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The mission of Catholic Social Services Victoria is to assist the Catholic Church in Victoria to fulfil the gospel imperatives to:
Stand with and serve the poor, disadvantaged and marginalised; andwork for a just, equitable and compassionate society.
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Affordable housing must be our focus, not vilifying rough sleepers
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“Embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all,
those without hope of a better future” (Pope St John-Paul II)
We need to focus on the availability of safe, affordable and secure housing, rather than vilify people who don’t have adequate access to housing.
But comment and media coverage on rough sleepers in Melbourne has tended to focus on the short term.
The Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is to propose ban on sleeping rough in City of Melbourne
Victoria Police's Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton is accusing Melbourne CBD rough sleepers of pretending to be homeless
. The media in Melbourne has been running headlines like the following.
However, many of these people need a safe, affordable home in a friendly community, and some need decent regular work. Others need specialist attention. We are not talking about rubbish that needs to be 'cleaned out'.
In response, leaders of 36 Victorian homelessness, housing and social services organisations have released an open letter appealing for a shift in the conversation away from vilifying rough sleepers to a focus on the lack of affordable housing that underpins the crisis. These include our member organisations
Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand
Jesuit Social Services
McAuley Community Services for Women
Sacred Heart Mission
According to Homelessness Australia, Victorians become homeless because of:
(housing stress, unemployment) (22%),
(housing crisis, inadequate or inappropriate dwellings) (29%), relationship issues (time out from family, family breakdown, violence and assault) (33%),
(mental health issues, substance abuse issues) (3%) and
other issues like transition from care/custody
lack of support and discrimination
Local, State and Commonwealth governments need a strategy to combat this crisis. The letter states:
The Victorian Government has committed more than $600 million to social housing and homelessness support largely in response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence. We are still awaiting the Victorian affordable housing strategy.
Our Federal Government is a long way from having a plan to tackle this problem. Meanwhile, those on lowest incomes are being pursued by automated Centrelink debt notices, reducing their already meagre incomes. This will inevitably increase homelessness.
It's not just Government and community organisations that need to work together. Public opinion appears to have hardened in recent times. Recent statements by leaders and the media are only making matters worse.
Instead, Victorians need to come together and recognise that homelessness can happen to almost anyone, and work towards building community and creating more places to live for our fellow Australians.
You can access the open letter from community leaders here
Homelessness support gets an emergency boost
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