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Individuals and families find themselves homeless due to a
variety of reasons, none of their own choosing
A couple of weeks ago, 11 Certificate
IV Community Services students from Shellharbour TAFE and their
teacher Monique Ferguson (some of them pictured above) teamed up with
Wollongong Emergency Family Housing. The idea was to hold a family fun
day event at North Wollongong Beach. The object of this was to raise
awareness about homelessness and the lack of stable, affordable housing.
The concept was ‘ this community concern needs a community response'.
The stalls and activities were either free or by donation. They
included raffling the gifts donated by local businesses, rotary
sausage sandwiches, Ethiopian food, face painting, and egg and clothes
painting for children. A local hairdresser even donated her services
and cut over 20 people's hair. There was also donated clothing and
blankets and a children's reading corner.
The PCYC donated over $1000.00 in gym memberships and a local caravan
park donated one night accommodation in one of their cabins. These
prizes and goods and services from supportive businesses made the
raffle very popular.
The success of the event was the offers of assistance by those
attending. It was the children joining in the games, the joining of
community, especially those who were homeless and those who support a
community response to the issue.
There were also unexpected successes of the event. One long-term
homeless community member was reunited with his brother after 17
years. His brother had recognised him in promotional material and
turned up, determined to wait in the cold until they were re-united.
This single moment bought tears to the eyes of all those involved.
Over 200 people turned up for the event, and the vibe was exciting.
People were eagerly telling their stories and listening to others'
stories of unstable housing and homelessness.
Individuals and families find themselves homeless due to a variety of
reasons, none of their own choosing. The circumstances often include
domestic and family violence, the chronic and ongoing shortage of
affordable and available rental properties, financial difficulties and
intergenerational poverty. Health issues such as physical or mental
illness, disability and substance dependence can all contribute. And
there are groups who are at high risk of facing homelessness. These
include Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, young people who've
been in foster care, individuals released from prison and refugees.
The Wollongong event culminated in "SOS" being spelled out
with candles on the beach. This was to "bring light" to the
issue of homelessness in the local community and in our society.
Events like this one and the recent annual St Vinnie's CEO Sleepout
are important reminders to us all that having a home is a basic human
right. Every night in Australia, one person in every 200 is homeless.
The goal needs to be connecting the entire community because the issue
citizens are homeless". In NSW alone, the
number of homeless increased by 26 per cent in the previous five
years. In April 2013, the national figure was cited as 105,237 by
Given a set of precipitating factors, anyone could end up homeless
and the impacts are immense. Attending school or studying becomes very
difficult. People are vulnerable to long term unemployment, which
contributes further to their experience of poverty. Homelessness leads
to chronic ill health, mental health problems, poor nutrition, dental
issues and substance abuse.
Homeless Australia puts it most succinctly: "Home is more than a
roof over your head- it needs to be safe, secure and connected".
People who are homeless have the same needs and dreams as other
people. With communities raising awareness and funds, we can work
towards everyone having a home.
This post was co-authored by Monique Ziegelaar, Counsellor, and
Monique Ferguson, Community Services teacher, both at TAFE Illawarra