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Can TV Show Us What it is Really Like to be Homeless?

23 July 2018 at 1:00 pm
Paul Carter
Having shown what it is “really like to be homeless” in Australia, the celebrities involved in television’s second series of Filthy Rich and Homeless are back to their normal lives after 10 days on the streets.

Paul Carter | 23 July 2018 at 1:00 pm


Can TV Show Us What it is Really Like to be Homeless?
23 July 2018 at 1:00 pm

Having shown what it is “really like to be homeless in Australia”, the celebrities involved in television’s second series of Filthy Rich and Homeless are back to their normal lives after 10 days on the streets.

SBS next month airs the second series of the show, shot in Sydney, after the apparent success of the first series filmed last year in Melbourne.

“This is an insight into what it is really like to be homeless in Australia,” the show’s promotion said at the same time its homeless “Instagram phenomenon” Alli Simpson ran a Twitter poll asking if she should cut her hair short or colour it brunette.

The show has some critics, similar in some ways to the CEO Sleepout which last year gave virtual reality headsets to CEOs so they could experience “the realities” faced by homeless people.

Just a thought:How many more times do we need to see rich people on telly pretending to experience homelessness for…

Posted by Homeless Persons Union Victoria on Sunday, 15 July 2018


But such was the problem’s severity, which for older Australians is on the precipice of a dramatic escalation, that taking potshots was not something to be entertained by Jenny Smith, CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons.

“We’ll be watching Filthy Rich and Homeless with keen interest, and hoping the program uses this opportunity to shine a light on the systemic factors behind Australia’s homelessness epidemic,” Smith told Pro Bono News.

She said the media offered opportunities to improve understanding of the causes of homelessness, as well as the solutions.

Though it could also incite negative public feelings, perpetuate misconceptions and stigmatise people experiencing homelessness, she said.

“Too often the media portrays homelessness as the result of poor personal choices, or individual misfortunes,” Smith said.

“What’s missing from these reports is the backstory of systemic failures that lead to that person becoming homeless, such as the chronic shortage of affordable housing, or the high number of people that exit foster care, prison and hospital into homelessness.

“At the upcoming National Homelessness conference in Melbourne (6-7 August, a week before the show goes to air) a panel of media commentators and homelessness experts will examine media portrayals of homelessness, and discuss how the media can help bring about effective policy solutions, rather than trigger knee-jerk Band-Aid reactions.

“It is no accident that 116,000 Australians are homeless on any given night; it’s the direct result of successive governments’ poor social policies.

“We must hold our media to account to report accurately and ethically about the structural drivers of homelessness; not just the easy headlines that vilify and stigmatise people living in extreme disadvantage.”

About the same time a new homelessness report, published last week in Parity, warned that homelessness among those aged 55 years and older was rising faster than any other age group cohort.

It said declining home ownership, an ageing population and social housing shortages would help double number of older Australians between 2010 and 2050.

On Census night in 2016 more than 18,000 Australians aged 55 years and older were experiencing homelessness – an increase of more than 30 per cent in the period since 2011.

There had been a 55 per cent surge in older persons’ homelessness in 10 years, the report said.

About 23,500 Australians aged 55 plus sought help from homelessness services last year, and there was a 42 per cent increase in those aged 65 years and older paying unaffordable rents, the report said.

Launching the report, federal Labor spokesperson for homelessness Doug Cameron said the statistics marked “a genuinely alarming trend”.

“Not only are we facing a problem that is growing – but one that is showing signs of accelerating in severity,” he said in a speech.

“This has been confirmed for me with front line services reporting to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that in the time since the Census they are witnessing rising numbers of older people seeking assistance.

“Perhaps most troubling of all, almost two in three older clients were presently housed, but at risk of homelessness.”

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