Category Archives: Homeless

Homelessness in Fires is a Big Issue

Homelessness is in the public interest.

How are homeless people in Australia affected by the bushfires Down Under?

How are homeless people in Australia affected by the bushfires Down Under?

As the devastating fires rage on, we teamed up with our sister title Big Issue Australia to expose how the blazes pose a particular risk to the homeless population

Fire has destroyed 8.4 million hectares of land in southern and eastern Australia, an area bigger than Scotland. And despite heroic efforts by thousands of firefighters and volunteers the relentless, unpredictable and fast-changing blazes have killed at least 26 people, more than a billion animals, and destroyed over 2,000 homes.

New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have felt the force of the fires – which are an annual occurrence, but not on the scale seen this season. Smoke darkened skies as far away as New Zealand, while in Sydney authorities advised people to stay indoors to avoid breathing the tiny particles that can cause serious respiratory issues and other health problems.

But for the homeless population staying indoors with windows closed is not an option. Last year the numbers of rough sleepers in Sydney rose, and extreme heat was already a major problem even before this summer’s unprecedented temperatures and the complications of smoke from the fires.

“Extreme heatwaves always disproportionately affect vulnerable and marginalised communities,” says Jenny Smith, chair of Homelessness Australia. “We are all encouraged to stay indoors during heatwaves to protect ourselves and our health, but for the more than 116,400 people currently experiencing homelessness every day in Australia, staying indoors isn’t always a possibility. On any given night, there are over 8,200 people sleeping rough throughout our country, and it is more difficult for this vulnerable population to avoid the harmful health impacts of summer heatwaves.”

The extreme heat and poor air quality led to a Code Red status for rough sleepers from the government in South Australia in late December, with human services minister Michelle Lensink saying homelessness agencies across Adelaide would extend daytime opening hours.

Bushfires in Victoria and poor air quality in Melbourne led to authorities providing relief measures for homeless people including free access to swimming pools and free cinema tickets, with councils offering cooling centres and directing homeless people towards libraries, shopping centres or community hubs. As Smith points out: “People without safe and secure housing during extreme hot weather are most at risk of dehydration, overheating or exacerbating other health problems. It’s vital that there are enough cool and sheltered spaces for people without homes to go to.”

Water supplies in NSW and Victoria have been hit, with some residents warned not to drink tap water due to contamination from bacteria or chemicals, as fires damage infrastructure and treatment plants. It is predicted the knock-on effects could last decades.

Extreme heatwaves always disproportionately affect vulnerable and marginalised communities

Last week temperatures in Penrith, near Sydney, were the highest anywhere on the planet, reaching 48.9°C, while Australia’s annual temperature in 2019 was the highest on record, 1.5°C above average, leading to extreme droughts, rivers drying up and animals dying on parched farmlands. And it also enabled the annual bushfires to escalate to unprecedented crisis levels.

In southern Australia hospitals and ambulance call-outs are being stretched with an increase in admissions for heart and breathing problems, which rose 30 per cent in December compared to the same period in 2018. Environmental experts have said that NSW and Queensland could face four months of poor air quality, with 10 million people affected. “We have never faced anything like this before,” says Arnagretta Hunter, cardiologist and member for Doctors for the Environment. “There are no easy options.”

Homeless people already have poorer health than the general population, and longer-term lack of investment in housing and provision for people affected by homelessness has compounded the problems already being faced this year, according to Smith: “As well as rough sleepers, people in overcrowded dwellings or poorly insulated housing are also at risk in extreme weather conditions. Many low-cost housing options such as rooming houses are not able to withstand extreme heat and instead can trap the heat in, posing serious health risks to residents.”

DID YOU KNOW…

Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.

Sellers of The Big Issue in Australia say fewer visitors are around. Vendor Ron, who sells the magazine in Adelaide, has opened his doors to a family who lost their farm in a fire in NSW and are now homeless. “They’ve lost just about everything but at least they are alive, that’s the main thing,” he says. “They were on a 12-acre property, a little farm. I’m not sure if they’ve had to leave animals behind… They’re holding up OK – they are seeing a counsellor.”

Trevor, who has sold the magazine for 15 years, lives in NSW with his wife, who is also a vendor. “This is by far the worst bushfire season we’ve ever had. I’ve been on this earth 63 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. “My sister lives in Omeo, about six hours away in Victoria, and they were surrounded by fire there as well.”

