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Stephanie Smalberger

on 24 November 2013

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Who is affected?

According to Homelessness Australia, every night across Australia, more than 100,000 people are homeless, of these 14,000 sleep rough, and two out of three people are turned away from crisis accommodation due to no vacancies. The common view of homeless people being middle-aged alcoholic men who sleep on a park bench is becoming further and further from accurate. Studies show that nearly half of the homeless people in Australia are under the age of 25, with just under half being female and the majority being children.
Why is it happening?
There are many factors that can cause a person to become homeless. A recent study by SAAP showed that domestic violence was the biggest single contributor to homelessness. Among this, other factors are:
• Poor mental health
• Family and relationship breakdown
• Debt
• Poverty
• Lease expiry
• Chronic gambling and substance addiction
• Unemployment
• Disability
• Physical and/or sexual abuse

What is it?
Homelessness and being forcibly evicted from one’s home are major human rights issues both in Australia and the rest of the world. A broad definition of the social justice issue of homelessness is having no home or personal security, especially the state of living on the streets. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare defines homelessness as:
• Currently living on the streets
• Living in crisis or refuge accommodation
• Living in temporary arrangements without security, for example, moving between the residences of friends or relatives, living in squats, caravan parks or dwellings, or living in boarding houses
• Living in unsafe family circumstances, for example where child abuse of domestic violence is a threat or has occurred
• Living on very low income and facing costly expenses over a personal crisis

Why is this issue important?
Homelessness impacts on the affected individuals’ enjoyment of human rights. According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, ‘human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.’ Homelessness is important because as it is a breach of or impacts several of these human rights, it means that people are being denied access to basic things that everyone is entitled to.
According to Australian Human Rights Commission, breaches or impacts several of these human rights, as follows:

One of the recognised international human rights laws states that every person has the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to adequate housing. This means that everyone has the right to have anything that they need to ensure that themselves and their family:
do not fall ill or hungry; have clothes and a house; are helped if you are out of work, ill, old, or do not earn a living. All children have the same rights.

Homelessness is a breach of the right to an adequate standard of living:
Homeless family in San Francisco
Homelessness impacts on the right to health:

Another human rights law states that every person, including children, has the right to have the highest possible standard of health. Homelessness however is associated with the opposite- poor health, in three ways:
• Some health problems can cause a person to become homeless in the first place. For example, poor physical or mental health can make it challenging for a person to find employment or earn an adequate income.
• Some health problems are consequences of homelessness. For example, depression, poor nutrition, poor dental health, substance abuse and mental health problems. Studies have shown that the death and disability rates are higher amongst homeless people than the general population.
• Homelessness worsens and complicates the treatment of many health problems, as homeless people have significantly less access to health services than the general population. This may be due to financial hardship, lack of transportation to medical facilities, no identification or Medicare Cars, and struggling to maintain appointment times and treatment plans.

Every person has the right to liberty and security of the person. This means that everyone has the right to live in freedom and in safety. This may not always be the case for homeless people. As homeless people are more vulnerable to crime and personal attacks, their physical safety is often under constant threat. For example, women who are homeless are often forced into harmful situations and relationships out of need.

[A]s a ‘street kid’, I lived in constant fear of violence. There was no door I could lock to separate me from the rest of the world. There was no safe place for me to just be. –M. Gleeson

Homelessness impacts on the right to liberty and security of a person:

Education is a basic human right that everyone is entitled to and must by accessible by every child. Homelessness breaches this right in several ways, such as:
• Financial difficulty and insecure housing conditions make it hard for homeless people to meet the costs of education, such as books, clothes, activities etc.
• Disruptions in schooling and social connections can be caused as homeless people may be forced to move around frequently, and may be without transportation.

