As a nation we can easily solve homelessness, all we need is the will.
Forty-five people from 12 parishes and eight housing support agencies met for the Parish Forum on Housing and Homelessness at St Columba’s Parish Centre, Elwood, on Wednesday evening 24 October 2018. They met in response to the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2018-19 A Place to Call Home – Making a home for everyone in our land
Participants listened to expert and sympathetic speakers who told of their efforts to reduce homelessness and improve access to housing. Their honest and candid reflections included the frustrations and hardships as well as joyful encounters and opportunities. The atmosphere of enthusiasm generated many ideas amongst participants and a potential network for practical action.
Fr John Petrulis, Parish Priest of St Columba’s dedicated the Forum and in reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, asked when people are homeless and impoverished, “who has robbed whom?”, pointing out that access to housing is not always a level playing field.
Jason Russell spoke about his journey into and from homelessness, describing the contributing factors, the experience of being homeless and the support he received from people and services that helped him to recovery.
Netty Horton, CEO CatholicCare provided an overview of the Bishops’ Social Justice Statement. She also spoke about some of the opportunities, optimism, failures and frustrations she has witnessed in her thirty years’ involvement in the community’s and government’s efforts to invest in housing and housing support services for those most in need.
“Homeless people need to be treated with the greatest respect and dignity,” she said and suggested “As a rich nation, we can easily solve homelessness. All we need is the will.” Churches, communities and governments need to work together to create solutions to bring collective will and action to solve homelessness.
Gwen Fitzgerald of St Anthony’s Parish, Glenhuntly and David Moloney of St Anne’s, Seaford, told how their parishes support people experiencing hunger and homelessness. Glenhuntly have been providing a meals program that has been in place and growing for 30 years, while the Seaford Housing Action Group has worked with Frankston Council and caravan parks to save endangered housing and is now working to extend housing for people at risk of homelessness.
Read more about the programs, here:
Sr Bernadette Keating facilitated the “What can parishes do?” workshop that resulted in a large range of suggestions coming forward. Just two included: advocating for the use of house sales stamp duty revenue to invest in social housing; and prioritising some public land and Church property for social and public housing.
Click here to find out what Catholic parishes can practically do.
Adrian Foley | Catholic Social Services Victoria | tel 0497 780 233