SOLVING the city’s homelessness issue is more than just finding beds.
It needs a wholistic approach for individuals and whole community support to address the broader crisis.
This week is National Homeless Week, which is an Australia-wide initiative aimed at shining a light on an issue that continues to lurk in the shadows.
In the wider community, there still needs to be greater understanding of what it means to be homeless or struggling to make ends meet.
We need to break the stigma.
Homelessness does not just afflict middle-aged men with drinking problems. Rather, it can strike almost anyone at any time.
One of the fastest rising homeless demographics is single, middle-aged women who are forced to sleep rough, or in their cars.
This disturbing trend can be anecdotally put down to financial struggles as a result of broken marriages or relationships, as well as a lack of housing affordability amid the rising cost of living.
The most vulnerable people in our society – children and teenagers – are not immune from homelessness, either.
There are few options for teenagers fleeing family violence or in the grips of drug use and substance abuse, with many having to resort to couch surfing.
They need their own bed, but they also need education and employment pathways, and be taught the skills to live independently.
Both of these are demographics that might not first spring to mind when thinking about homelessness, but both highlight the true complexity and continually evolving issue.
Bendigo’s welfare agencies are under more pressure than ever before to just help struggling families this winter, with more people from the middle-income bracket seeking support.
High utility bills have undoubtedly been a driving force behind this.
Family violence is the primary reason for why people across the nation find themselves homeless, according to Homelessness Australia.
Homelessness workers tell us nobody chooses to be homeless.
However, we can choose to be more aware of how diverse and far-reaching this issue is in our community and that is a big step to better understanding how we can provide the help they need.