More support needed to ease homeless crisis

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

When we think of homelessness, it is an issue generally associated with capital cities.

Unfortunately a visit to Melbourne or Sydney is now accompanied by the sight of people sleeping rough, many seeking small donations to help provide their daily food rations.

It is a blight on our modern society to see people being forced to sleep on park benches or hard concrete footpaths because they do not have a roof over their head.

Although this is considered primarily a city problem, statistics released last week show our community is not immune.

Last year 82 families were considered homeless or in need of temporary accommodation in Deniliquin. They were among the 400 who sought assistance from the local St Vincent de Paul Society.

We are sure other organisations, including the Salvation Army, also helped numerous people suffering similar circumstances.

Next month Vinnies will host its now annual Community Sleepout, which last year raised $18,000 to help the local Conference provide desperately needed funds for those in need.

This extends beyond the homeless, with families also struggling to meet the rising costs of everyday living. Soaring electricity, communications and other costs, not to mention the battle to pay rent, are beyond the financial means of some families.

The Sleepout is a unique opportunity for local people to better understand the plight of others in our community, as well as raising funds to help their cause.

However, governments need to do more to help the most vulnerable, whether they live in the city or rural areas.

The answer is not trying to sweep the issue under a carpet, as proposed a couple of years ago by then Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, who wanted to ban homeless people from sleeping on city streets.

A more sensible approach is identifying the cause of homelessness and financial stress and implementing effective programs to provide the necessary support.

This must include adequate community housing, with appropriate rent subsidies to ensure a family or individual has sufficient funds to live above the poverty line.

Providing sufficient means to pay for energy, communication and, of course, sufficient healthy food is also imperative. We applaud and support everyone involved in the Vinnies Sleepout and will do what we can to ensure it is a successful fundraiser, however we believe this is not an issue that should rely on a generous community.

It is the responsibility of Governments to adequately resource the various community organisations to ensure no-one has to unwillingly live below the poverty line.