Today I had an interesting discussion with one of the younger Orange Sky volunteers. In her mid twenties, she is studying an Engineering Degree while working part time and volunteering. Having grownup in Nui Guinea she’s an intelligent lady with some great life experience.

We were talking about our services being slower than usual with some of our regular friends not being around. As we chatted she mentioned her friends had asked her why she needed to volunteer with Orange Sky. I thought this a little strange and asked if she told them that she enjoyed it. This however was not what they meant and her response astounded me. Her friends where asking why we should provide laundry and shower services to the homeless.

I asked her to clarify what they meant. She explained her friends didn’t believe anybody should need such help. With the levels of employment vacancies everybody should have a job and somewhere to live.

At first I was a little upset that people could be so closed and unfeeling in their thinking. If you take a breath and think a little bit deeper it’s a reasonable question. National unemployment is at 4.2% and job vacancies 200k+. The National rental vacancy rate is 50k+ so when your looking at the figures you can assume that all Australians have opportunity for employment and accomodation.

To get to the truth you need to look deeper. In the 2016 census 116K people were identified as homeless. This figure fits within the available rental vacancies but is more than double the rental vacancies. A breakdown of what constitutes homelessness and individuals is available at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/homelessness-and-homelessness-services

In raising the question “Why” these people aren’t being judgmental or critical of the people using the Orange Sky and similar services. Rather it shows the plight of these Australians, a meager .005% of the population, remains unknown.

When I talk to people living rough there are a variety of circumstances that see them in this situation. All have been exacerbated by the impact of Covid during the last two years. How they get there isn’t the problem, getting away from it is. Imagine living on the street and while trying to apply for a job or rental accomodation. You have money for some food but no where to cook. You can’t afford laundry services or a haircut and no computer to write an application. You turn up to a rental open day unable to provide landlord references because your homeless. Straight away your at the bottom of the list.

The government provides some assistance via CentreLink with up-to $143 per week for singles and $190 for families. This may sound a lot but I challenge anybody to find rental accomodation at these prices.

So back to the question “Why” services such as Orange Sky, that survive on the generosity of donations and time of volunteers, are necessary to help provide the leg up to get back on track. So next time this conversation comes up down the pub think outside the square about “Why”. If you know someone in this position have a discussion with them and contact https://www.lifeline.org.au to see what else you can do.

For current and retired servicemen over 5000 of those living rough are veterans. This is unacceptable when you consider the number of government and private organisations available. If you know a veteran living rough see how you can help them including contacting https://www.woundedheroes.org.au/

Published by zimmermanwalks

An Australian military veteran, I spend my time volunteering for a number of organisations and blogging on the challenges faced by Veterans.

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