to put my family" and having to break the news "there is no housing".
The public housing list is not just long in terms of applicants, but in years. There is in some places over a fifteen year wait! And then you may be offered somewhere that is completely unacceptable, somewhere that is so desperate just visiting the site makes you feel infected with despair- So bad that you have no option but to gasp and say "thanks but no thanks, I need to keep my kids safe". This little display of pickiness will place back from whence you came : the end of the queue. See you in another decade.
I work in the areas of mental health/ drug and alcohol. I see the despair daily. I sit with grown men and listen to them beg me to speak up for them, help them get a place "you know, a place where I can just get back on me feet, so i wouldn't drink or nuffin'". I can speak for them, but my voice does precious little. Sadly I see them return from their substance withdrawal or psychotic episode to a boarding house or a night on a mate's couch, maybe a relative's place that will soon give way to homelessness. I might see them back in the withdrawal unit, so compliant to the programme, so grateful to be there that I often think it is about the seven days of secure living rather than the opportunity to leave a substance free life that brings them back. I don't just see men, I see young people, young enough to be my own children. I meet 60 something year old women who may of developed an addiction or mental illness or both through a divorce, an accident and lost their home, there belongings, their hope.
We are living in a time of social crisis. This is a time of severe housing crisis, there are no places to put people who are poor, sick and despaired. In fact families who work and contribute at a hearty rate are finding difficulties to access good quality and affordable rental properties. Once it was considered a budgeting rule that if your rent or repayments exceeded a third of your income then you ould not survive, it is more than half now. But still normal, un-exceptional but nonetheless good family homes being bought up in clumps, demolished and multiple designer style town houses going up all over the place making developers rich and councils wealthy and socially unaccountable for the strugglers in their towns. Our kids now may not ever own their own homes....our kids, if they fall on hard times may never have a home. How many of us received a big fat cheque from Uncle Kevin and spent it on craft, putting in a new vegie patch, homely goodies? How many people desperately needed that cash but didn't get it because they hadn't put a tax return in - it's hard to keep a job when you have no address.
Folks we need to open our eyes, we need to start talking about this, loudly and we need to tell our leaders this IS UNACCEPTABLE for Australians....No one should live without a place to call home, a place that anchors them in this world where you can retreat, recharge. A place where you can protect and nuture yourself and family. Without a home, life can unravel fast, real fast.