Hi Lexy here not NWN, after commenting non stop on NWN’s pieces I finally get my own chance to have a good ole rant! Disclaimer: I am NOT a journalist and this is my opinion not NWN’s.
So he-who-shall-not-be-named, otherwise known as the Dark Lord, head-Poombah of the Order of the Dickstickers and occasionally as Tony Abbott has waded into another debate on which he has an opinion yet is woefully under resourced in fact. He has also attempted to be a ‘journalist’ again (and I use that word under advisement in this context) which gives me an option to critique his article.
This time he has chosen homelessness not the sanctity of his teenage daughters’ virginity or ‘Ironing 101’ lectures for housewives. This is win-win for Mr Budgie Smugglers as the homeless are not likely to vote for him in the first place and it has never traditionally been a vote winning and glamour area of social policy. It is a handy little area for youknowwho though because it allows him to take the moral high ground and make sweeping and inaccurate statements that neatly dismiss homelessness, and its causes, as being a ‘lifestyle’ (don’t you just hate that word) choice. For a small minority it is a choice but they really are the minority and arguably only accepting of the street culture lifestyle due to years of institutionalised homelessness and few available exit options.
Better still, it is also a useful way to reiterate Catholic mediaeval doctrine on the deserving and the undeserving poor. What youknowwho doesn’t acknowledge is that the homeless are not just:
“a shape huddled under an awning on a wet night or a sad figure begging in the street”.
as he sees them, but people in boarding houses with no security of tenure or even a bathroom, refuges and crisis accommodation, caravan parks, cars and sofa surfers gradually running out of mates places to stay. They are families made homeless by unaffordable housing and the lack of investment in social housing during the Howard years. The previous Coalition Government consistently reduced (in real terms) the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. The ‘new homeless’ are often the Howard battlers that youknowwho is still gunning for.
The biggest causes of homelessness are family breakdown and women fleeing domestic violence. Youknowwho comments that:
“The Howard government established a national network of family relationship centres to try to keep families together or to take some of the bitterness out of breaking up.”
Oh right so if these women had only stayed with their abusive partners they wouldn’t be homeless in the first place. Well technically being beaten or being homeless (note to Tony – a refuge is not a home) is a choice but a third choice might be nice. I am not suggesting that prevention of family break down where possible has no merit (and not all breakups are violence related of course) but a spot of marriage counselling is not the resolution to homelessness and domestic violence.
Most interestingly though, he demonstrates that he is totally out of step with all the research (domestic and international) and thinking on tackling homelessness, such as successful ‘Housing First’ models in New York. What is needed is more long term housing solutions not more refuges and soup kitchens (the charitable response that he likes so much). They are crucial in helping homeless people but dont actually reduce homeless numbers. Over the last few years homeless numbers have stayed stable despite all the hard work , so we have been throwing money at the issue but not making any headway in reducing the long term problem. Both state and commonwealth responses are actually trying to reduce the number rather than just maintain the status quo and give them a bowl of soup and a blanket from time to time.
There are some serious targets proposed which includes a 25% reduction in rough sleeping in NSW by 2013. Ambitious yes, but better than the do nothing approach youknowwho proposes where homeless people continue to struggle and health/police and other state and federal resources remain under pressure. Where would you rather your taxes went?