It can be easy to dismiss those who most need our compassion, understanding and help – certainly our politicians are leading the way. Anne Ruston’s recent attack on people on Newstart saying any increase in benefits would be spent on drugs and alcohol, is just a symptom of how out of touch some politicians and people are with the struggles many Australians face.
For those who are struggling most, like people who are homeless in Byron Shire, a little respect and kindness from strangers can go a long way.
Increase in rough sleepers
Byron Shire saw an 18 per cent increase in rough sleepers since last year’s count. With World Homelessness Day this Thursday October 10 the focus is once again on how you can help.
‘Most people who live homeless have a history of poverty and childhood abuse or trauma,’ said Rohena Duncombe, a lecturer at Charles Sturt University, who is currently researching her PhD on homeless health in Byron.
‘Overall this means various presentations of traumatised personality symptoms that people try to manage with substance use. This is totally misunderstood in the community where aggression and intoxication are assumed to have caused the homelessness, which may not be the case. This justifies for some, being judgemental and cruel – Council removing all their belongings, charities saying they have enough money for alcohol, people throwing things at them, police busting them etc.’
A hard life
It is already a tough existence when you are homeless with research showing that homeless people get sick more often, have shorter lives and use fewer primary health services than the rest of the population. The cruelty they experience aggravates their symptoms, making them less trusting of organisations, undermining their chances of recovery.
Ms Duncombe points out that the ‘thing people living homeless value most is kindness – I know it sounds naff but when you spend your days and nights in strugglesville, people who treat you as a human being are a blessing. If people had a better understanding, it might encourage more compassion.’
This Thursday sees the launch of the Byron Zero Homelessness Project by local councillor Paul Spooner and business entrepreneur Brandon Saul. Their aim is to raise funds to place tiny homes around the Shire so people have safe places to sleep. Habitat businesses are giving 10 per cent of their sales, and Habitat management are donating all the retail rents on Thursday toward the project. If you want to support the project contact Cr Spooner at: [email protected] or visit: www.ighomelessness.org.