HAVING a roof over one’s head each night is something most of us take for granted.
But the reality is we are all only a couple of missed rent or mortgage payments away from being homeless.
In Bendigo, we are increasingly seeing that the path to poverty is not always paved with poor choices.
Things like alcohol, drugs, gambling and criminal activity certainly do play their part in depriving people from a home.
But other, largely unavoidable, factors such as chronic unemployment, mental illness and poor health can all contribute.
The Council to Homeless Persons estimates that more than 100,000 people are homeless on any given night in Australia.
If this figure seems vastly inflated, it is worth remembering that homelessness is actually an issue cloaked in invisibility.
We have all seen the highly visible examples of homelessness in our community, most notably those who sleep in the doorways of businesses or on park benches or under bridges.
But there are many, many more who must call on the goodwill of friends, family or even total strangers each night in order to be sheltered from the elements.
News of an impasse between the state and federal governments over the funding for 180 frontline services in the fight against homeless is deeply concerning.
The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which came into effect in July 2015, provides $230 million a year to address the issue.
However, the deal is due to expire next year and as yet these two tiers of government – so often at odds – have been unable to agree on a new one.
Australia’s homeless services are already stretched to breaking point and beyond, but without this funding a crisis would quickly become a catastrophe.
“We’re talking about very, very serious consequences,” Centre for Non-Violence chief executive officer Margaret Augerinos said. "The fact we're turning people away, the most vulnerable in society, is terrible.”
Bendigo, like any other community in Australia, simply cannot afford to be denying people in desperate need the help they require.
Homelessness can quickly become entrenched if people are not able to access the services needed to get them back on their feet.
- Ross Tyson, deputy editor
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