Thursday, June 14, 2012

Confronting Homelessness In Sydney

"$50 can feed ten people who are homeless, for a day in our Loaves & Fishes Free Restaurant". Quoted from 'The Exodus Foundation' run by Rev. Bill Crews
$10 to feed one person per day.

The Exodus Foundation is doing a wonderful job feeding homeless people in and around Sydney city. My cousin has seen their vans feeding many hungry homeless folks. She lives in Woolloomooloo, the harbourside suburb where the actor Russell Crowe, the singer Delta Goodrem and the radio man with the golden tonsils, John Laws own property. Woolloomooloo is also where a large number of homeless people like to congregate.

Maybe charity organisations need to make the heartbreaking decision of cutting the funds for food and saving some donated funds to buy real estate. Buying properties with beds or heated floors where they can sleep out of the cold and provide lockers so that they can store their possessions and can have toilets and showers to clean up if they desire. Be more mobile to go for job interviews and beable to search for food without lugging their possessions around.

Reading about homeless people and third world nations suffering absolute poverty always makes me feel so sad. An article in the Good Weekend, wrote about how families were stewing leaves to feed themselves because they had a poor harvest season and their food supply ran out before the next harvest. Imagine surviving on foraged leaves boiled in water, day in and day out.

How can we as a society, form a solution that is more longer lasting than simply trying to stay afloat by simply feeding the homeless daily?

Housing first.
Education next.
Employment after.

We can berate the government for not doing more for the homeless, but then the State Budget just handed down plans to axe up to 10,000 public service jobs across the next four years and that may be the cause of more homeless people. That means another 10,000 unemployed skilled individuals competing for jobs versus the potentially unskilled, homeless and unemployed folks.

So much easier to say, "Get a job" or "Do something useful" but how hard is it to survive in this tough world without literacy nor an education? Even basic literacy won't get many people far. Several years ago, this guy I once knew told me how he struggled to read and complete government and welfare forms. Luckily he signed up for a baking apprenticeship and now successfully runs his own bakery with his wife doing the paperwork.

Imagine if he was single, unemployed and didn't even know how to complete the welfare forms and was too embarrassed to seek help. If he was living on his own, his fate could have easily swung the other way and he could have even been one of the 'homeless' that are scorned by some.

There is so much food wastage around Sydney. Oz Harvest does a fabulous job of collecting the wastage(from what I've read!) but even on Masterchef, the cooking show on TV, the Sheraton Hotel dumped a tray of deliciously golden hash browns because they were 'overcooked' and also dumped a soggy batch of undercooked hash that would likely be welcomed by the homeless.

Not that I'm suggesting we feed homeless people inferior food but if I were homeless, I'd wolf down those hash browns that were so easily dumped into the bins. Oz Harvest already collects left over food so how bad can the leftovers be before someone who is homeless can afford to reject food?

Have you thought about your life and the 'what if' scenario of you and your family being homeless?

What would you do? How would you survive? How far would you go to survive and feed yourselves? Would you beg or be too proud? Which family or friend would you turn to for help before you end up on the street? What type of jobs would you be willing to accept if you were on the edge of being thrown out of your home due to unpaid mortgages or unpaid rent?

There isn't really much difference between a homeless person and a homeless cat, both of which I wrote about in the past. Both topics are depressing. The truth is depressing.

I recently read about a woman who smudged lipstick on her teeth on purpose. Her test was to see who would politely speak up and what people would do in uncomfortable, socially awkward situations. She had lunch with her friend who mentioned nothing about her red, lipstick smudged teeth. She went shopping and the service staff who served her all looked at the ground, looked away and didn't want to make any eye contact with her. Nor did any of them tell her that she had lipstick on her teeth. They were uncomfortable and discomforted.

Are people more inclined to look away and avoid socially awkward situation? Preferring to pretend that the homeless person sprawled out on that park bench and sitting lost and despondent by the train stations merely don't exist? Is that the type of society that we have evolved into?

What would you do if you saw someone who had either lipstick smudged on their teeth, their flys undone, their tag sticking out of their shirt, a piece of toilet paper hanging out the back of their pants, wore their shirt inside out or the buttons on their shirt buttoned up wrong? Would you look away whilst thinking, 'OMG so embarrassing' and hope that someone else tells the poor person or would you discreetly tell them? Just think about it...

SMG xx

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