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Adelaide at the vanguard of ending street homelessness globally

21 November 2017 at 8:43 am
Wendy Williams
South Australia’s efforts could help shape the global response to street homelessness, according to the advisory committee chair of the Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH), which has recognised Adelaide as one of a select group of “vanguard cities”.

Wendy Williams | 21 November 2017 at 8:43 am


Adelaide at the vanguard of ending street homelessness globally
21 November 2017 at 8:43 am

South Australia’s efforts could help shape the global response to street homelessness, according to the advisory committee chair of the Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH), which has recognised Adelaide as one of a select group of “vanguard cities”.

Adelaide CBD will join 10 cities on six continents to partner with the IGH in setting “ambitious but achievable goals” to solve the problem of homelessness as part of a campaign called A Place to Call Home.

The initiative marks a global effort to support 150 cities to end street homelessness by 2030, with the initial group of vanguard cities working toward goals related to ending street homelessness by 2020 in a bid to show “what is possible”.

Dame Louise Casey, a driving force behind the establishment of the IGH, said homelessness was a global challenge but “an eminently solvable problem”.

“Ending street homelessness is a problem which can be solved if we disseminate learning and success to motivate local leaders and inspire others to act,” Casey said.

“By setting up a network of ‘vanguard cities’ we will strengthen the global efforts to end street homelessness.”

She told Pro Bono News including Adelaide as one of the initial vanguard cities was a recognition of the city’s move to achieve functional zero homelessness in the CBD, where there are currently about 100 people sleeping rough each night.

“Well I think the truth of the matter is really quite straightforward. Adelaide recognises that they have a problem, and they do have a problem in terms of quite a significant number of long term, vulnerable people sleeping on the streets overnight,” she said.

“So we didn’t want to pick areas that were going to be too easy, but at the same time we need areas where there was recognition both politically, in terms of the charities that work here, and the public, that actually they wanted to do something about it and I think that they were the two things.

“We wanted areas that do have problems but that are really, really up for trying to do something about those problems in a very determined way. So Adelaide made it over the line in terms of that.”

Don Dunstan Foundation executive director David Pearson said it was a “real coup” for Adelaide to be named the only vanguard city in Australia, and “to be a leader in an historic effort to end street homelessness worldwide”.

“As a vanguard city, we’ll receive significant support from IGH which will help us take the best knowledge from our peers internationally about what works and apply that here in Adelaide,” Pearson said.

Casey said it was “absolutely vital” to work with cities and areas across all continents, to try to solve the problem on a global scale.

“I think if individual cities and countries keep flowering their own fields then there is a danger they’ll be too slow,” she said.

“There is something about knowing that the world is watching you, that basically levers up more power, so that actually the people here when they did their announcement with me were facing not only their own media and their own public in this country and this city and this state, they know that they’ll be under international scrutiny as well.

“The upside is we are going to do this together, we will make mistakes, we will have things that we can learn from, but we will also be able to, across the globe, I think learn from it and make sure that we can make a much more determined effort internationally.”

She said her vision for the project was really simple.

“I have spent five, six days here in Adelaide, I’ve been out on the streets with outreach workers, I’ve met very vulnerable people sleeping out on the streets, I want to come back in six months or 12 months and see that some of those human beings are now permanently, properly housed, away from the danger that the streets bring, even in a city as wonderful as Adelaide,” Casey said.

She said she has been “heartened” by her trip in Adelaide.

“There is a real determination here in this country that actually they do want to do something about the very vulnerable people who are sleeping on the streets,” she said.

“The Zero Project that we’re doing here in Adelaide, it is about zero vulnerable human beings sleeping out on Australia’s streets and there is no reason why we can’t do that.”

Casey said what made a campaign successful was ensuring the community felt a connection to those most vulnerable.

“I think with all human beings, even the ones who are toughest, and the most difficult and sometimes you think, ‘god have they got any compassion in them at all’, put them in front of a human being who has actually had a really, really tough time in life and is lying in a doorway and is impoverished, lonely and often abused, I defy any human being not to feel some compassion towards them,” she said.

“And as long as that is at the core of what you do, whether that is about family stuck on housing estates with no hope, with unemployment and violence, or whether that is about people outside the hungry house on the streets of Adelaide, those are the human beings that we can reach out to and I think the public are right with us.

“I’ve been around the streets of Adelaide, I’ve watched the public be really kind actually, going in shops and buying them fruit and food and things like that, this is a very kind city that I’m in but we need to turn that kindness into a determination to root these people off the streets permanently.”

She said people around the globe were becoming more aware of the issue of homelessness.

“I think first of all, we’re much more aware in many of the countries that we’re operating in, that actually the divide between the haves and the have nots just feels a little too far right now, and that could be something around compassion, around the media, I’ve got plenty of colleagues back in the United Kingdom that feel we are a country that is too stretched, the haves seems to get richer and richer and the poor seem to get poorer and poorer and in that way, your awareness of something like rough sleeping is heightened,” she said.

“It may not be that it is a bigger problem, it may be that your awareness of it has gone up.

“That said, the numbers, certainly here in the city of Adelaide, came down very significantly in the 2000s and I think got to a kind of pretty low point in terms of human beings on the streets round about 2009 / 2010 and now that has steadily gone back up again, and I think that we do know, that is a number that is moving in the wrong direction, and colleagues here from the Australia Alliance on Homelessness were saying that nationally that picture is the same.

“Take your eye off the ball, you start losing the game, that is essentially the same in all walks of life and there is no difference in the world of trying to tackle street homelessness.”

She said the overall vision of A Place to Call Home was within a generation to create a world where everyone has a place to call home that offers “security, safety, autonomy and opportunity”.

“A Place Called Home is actually home and I think once people are home, that is an emotional thing, as much as it is about bricks and mortar,” Casey said.

“So take somebody off the streets of Adelaide who feels more at home in a doorway where the shopkeepers and the people are looking after them and the outreach workers are keeping an eye on them and they’ve been out there for years, that person needs another home and a home where you have family or your have friends or you have connections, where you are not lonely, you are not suffering abuse, where actually you can maintain your medication, you can think about getting work and a job. That is a home and that is a very different thing because people stay in their homes.

“I certainly love going home at night after a long day,and I’m lucky to be able to put some heating on, obviously I don’t live in Australia, I live in a freezing cold country, and you know you switch the heating on and you put the telly on and you’ve got some food and there’s sometimes somebody for you to talk to,.

“A Place Called Home is about an emotional and a different approach to trying to show that for some of these very long term vulnerable people, it is possible for them to move away from the streets both psychologically, emotionally and physically.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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