Big Issue Vendors Bust Myths About Homelessness

15 August 2018 Magazine

Big Issue Vendors Bust Myths About Homelessness

SBS documentary Filthy Rich and Homeless seeks to open our eyes to Australia’s homelessness crisis – but a lot more can be learnt from Big Issue vendors who’ve really lived it.

Filthy Rich and Homeless gets privileged Australians to experience different types of homelessness for 10 days, from rough sleeping to living in a van (read our story with Mark from the show) to crisis accommodation.

On day 11 they return to their normal lives with a fresh perspective about what life is like for the 116,427 Australians who don’t have a safe or secure place to sleep.

As the five participants discover, there are a lot of harmful myths about homelessness. Here, street vendors bust some of the biggest.

 

Myth #1

People choose to be homeless

“When you come to the realisation that you do not have one friend or family member that will put you up – it is a feeling of isolation and loneliness like no other. You feel exposed, shameful and alone.” Rach M, Brisbane

“Hopeless – that’s what it feels like to be homeless. There are not enough places out there for all of us. It hits you in the guts, makes you feel low and not worth anything.” Brett, West Perth

The causes of homelessness are varied, complex and often the result of multiple layers of disadvantage – but it’s never a choice.

In Australia, domestic violence is the most common reason people seek the help of homelessness services. Financial hardship, health problems, and lack of family or community support are also leading causes.

 

Myth #2

There’s enough accommodation to get people off the streets

“Unfortunately, the demand for places far outstrips supply. Homeless hostels are not a permanent solution. Most can only offer a temporary stay, which could be as little as a few weeks. For every space in a hostel I got the impression 100 people are clamouring at the door.” Ben G, Brisbane

Every day, 250 people are turned away from crisis accommodation centres across the country, according to census data released this year.

And beyond crisis accommodation, Australia faces a shortage of 200,000 social and affordable homes. Without action, this number is projected to grow to 600,000 by 2030.

 

Myth #3

Homelessness is really just “rooflessness”

“I once had to spend nine months living in a backpacker’s while waiting for transitional housing. I was abused and bullied by people staying there and discriminated against by staff. I had to share a room with up to 10 people, including men. I got bed bugs and scabies, and everything was dirty.” Pat, Perth

People who are rough sleeping make up just seven per cent of Australia’s homelessness population. Boarding houses, severely overcrowded dwellings, supported accommodation, couchsurfing and temporary housing are all forms of homelessness.

A home is much more than a roof, it’s a sense of security, stability, privacy and control.

 

Myth #4

Homeless people are lazy and won’t help themselves

“Being homeless can be isolating and lonely. There are many moments of desperation and hardship. Your survival depends on your resilience, determination, resourcefulness and your capacity to survive in the face of such adversity.” Graham H, Brisbane

Homeless people use incredible amounts of energy just to get through each day. It takes a lot of effort to navigate systems and services while living in crisis.

Plus, Big Issue vendors show that homeless people do want to work to improve their circumstances. For a person experiencing homelessness, there are many factors that make it tough to find and hold down a mainstream job.

 

Myth #5

Homeless people aren’t like me

“What really hit me was how many people walk past and don’t take any notice of you. Everyone chatting, laughing and meeting friends. I wished I could be one of them. But when you are on the streets you don’t exist, you aren’t even a number to them.” Vernon B, Adelaide

“All I noticed was the comfort and security of other people’s lives. Whether they were sitting in the cafes and bars, enjoying a meal and a drink with their friends, or curled up on the couch settling in for a night of televised banality. For me, it brought back memories of better times and better places.” Sheldon C, Melbourne

Homeless people are people like everyone else. Stereotypes about homelessness can strip away an individual’s humanity, but as much as anyone they deserve dignity and respect. And most of all they deserve a safe and secure home.

 

Filthy Rich and Homeless screens from 14 to 16 August.

 

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