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Guy McDermott

on 26 March 2014

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Transcript of Homelessness

Sometimes it's easy to walk by because we know we can't change someone's whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize it that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.”
Legal and Social Definitions
Identifying Characteristics
The Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994 states that a person is homeless if they have
‘inadequate access to safe and secure housing’ (s. 4, para. 1). This is the case if the only housing to
which the person has access:
• damages or is likely to damage their health
• threatens their safety
• marginalises them by failing to provide access to adequate amenities and to economic and social
• places them in circumstances that threaten the adequacy, safety, security and affordability of their
housing (s. 4, para. 2).
Within society, some people have the perception that the homeless are a burden on society. However,
people are slowly coming to realise that people are rarely homeless by choice. Something has usually
occurred in their life that they could not manage. Although most people in society understand this,
there will always be those who believe otherwise.
They include the elderly, the young, single women, single men and families. Each of these people might be different in age and circumstances, but they all have one thing in common:
they live in poverty with little or no social support. Homeless elderly people might be estranged from their families or might have no living relatives. Homeless youth might not be able to live with their families due to abuse or other safety issues.
Monday, March 19th, 2014
Vol XCIII, No. 311
Researching Groups
Every group and every individual within that group has the right to be treated fairly, no matter what
unique qualities or needs they might have.
Many people live confidently with their unique characteristics and needs, so their emotional
wellbeing (self-esteem) is not of particular concern. However, people who find themselves becoming a
member of a specific-needs group later in life due to a crisis, trauma or other sudden event often need
time and support to encourage their self-esteem and self-confidence to return.
One group for which this might be the case is the homeless.
Most people would not choose to be homeless. It is not generally a lifestyle choice. For various
reasons these people have found themselves without housing, resources or support.
Legal Definition
Social Definition
- Mike Yankoski
Security and Safety
Security and safety are important needs for people who are homeless, as they are more susceptible to harm as they have limited home security. For those living in improvised housing or on the street, this would be an especially important need.
Wherever a homeless person is living or staying, they will have most likely feelings of insecurity due to not being in a familiar or comfortable environment. For those who are on their own, this feeling might be even worse. Not knowing your environment and not knowing the people around you can cause anxiety and worry.
The need for housing is the basis of homelessness. Due to their inability to
afford or access adequate housing, people become homeless and thus find themselves living with friends or family, in supported accommodation or in improvised housing. They might have left a dangerous situation such as domestic violence, or they might have faced circumstances such as a relationship breakdown or unemployment that have left them without a place to live.
The need for housing in turn gives rise to other needs. Without adequate housing, people generally feel insecure and unsafe, not only physically but emotionally and socially as well. Lack of adequate housing also makes it difficult to maintain hygiene and cleanliness, which are important in
preventing sickness. Thus, people who are homeless may be at greater risk of health problems.
Due to the instability of their housing situation, the health of the homeless can suffer greatly. Issues such as lack of hygiene, lack of access to medical services and lack of money to pay for health care an medications can all be factors in poor health.
A large proportion of the homeless are affected by mental illness, making them particularly vulnerable. They can experience social isolation and difficulty accessing employment, education and support services.
A large proportion of the homeless do not have access to bathroom facilities. They are therefore more likely to pick up common colds and flu. Their limited financial means also make it harder for them to afford medication when they are sick, or to afford to access or travel to health care services. Some might
not know where to go for health services, and if serious illness occurs—such as cancer or cardiovascular disease—they are unlikely to be able to afford ongoing treatment, specialist appointments and other care. Because of these factors many illnesses among the homeless go undiagnosed and untreated,
causing pain and discomfort and decreasing life expectancy.
Access to Services
For people who are homeless, having access to services is essential. As well as accommodation services, this might include services such as counselling and financial assistance.
Having access to temporary accommodation services can meet some of the needs of this group in the short term, allowing them not to have to worry about where they will sleep and whether they will be safe.
Many people who are homeless are also dealing with various other issues that can cause anxiety and stress. Access to counselling services may be able to help them in this situation. Because people who are homeless generally have limited financial means, access to financial assistance services is an important need. Some people in this situation might not know about or might not know how to access the financial assistance services available to them, so access to information and referral services would also be an important need.
People who are homeless might also require services that can assist them in obtaining food, clothing and warm bedding. To assist with hygiene, bathroom and laundry facilities are provided by some charity services.
People who are homeless have many
specific needs. Three that would be a
priority for most homeless people are
housing, security and safety, and health
care. Access to resources is another
important need for this group. It will be
discussed separately below.
Specific Needs
Australian Charities who assist the Homeless
Rights of the Group
People who are homeless cannot be blamed for the situation they are in. Like everyone else in society, they have the right to access services to assist them in meeting their needs. Being homeless also entitles them to a range of specific services due to their particular disadvantage.
"Recognising that homelessness impacts on a person’s ability to enjoy basic rights and freedoms has important consequences for the way that our society perceives and treats homeless people"
Rights of the Homeless
People who are homeless have the right to the following things:
Safe and secure housing.

This is a basic human right that protects people from harm and provides feelings of security. Through housing, people find connectedness with friends and family and have control over their environment. If this right is not met then as a society we are putting people at risk of violence, crime, abuse and emotional instability

This is the basis of learning and of increasing one’s skills and abilities. The Australian
government has programs in place to provide all individuals with education, which gives people the opportunity to gain employment and be independent. This right is particularly important
for the homeless, as it can give them the opportunity to change their life by interacting with and contributing to the community.