Trevor and his wife, Ellen, are “on tenterhooks”, poised to flee. “We listen to the radio, and look at the TV and internet for information, like the Rural Fire Service, that tells us what sort of area the fire’s in at the moment. We’re always at the ready in case we have to take off.”

As temperatures rose again after a brief dip last week, residents in Victoria were being primed for evacuation with a ‘heat spike’ and unpredictable winds causing fast-moving fire-fronts.

Sally Hines, chief operating officer at The Big Issue Australia, says the organisation knows all too well the impact extreme summer heat has on magazine sellers. “We work closely with our vendors to ensure they are taking care of themselves by remaining hydrated, staying cool and making use of available services to stay safe during these extreme weather conditions,” she says.

With special thanks to Amy Hetherington, editor of The Big Issue Australia 

Australia’s St Elmo’s Fire is a Test

This poem came from inspiration about the Australian bushfires and homelessness.

Notable excerpt from The Big Issue article below:

Fire has destroyed 8.4 million hectares of land in southern and eastern Australia, an area bigger than Scotland. And despite heroic efforts by thousands of firefighters and volunteers the relentless, unpredictable and fast-changing blazes have killed at least 26 people, more than a billion animals, and destroyed over 2,000 homes.

Refer Big Issue for homeless people in fires. https://www.bigissue.com/latest/how-are-homeless-people-in-australia-affected-by-the-bushfires-down-under/

There are over 116,000 people homeless in Australia.

The poem I felt inspired to write reveals the importance of fires in nature to clear the old to make way for renewable growth within us.

The poem rekindles the Australian spirit of who we really are when in crisis. The real phoenix is our rebuilding who we are as a nation.

Einstein said:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We have to think anew”

This is the sound track that came to me when I named the poem.

Australia’s St Elmo’s Fire is the Test

 

The burning bush,

Is not a winter burn off,

It is not seasonal regeneration,

But a towering inferno of epic proportion,

Smoke billowing blanking out the blue sky,

As communities are under siege,

Seeking to defend property,

Unaware our right to property is the real fire storm,

So help me God!

A climate of change in government is not responsive to the real ecological crisis,

A climate of change in business is not responsive to sustainability as they aim for more growth with less,

Yet it is market based economics that is the red hot ember that won’t go out of season,

Cutting public services as under growth is neglected,

For they cannot see the forests for the wood,

Nature is a raw material costed for production not a natural wonder maintaining ecological function,

People are human resources costed per hour
not human beings growing up to empower,

Seen through the googles of economics
life is an algorithm not a rubrics cube,

The yoke of debt is not an Act of God but unaffordable rent,

As business as usual is endless chaos not order,

As we look for the quick buck not the long term fix,

Markets have short horizons not over the horizon radars advancing civilisation to higher expressions,

For to see beyond the space time continuum of self interest is to realise the uni-verse is the one song in tune with nature.

The wild fires have become a fire sale,

Destroying 8.4 million of hectares in the blaze will increase market prices,

A billion animals perished in the smoke haze,

Impacting the biomass as prayers were not answered,

Homeless people camping in the bush were razed
gained no relief or went missing without alarm,

Renters were given no grants or land,

As property owners are hard working and deserving,

Government, media and business jumped on the bandwagon not on the fire truck,

Circling the wagons is not containment of disruption,

Opportunities to strengthen brand images rather than imagine no brands to ask for change not coins,

Still seeking a bounty from the mutiny,

The mutiny on the bounty is to leave GDP,

As branded cattle are piled on burial mounds,

Agricultural crops and harvesters went up in smoke,

Timbers become cinders,

Run for your life abandon possessions, beloved memories and pets,

This is the test,

To save lives not things,

To remember each other and lend an equal hand,

For this is the meaning of the aussie battler,

Bush community know common unity,

As they battle fires with families and friends.

Giving is to be good as gold,

Yet what if the gold is in being truly good,

You would naturally give time and all you have,

For it is human nature to give not take away,

To pitch in or risk losing all,

As livelihood is to live your life to be really alive,

This is St Elmo’s fire testing your determination and stamina,

From smouldering embers spark new shoots to push up breaking new ground,

From hardship comes rebirth of a renewable life,

From pot ash comes the phoenix resurrecting renewal,

And all can rise when you can go down no further,

For the rural farmers have suffered for years,

They lost their voice,

Mortgages as debt was the tourniquet squeezing livelihoods year on year as hard work doesn’t yield.

