Common Ground Canberra – Common Wealth


In the capital city of our Commonwealth, our political community
founded for the common good, homelessness is growing
at an alarming rate. Between 2001 and 2006, homelessness
in the ACT grew by 11 per cent. Canberra has been exposed
as the worst housing market in Australia for low income individuals
and families. Why is our Commonwealth failing
to protect its most vulnerable citizens? If you leave a person
chronically homeless, the chance of getting them back
into society is virtually impossible. They lose their dignity – you can see them just go downhill and they lose their –
their zest for life. I was born here and then moved a lot
around Australia with my family. I’ve been back here for now 12 years. It started when I was
12-13 years old when I got sexually molested
and didn’t get much support from it. So I left Sydney where
I was at the time – or I actually went to Kings Cross
and became a street kid basically. It’s just been an uphill, downhill
sort of thing ever since. I mean Canberra doesn’t even have
a shelter for the homeless. A night like tonight if you want to get out
of the cold and the wind, there’s no shelter
for you to go to. You know you stay in cars
that might be dumped. You might stay in a car that’s
not dumped but it’s unlocked. You might stay in someone’s front
verandah until it gets light, and then you’re out of there. Especially in winter anything to get
away from the frost – or the cold air – because once it lands on you … so if you can get a bit of coverage,
you’re laughing. I was sleeping on a park
bench for a while – I was in Civic the first time
but I looked at it as well – I had a security guard there,
there was music across the road, there was various other
people that were around, so I just looked at the bright
side of the situation. Harold works for St Vincent de
Paul’s street to home program. He seeks out rough sleepers and helps
them reconnect with services. ‘Harold, how are you, my man?
Long time no see.’ There are a lot of
people doing it tough. You’ve got your couch surfers. I think they are just starting to get
recognised around homelessness. You’ve got your transient homeless
people who come to Canberra because they think
it’s easy in Canberra and you might get accommodation
quicker in Canberra. Then you’ve got the
long-term rough sleepers who might have been in Canberra most of
the time they have been on the streets. Or they might go away in winter
and come back in summer or they might go away in summer
and come back in winter. They’ve got no connection
with anything. How are they going to change that lifestyle
unless they get picked up somehow? I’d love to have a job. I could work but I don’t have
anywhere to put my clothes. I don’t have anywhere
to have a shower. You’ve got nowhere to relax. If you’re going to work, you
need a home in live in. And I haven’t. Surviving on the unemployment
benefit, as good as it is, as lucky as we are to have it,
it’s lucky to last a week. A particular person I spoke
to put in his housing form, living on the streets because he
had no fixed address and that. He’s been on the streets
for a good while. And Housing ACT couldn’t
get in contact with him, so he slipped under the radar, and then he just got immune
to living on the streets. He adapted to the street life – sleeping
in the parks down by the lake. That was his territory.
And when we did find him somewhere, because he’d been on the streets so
long it felt too confined for him so he preferred to go
back on the street. They’re human beings,
for goodness sake. Everyone deserves to have a roof over
their head and food in their stomach. We’re not a Third World country. That’s what politicians should be there for
is looking after the people of Australia. So you can feed somebody –
isn’t that more important than to find somewhere for them to live? I’ve always said – because I don’t play lotto
because I can’t afford to play lotto – but if I did play lotto and I won money, that’s what
I would do is build something for the homeless, somewhere they could
go and have a shower, or they can have a sleep and
they can get some education. They might be able to get
some drug information. There might be someone there
who can talk to them and click that little
thing in their brain where they want to go and get help
with their drug problem and things like that, or get help in other areas. The mission of Common Ground
is to end homelessness in Canberra by developing permanent, high-quality,
supportive, safe housing for our most vulnerable
homeless people. Find out how you can help
make Common Ground a reality by visiting
CommonGroundCanberra.org.au.

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