Homelessness impacts on the right to an education:
Homelessness impacts on the right to work:
Homelessness impacts on the right of every individual to work. This human right states that everyone has the right to gain a living and be assisted with this is need be. Homeless people face many barriers to gaining and maintaining employment for several reasons, including:
• They lack basic education and skills training, due to disrupted or incomplete schooling
• They lack community and family connections which could assist them in finding employment or providing advice
• Lack of knowledge about employment rights make them vulnerable to exploitation or discrimination at work
• They may face discrimination at work for not being able to provide a fixed address or satisfy identity requirement
• They may have a criminal record for offences associated with homelessness, such as stealing.
• They may have to manage substance abuse, or children, or worry about having to move

Relevance to Social Justice Concepts
Life and dignity of the human person:

To me, this means that human life has to be respected, and should be valued about all materialistic possessions. The issue of homelessness and how it is portrayed in Phil Collin’s song is relevant to this concept as we often spend more time and money on buying things for ourselves rather than helping those who need it a lot more. The lyrics ‘for you and me in paradise’ refer to the fact that that for the person passing a homeless woman on the street, the busy life that they complain about such as fuel prices rising, is seen as ‘paradise’ to the homeless person, who may never own a car and be able to experience fuel prices at all. The homeless people watch us living in houses with boats, wearing matching shoes and view out stressful and hectic lives as paradise. The social justice concept of life and dignity of the human person, where materialistic possessions should not come above the life of any person, is completely disregarded when it comes to homeless people and the general population. The sad reality is that we would much rather buy a nice dress than help someone who has a piece of cardboard as a pillow and is slowly starving to death.

Call to family, community an participation:
In my opinion, this social justice concept means that everyone has the right to be part of a family and community, and to develop as a person with help from their family and community. A common point on all of the websites I looked at about this concept was that it is vital for people to interact with members of their family and in the larger community, and to be active and take part in helping others. Homeless people are shunned out by society, and most of the younger children that are homeless haven’t developed social skills or learnt how to communicate with others because they have never had a stable family to learn from. This makes it hard for them to participate in their community and have an active role in helping others. As well as this, the community aspect of this concept means that the more privileged members of the community should be doing more to help out people affected by homelessness and other social justice issues.
Rights and responsibilities of the human person:
This concept refers to the rights that people have agreed all human beings are entitled to do, have or be, and the responsibilities that they have to ensure that everyone is enjoying these rights. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the social justice issue of homelessness breaches or impacts 12 of these human rights, 5 of which I have previously elaborated on. The fact that millions of people worldwide are being deprived of conditions that have been agreed on as a necessity and that should be entitled to everyone is appalling. On top of this, social justice issues other than homelessness sees millions more people deprived of the basic rights that they are entitled to. The other half of this concept, to me, means that the general population should be doing more in order to ensure that homeless people have access to what everyone else is entitled to, as it is their responsibility in the eyes of God to do so.
Option for the poor:
This social justice concept is basically mirroring the idea that Jesus spoke of 'whatever you do to the least of my people, so you have done to me.' It basically says that we should take care of the people who need it first, which would hopefully ensure that they would be saved from their situation, and they too could then go on to help someone who needs it more. This is relevant to the issue of homelessness, as although there are several organisations that help homeless people, the government still prioritises things about solving, or helping to mitigate social justice problems, such as homelessness. If we first got rid of homelessness by dedicating resources to the cause, then after it has been solved there would be more resources to do other things.