Many have been weighed down…

By what is not important in fears,

By material things that no longer bring joy,

By worries about money that never end contracts,

By conflicts from stress and out of touch bureaucracy,

By family breakdown under pressure,

By rising costs and uncertain futures,

They have been the backbone of our country.

Yet what if you look up to the stars my friend?

Take your hands from your eyes to see beyond,

That a new day dawns every day,

The sun-rises from the east setting in the west,

To know that from bad seeds come good,

From disruption comes clarity of purpose,

For you can’t get back what is a final demand,

When one door closes another opens,

And the finale of life is to let go when it is done and dusted,

To face fires, flood, famine and drought fearlessly
as dawn, midday and dusk mark time,

For we must face the phases of the moon together,

We must give a hand up and a hand out
no matter who is in need,

As you are me,

And I am you,

Learn to let go of the seed of greed marketed as need,

It is the fast breeder of fear,

It is the terminator seed,

For what you give away returns the bounty,

What you earn you give away in trust,

As abundance is not in what you have but who you are when you dig deep,

And who you are is gratitude, service and love without end,

And these are the real seeds St Elmo’s fire is renewing,

For the old must die for the new to arise.

We are one country under the Southern Cross,

We are stewards not owners,

We are temporary not permanent,

When every ONE is deserving of charity,

We are a nation girt by sea,

From the coast, to the forest, to the deserts,

We are free,

We have boundless plains to share to care,

And air to breathe when we see the key,

That we can regenerate our country’s spirit,

We are dreaming in the land of Oz,

Starting again resets from zero point,

To nurture shattered lives by piecing together the puzzle as the final peace in the big picture,

The deck chairs are rearranging on the titanic seeking to keep the currency afloat,

The Big Issue is that Australians are sharing the bounty not holding cards to the chest,

As friends in-deed we are stepping up to lead,

For Mount Kosciusko can be climbed in a day,

The Murray can replenish a sunburnt country,

The Snowy Mountains can rekindle Clancy of the Overflow,

As he drove cattle down mountain views where all hesitated to step off the real cliff hanger,

He proved the impossible is possible,

Courage leads whilst fear weighs the risks,

In the high country the brumby’s sniff the wind adapting to climates of change as they know which way to run.

Australians know the struggle and the peaks,

As we are heading for a depression of great magnitude,

An economic earthquake shaking ‘em up,

The Great Barrier Reef sacrificed corals to pollution favouring a crown of thorns,

The Great Artesian basin is sinking the water table as hard water is diverted and dries up,

Salt lakes muddy clean waters,

Fertilising biosciences grow at ever diminishing returns akin anti-bio-tics,

Nature is not an electrical circuit board or linear cog in an industrial flywheel,

It is a tipping point of infinitesimal sensitivity,

Where the sum of the parts is the whole.

Descartes reduced life to boxes not cells,

Newton gravitated to apples not seeds,

Einstein’s relativity theory was not absolute,

Mythical dragons breathe fire yet oxygen is fuel,

Oxford became lost in space seeking the last frontier,

Dances with Wolves chose to go to the frontier country before it was lost,

Buffalos were killed for skins not hunger,

Science invented wars losing the peace prize,

For the real courage is to face what we have truly lost and not hesitate to act,

We are lost in space unable to make peace

A priority,

For until we do we hesitate on the mountain view unable to step off the cliff of uncertainty,

As life is not predictable nor mechanical,

It is a miracle,

And only when you lose everything do you realise the true value of life,

For this is the real gold,

Or indeed the Fool’s Gold of awakening from the dream,

Fires cleanse away debris to make way for renewable growth,

To see the forest instead of the wood,

To value nature as a flow not a production process,

For the real currency is love,

What you truly love becomes visible in crisis,

To breathe is nature’s rhythm,

To speak is nature’s sound scape,

To eat is nature’s bounty given for free,

For free dominion is nature’s possibility,

That self selects when the fruit is ripe,

To fall from the tree at the perfect moment,

As love withholds no wealth from life,

As life is the real wealth loving,

And until you taste the sweetness
greed will be the bad seed replanted,

Yielding endless wars fuelling climates of disruptive change,

For until the burning bush is seen as a message from the creator,

Heralding that all people are chosen,

And that all roads lead home,

For Rome will return to the Garden of Eden,

Adam & Eve will plant an apple tree together,

Receiving nature’s bounty at the perfect time in peace,

Loving what is was all ways the peace that passeth all understanding.

