By lucy kidner
Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not being able to go to school, not knowing how to read, not being able to speak properly. Poverty is not having a job, fear for the future and living one day at a time. Poverty is loosing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of freedom
Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action – for the poor and the wealthy alike – a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and protection from violence.
Unfortunately, poverty is often an invisible problem. The voices of the poor are seldom heard. And what makes me feel like writing about poverty is the unwillingness of our society to deal with this
Together all these disadvantages not only hold poor people down, they make them vulnerable to losing even what they have. There is usually nothing to prevent them from falling into the abyss. And when they do fall there is often nobody waiting to catch them in the bottom. And it’s the criminality of it all – even wild animals are capable of fending for themselves but a person saddled with poverty isn’t able to. Hasn’t the society been designed to protect individuals? Didn’t we get beyond merely eating and breading and move to what is called ‘human civilization’?
Physical health, strength and appearance are of great importance to the poor. The body is poor people’s main asset, but one with no insurance. If it deteriorates, hunger and destitution hover at the doorstep. Shortage of food and sickness not only cause pain, they weaken and devalue the asset, make a person highly vulnerable. Illness can plunge a household into destitution. Anguish and grief
People who don’t have shelter are houseless – not homeless! Homelessness has nothing to do with a lack of shelter.
Define Homeless: ‘An inadequate experience of connectedness with family and or community,’ (Dominic Mapstone). This fact is now recognized by Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.
If the problem was a lack of shelters for the homeless why aren’t all the homeless shelter always full? During winter they are more busy but more shelters won’t solve the problem.
So often on the street I’ve seen people shake a set of keys with a big smile on their face saying ‘I’ve got a place.’ But often they end up spending most of their time on the streets anyway because they just don’t know anyone else other than other homeless people and an empty room is very lonely.
Homelessness is about a lack of connectedness. Belonging somewhere is about belonging with other people. Like belonging to a family or local community.
The largest social demographic in first world countries that experiences homelessness are actually elderly people who are houseful. Quite often their spouse has died and their children live at a distance. They feel the same loneliness and abandonment as the person living on the street.
People in institutions including prisons or juvenile justice centres often feel the same loneliness or more accurately experience homelessness as the only people they have contact with other than the other ‘homeless’ inmates are people paid to be a part of their life. These people are the equivalent of people who work in soup kitchens or shelters on the streets.
Imagine that, only having contact with people who are paid to have contact with you! This is chronic homelessness.
The Homeless & Rebeccas Community
Rebeccas Community was founded in 2002 by Social Worker Mr. Dominic Mapstone and Mr. Gerry Denton to support people who experience homelessness or are imprisoned – especially children. Our approach is centred around spending time with homeless people for the sake of getting to know them and becoming a part of their lives so this sense of connectedness is established… at least with our community. We also fund the national schoolies week website, a peer education program that helps promote safety during schoolies week..
Rebeccas Community runs programs that relieve suffering and help homeless people establish social connections and find their way not only off the streets but into the community. For the past six years, our home / office / place of hospitality in one has been a place where we welcome homeless people (who we have come to know over the past decade) to either drop-in for a day or to stay for a couple of months.
Beyond the model of homeless shelters, hospitality house is much more like a family home where people come for sanctuary and belonging. We keep in touch with people long after they are off the streets and have moved on from hospitality house. We expect to continue this relationship, if only by phone for many years to come. By acting more like a family and less like a welfare service we are responding to the experience homeless people have in a way that is very unconventional. But it works.
Read Rebeccas Story, the homeless person we named ‘Rebeccas Community” after.
We are pleased to support the Crisis Help Network, a resource compiled by a formerly homeless man about support services and life on the streets of Melbourne. Rebeccas Community hosts the resource and provides technical assistance.
If you are looking for the Season 5 House DVD we have a discount for our readers.
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