This is a right that many of us who have a home in which we can carry out our personal activities and everyday tasks, take for granted. Those who are homeless and in shared
accommodation may have to share facilities with others, and those who live in improvised housing may have to carry out their personal activities —including sleeping and washing— in public.
Legal assistance

For most people, if a legal
matter arises, they will generally have either
the financial ability to pay for legal service or the ability to access some other form of legal assistance, advice, information or representation.
People who are homeless also have the right to these services. Legal Aid is a service provided by the government to help with such matters.
Government Policy and Regulation
State and federal anti-discrimination laws include the:
• Age Discrimination Act 2004
• Disability Discrimination Act 1992
• Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986
• Racial Discrimination Act 1975
• Sex Discrimination Act 1984
Societal Attitudes towards the Group
Societal stereotypes relating to the homeless, including who they are and why they are homeless, often overshadow the real issues behind homelessness and the problems that cause people to become homeless.
Societal Attitudes towards the Group
In a 2006 survey into community attitudes towards the homeless, Melbourne-based welfare agency Hanover found the following attitudes among respondents.
• People’s primary perceptions of a homeless person were of an older male sleeping rough with substance abuse or mental health issues, or of a ‘street kid’.
• There was fear of the homeless.
• The homeless were categorised in the ‘too-hard basket’.
• Due to a lack of awareness of the size of the problem, people didn’t generally seek further information.
These survey results clearly show that there are misconceptions within society about people who are homeless. Unless societal perceptions change, the problem will not be minimised.
Societal Attitudes towards the Group
Key Concept:

Negative societal attitudes towards the homeless can directly affect the wellbeing of these people.

Ignorance about who the homeless really are and about what has caused them to become homeless allows these negative attitudes to continue. If people don’t know and don’t want to learn what they can
do to assist people who are homeless, limited support will available to them, further decreasing their wellbeing, self-esteem and sense of identity.
Conflict Between Group and Community Interests
One of the main issues of conflict between the homeless and the rest of the community arises from the fact that those who do not have accommodation often loiter in public areas, causing concern for other members of the community about safety issues. This can be the case especially if a homeless person suffers from a mental illness that causes them to behave violently or unpredictably, or if they have a drug or alcohol addiction. When this is the case, other members of the community might feel that they or their children cannot walk to the shops safely, for example, as they might be harassed by a homeless person.
Another concern for some members of the community relates to the reputation or socioeconomic status of particular suburbs, and how this might be affected by having high numbers of homeless people living in or near the area. People for whom this is a concern might avoid these areas or develop negative opinions of them, causing conflict between the two groups.
Positive Contributions the Group Makes to the Community
The contribution of the homeless to the community is often limited by their lack of resources and by their own significant needs. People who are homeless are often more concerned with providing for themselves—with housing, food and clothing—than with contributing to the rest of the community. Because of their situation, they are likely to be more concerned about what the community can do for them.
Homeless highlight to the rest of society the importance of human rights and of treating all people with respect. They demonstrate the kinds of personal issues that many people have to work through every day, and teach the rest of society to be aware of what we can all do to help others.
There are in fact many homeless people who are employed, and who do work each day for an income.
Another positive contribution that some homeless people make to the community is by working for the magazine The Big Issue. This magazine has been in circulation in Australia since 1996, with the help of numerous sponsors and supporters, and is sold by vendors who are homeless or otherwise disadvantaged or marginalised.
Power Within the Group and the Community
Power within the homeless community is very limited, as their main concern is with everyday survival rather than having power over anyone else. For people who are homeless, power comes from those who provide the resources and services to assist them.

One reason why the homeless have less power than other members of society is that they have limited financial resources, and money has a significant influence on access to resources, independence and therefore power.
Community Responsibility
Who is responsible for the homeless? Is it the government, charities, the homeless themselves, their families, or other members of the community? Regardless of who ‘should’ take the majority of the
responsibility, we can all play a part in providing resources and services to the homeless. This can be through volunteering, showing compassion and empathy, or providing financial or other support such as food, clothing and shelter.
Community Responsibility
Each individual can assist in helping the homeless. We each have a role, whether it be volunteering or altering our personal stereotypes about who the homeless are or about their capabilities. We might be able to give someone an education or help them to find employment. Regardless of how it’s done, every member of the community has a responsibility to assist the homeless to break the cycle and live a better life.
Community and Government
Community Responsibility
The prevalence of homelessness is different in every community, and this will influence the level of responsibility other members of the community have for helping the homeless. The general aim is for members of the community to help those who cannot help themselves.
The government supports the homeless in a range of ways, including with financial assistance, accommodation and social work services.
Extent to which Community Community Service Groups Assist in Meeting the Needs of the Homeless
Community services assist people who are homeless by providing things such as shelter, food,
clothing, hygienic facilities and financial assistance. As well as this physical support, these services
also assist in increasing people’s emotional wellbeing through counselling and other social support.
However, because of the high numbers of homeless people in some places and the limited availability of
these services, some people do miss out.
Extent to which Community Community Service Groups Assist in Meeting the Needs of the Homeless
One of the most important services provided by community organisations to assist in meeting the needs of the homeless is housing. Community housing is provided through three main avenues.
• Housing associations provide rental housing and manage the tenants of these homes.
• Religious groups assist in delivering supported and
crisis accommodation.
• Crisis accommodation providers specialise in
providing accommodation to those who are at risk
of homelessness and are in crisis.
Extent to which Community Community Service Groups Assist in Meeting the Needs of the Homeless
Wesley Mission
Street Outreach
St Vincent de Paul Society
Mission Australia
NSW Association for Youth Health
Emergency Relief Program
Supported Accommodation Assistance Program
Legal Aid
Crisis Accommodation Program
Homework Questions
Full transcript