Homeless - Under 25 - 2008
Source: National survey of mental health and wellbeing: Summary of results, ABS (2008)

“All homeless people are drunks and junkies”

I’ve volunteered at a homeless shelter before (at Teresa House in Redfern). Not just to give back to the community, but for the purpose to understand and gain greater respect for the people who have been through tough situations that has led them to homelessness. I’ve known people who are quick to assume that all homeless people are drunks or junkies, and who can’t fathom why they are so lazy to just “get a job”.

The problem with that assumption is that everyone has their own story. In my experience, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly amazing people who are unfortunately classified as homeless. In one case in particular, a man who had a solid long-term job decided to start a business on the side and invest in property. He invested a significant chunk of his savings, whilst committing to a rather large loan from the bank. Then, when the economy took a turn for the worse, his financial situation plummeted and left him in substantial debt, losing everything he owned, including his house. Without a family or close friends to support him, he began sleeping at work, until management found out and fired him. He had nowhere else to go, so ended up on the streets. To top it off, this man also suffered from polio. From my perspective, this man just had a serious run of bad luck and misfortune.

But, as I was talking to this man, it was clear that he did not want to be in his position. He did not choose to be homeless. And what’s fortunate in his case, is that he still had his wits about him. Although only being on the streets for a few months, he was determined to find a new home and start a new life. The first time I spoke with him, he was in conversations with the Salvation Army about finding a home somewhere in a country town around Sydney. The next week I saw him, he was delighted to announce that he had been granted to move into a unit in Orange, NSW.

A good ending to a bad story and with a hopeful new beginning.

Of course, not all stories like the one above are inspirational. So, to give you some perspective, the infographic below shows some startling facts about homelessness in Australia. And yes, that does say 17% of homeless people in Australia are UNDER the age of 12…

Infographic-from-HA-Jan-2013

Source: http://www.communityhousing.com.au/homelessness-infographic-from-homelessness-australia/

“Our mission is to connect.”

Recently, Andrew Everingham, the Director of Sydney Homeless Connect paid a visit to Datarati HQ to tell us how the Sydney Homeless Connect organisation came to fruition and what their annual event is all about.

Despite my previous experience within the homeless community, Andrew did highlight a few issues that just never occurred to me. One of the most striking things he mentioned was that a person’s likeliness of coming out of homelessness drastically reduces after approximately six months. This is due to many factors such as, losing ID, losing references for jobs, dealing with tedious and confusing Government systems in order to get ahead, and the temptation of drugs and alcohol to simply numb the pain. Plus, it’s not just food and shelter that homeless people are deprived from, these people also lack other things that are just so common to me and to you. How often do you suppose a homeless person gets a haircut? Or pays a visit to a doctor? Or gets a hug?

Sydney Homeless Connect - logo

Well, that’s where Sydney Homeless Connect come in…

Sydney Homeless Connect is an organisation run completely by volunteers. The team represents a range of skills and expertise that combined, have proved an effective force in making a difference to Sydney’s homeless community.

For the past few four years, Sydney Homeless Connect has held an annual event at Sydney’s Town Hall where the skills, support and guidance of the team and other volunteers combine to service the homeless community of Sydney.

Sydney Homeless Connect

In a bit more detail, here’s what this great organisation of giving individuals provide during the event:

  • A hearty lunch
  • Housing and employment assistance
  • Health checks
  • Doctor, dentist and optometrist
  • Massages
  • Free hugs!
  • Child support agencies
  • Free clothing and footwear
  • Pet care
  • Internet and phone services
  • Books
  • Legal services
  • Counselling
  • Showers and haircuts
  • Music, games and entertainment,
  • And lots more!

Plus, Transport for NSW is supporting the event by providing free travel for guests on selected public transport services to and from the event. This is a massive initiative, considering there are many homeless people who live outside the surrounds of the city.

When and where?

This year’s event is happening on Tuesday, 4th of June at Sydney Town Hall from 10am – 3pm

View Larger Map

The team at Datarati are getting involved on the day to show our support. (Look out for pictures of the event on my personal Instagram or Twitter.)

Datarati Team

How can I get involved?

Registrations for volunteers are now closed, but if you are interested in volunteering and being a part of this heart-warming event in the future, please fill in the registration form and someone will be in touch.

Here’s a great video that sums up the success and magnitude of last year’s event:

Bringin’ it home

Naturally, I’ve got a soft spot for good causes (see my posts about OneGirl, Do It In A Dress and Surfrider Australia). I love the fact that putting in just a small amount of effort towards a worthy cause can go a long way in improving someone’s life. It’s a win-win situation for all who’s concerned and if nothing else, it serves as a great way to appreciate what we should be grateful for in life. Health, family, friends, food, a home – even a simple haircut or a hug.

 

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