The dignity of work and rights of workers:
In the catholic teaching, the economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is not just about earning a living, but rather a form of continuing to participate in God’s creation. If people work to help others, then they should be entitled to rights, such as the right to productive work, to decent and just wages, to adequate benefits and security in their old age, to the choice of whether to organize and join unions, to the opportunity for legal status for immigrant workers, to private property and to economic initiative (according to the Diocese of Austin website). Homeless people, once again, are shunned form society and are unable to access these rights that they are entitled to. As previously mentioned, homeless people have difficulty gaining and maintain employment or work, and if they do happen to find work, they are often exploited and taken advantage of because they don’t know what rights they are entitled to.
Solidarity refers to the idea that we are all part of one family; that we are all brothers and sisters, and that we should treat everyone as we would treat our brothers and sisters. It also refers to the idea of working together to uphold social justice. This idea of solidarity can be seen in communities that work together and contribute to helping homeless people. It can also be seen when one homeless person helps another get by. We were put on this earth to care for God’s creation, and if we are all doing it, we might as well do it together- and help others help themselves in order for them to work with us afterwards.
Effectiveness of the song in promoting justice
How is the song effective?
The song Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins examines the issues of
poverty, hunger and homelessness
in America. It is extremely effective in promoting awareness of the social justice issue of homelessness throughout the world. This is because the singer/ songwriter Phil Collins is a famous musician who is typically known for his love songs and sentimental movie theme songs, and so the fact that he would steer away from his usual genre to sing about the issue of homelessness captured his audience’s attention.
How is the song effective?
The issue explored in the song received even more attention because of the fact that a lot of his audience questioned Collins’ reasons for singing about a serious issue. In a 1990 interview, he stated
‘’Yes, I'm projecting a different side, but people don't think there's any sincerity in that, and that's what annoys me, I don't mind if people don't like the music - well, I mind, but I can handle that - but there's been a questioning of my sincerity in doing a song like Paradise. They insinuate that I've got a lot of money so what do I know about the homeless and the poor, and that's absolute rubbish. I see what is happening on the street from my car, the same as everybody else. I see life; I don't live in a cocoon, so I get insulted when people assume my reasons for doing it are wrong or dubious."
How is the song effective?
As well as this, the music video for this song include powerful words and images, and has data and statistics regarding the number of people living in poverty superimposed over pictures of the homeless people on the street. This is a very effective way of showing the realities of the issue of homelessness, as some people don’t actually realise how serious and real it is.
How is the song effective?
This song has been and continues to be effective in promoting justice around the world through the issue of homelessness as it provides awareness of the issues and reminds people that it is in fact a reality.
Reasons for selecting this song
Why did I choose this song?
When we were first given this assignment, I didn’t immediately think of doing this song; I actually hadn’t heard of it yet. I asked my parents for some suggestions, as I was originally going to do a song about Gay rights. They suggested a few songs, one of them being Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins. I had a look at all of their suggestions and watched the film clips. Out of the four options I had, I felt as if this song and the video is relevant to our society today, and my childhood as well.
Why did i choose this song?
I wasn’t homeless as a child, but I was surrounded by people who were. I used to live in South Africa when I was younger, and the amount of people who lived in squatter camps by the side of the highway was very confronting. Also, when I go into the city, here in Perth, I often see homeless people trying to make some money to support themselves.
Why did I choose this song?
The reason this song struck me was because I can relate to the man in the song. As bad as it sounds, we all try convincing ourselves that we’re not turning a blind eye to homeless people, but more often than not, we do. I think the fact that I could relate to what the song was talking about on several different levels, and the way the video clip confronted me, were the reasons that I chose this song. I also like the fact that it has brought so much awareness to the reality and serosity of the issue of homelessness on our doorsteps, despite the fact that it was written about a country 18700 kilometres away.
How this song has inspired me
How has this song inspired me?
This song has inspired me for the same reasons that I chose to do my project on it. The fact that I have lived in countries where not everyone is as privileged as the rest of society and seen these people face the difficulties that they do.
How has this song inspired me?
I think another reason that it inspired me or affected me is how lucky homeless people think we are. They think that our busy and stressful lives which we constantly complain about are like ‘paradise’; they would give anything to trade places with us. This song has also inspired me to acknowledge that homeless people exist, and that they are struggling.
How has this song inspired me?
Before doing this project, I didn’t realise how many people are actually homeless, and how disempowered and alone they are. I think doing this song as part of my project has really opened my eyes about the issue of homelessness, and has inspired me to do something about it. After all,
‘’you have to be the change you wish to see in the world’’- Mahatma Ghandi.
I hope that if I ever come across a homeless person, and hopefully I won’t and no one else will either, I will do something about it instead of hide or ignore them.
Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins
By Stéphanie Smalberger
Full transcript