In January 2020, I was writing about stopping the home fires burning. My Australia was on fire, and it seemed nothing could outstrip the losses, the grieving, and the pain this disaster caused. Currently, we are seeing many replays of the horrors… and the painful aftermath. The follow-up a year later shows the human spirit triumphing over that appalling disaster, in many ways. The common denominator is courage and an unquenchable will to survive.
In March 2020 a pandemic swept the world in unimaginable numbers that forced all else to pale. The losses and suffering have been immense, testing the fibre of far too many human beings beyond anything they should ever have known. Daily, the news reports have bombarded our senses with a more intense ‘doom and gloom’ scenario than the entire world has ever had to face, accept and contend with.
To imagine any positives out of this horrific scenario had seemed impossible… and yet a significant percentage of homelessness has become a solvable problem, being called an unbelievable ‘silver lining’ of the ominous cloud of the pandemic.
Unconventional approaches across the world are achieving varying levels of success… it seems ‘one size (or solution) does NOT fit all’, sadly. That many options are being trialled—even though some are resulting in failure—is SO encouraging; to think so much more care and studied thought is being spent on this soul-destroying problem than ever before.
Considered the most innovative (but commonsense) reaction and subsequent action has happened in Finland, where a successful program has seen immediate placement of homeless people into existing housing, newly purchased flats and purpose-built housing blocks. They give these tenants individually tailored support services that continue as long as needed.
From their welfare payments, the newly housed contribute what they can to the rental, and the Government pays the rest. Successful? Well…there are no more homeless shelters, they are all now converted to supported housing.
An unexpected financial bonus to the authorities has seen up to 9,600 euros (over 15,000 AUD) a year savings on the regular ‘homeless’ costs of just one person! An amazing win/win situation for all … surely?
The ‘knee-jerk’ response to place these ‘lost’ beings into hotels and motels is proving UNsuccessful. No independence of feeling of self-worth is fostered, and in fact, a common reaction has been to feel ‘trapped’, being ‘a burden with nothing but nuisance value’ — and still no independence or opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility.
Moving homeless people into empty student apartments is a reasonable choice… IF they have their own, most basic cooking and self-care facilities. Far preferable is converting long-term empty houses and buildings of all varieties into permanent housing, and purchasing housing units where rent amounts can be income-ability based.
Then comes the need for recognition that support may not stop the moment a person walks into what may be their ‘forever’ home. In an ideal handling, dedicated co-ordinators would assist those in need of a guiding hand and a voice to walk through all the regular necessities, like credit checks and applications, budgeting, furnishing/daily living requirements, and the actual move-in. Ongoing needs could include negotiations with the landlord, neighbours and facing and meeting problems and potential conflicts.
Many would need physical and emotional support as they learn (or re-learn) ways of adjusting to; coping with; and succeeding in their alternative world. For others, serious addictions, bad habits and ‘crutches’ must be addressed and resolved if possible. A whole other world, for sure.
As various bodies around the world reach out, we hope and pray—despite their deepest despair—the ‘rough sleepers’ can accept and benefit from the TLC being offered. How wonderful if 2021 saw the beginning of the end of that other, sinister pandemic — HOMELESSNESS!
OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.
To find out more about Christine and her work:
Christine Larsen, Author
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