Australian Bushfire Donations

The surprise with the fires in Australia was how much money has been spent to assist those homeless. Yet the irony is that 116,000 homeless in Australia are not seen in the same light.

All people in crisis should be assisted 100%. The issue is when we decide who is deserving who is not.

On a positive note what was great to see was our country coming together to help each other, which is our true nature.

To change the climate we must learn our true nature which is to respond to the human crisis not the market as a first responder.

What were the costs involved?

Bushfire donations: where will the millions that have been given be spent?

NSW RFS chief Shane Fitzsimmons says members will be consulted about how to allocate between competing priorities, such as bushfire victims and conditions for volunteer firefighters

Ben Doherty @bendohertycorro

Tue 7 Jan 2020 11.22 AEDT First published on Tue 7 Jan 2020 04.00 AEDT

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Firefighters extinguish a blaze by the side of a road
Donations in the tens of millions of dollars have poured into Australian fire services, with NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons saying the ‘extraordinary generosity will make a massive difference’. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

The NSW Rural Fire Service says it will consult its members before deciding how to spend the extraordinary influx of bushfire donations, as it tries to weigh the intentions of those who have given money.

The head of the RFS, Shane Fitzsimmons, said allocating the “extraordinary” influx of donations from the public, now into the tens of millions of dollars, would be a challenge for the organisation, but that it was a “nice challenge to have”.

He pledged to spend the donations “where it was intended”, directing the money towards fire victims as well as the fire service itself.

The RFS, which has been the main focus of donations in the wake of the bushfires, is primarily funded by the state government, as Michael Eburn, an expert in emergency management at the Australian National University, has noted.

“People should understand, before they make their donation, that fundamentally they are making a donation to the NSW government,” Eburn wrote on Monday.

The online fundraising campaign run by comedian Celeste Barber has alone raised more than $33m, which will be distributed, not only to the NSW’s RFS, but its interstate equivalents, including Victoria’s Country Fire Authority and South Australia’s Country Fire Service.

Millions more have flowed to the RFS through private donations and other fundraising efforts.

Fitzsimmons said the depth and breadth of donations “reflects the best we’ve got in humanity”.

“I think it’s quite extraordinary and extremely generous,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said the organisation did not yet know how it would spend the donations, and that allocating the additional money would be a challenge, “but a nice challenge to have”.

“We will consult with members, we will make sure we understand firstly, what was the intention behind people contributing to that fund: was it to go to disaster victims, was it to go to make better arrangements and better conditions for volunteers? We will need to target the money to where people intended it to go.

“We need to make sure that we get something tangible, and we get some real benefit out of this, and we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that that extraordinary generosity will make a massive difference.”

The amount committed to the NSW RFS donations fund has dwarfed the donations raised in previous years.

The most recent donations fund annual report

from 2017-18 – showed gifts of $768,044 to the RFS, of which $546,000 was donated to individual brigades, and $222,000 to the central fund for distribution. The largest single donation was $25,000.

The central donations fund exists “solely for the purpose of supporting the volunteer-based fire and emergency service activities of the brigades”. It is unclear how the money will, or could, be divided with other fire services or with bushfire victims, if it has been donated to the Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donations Fund. But the trust deed allows the trustees to disburse funds as recommended by the RFS executive committee.

The service is also running dedicated fundraising appeals for the families of volunteer firefighters Samuel McPaul, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer, killed fighting fires this bushfire season.


Labor MP urges war-like national mobilisation to tackle Australia’s existential threat of climate crisis

Read more

The NSW RFS budget for this financial year is $424m, funded by the NSW state government.

Writing in The Big Smoke Australia, Eburn said donating to the RFS was commendable given the vital work it performs, but stressed that the organisation was a government funded and run agency.

“The RFS is not an organisation run by volunteers and funded by community donations,” he wrote. “The RFS is not a volunteer organisation, it is a government organisation that relies on volunteers.

“No doubt the trustees, the RFS, and brigades that benefit … and the trustees of the fund, will do their best to ensure that it is well spent to advance the RFS abilities in coming years but people should understand, before they make their donation, that fundamentally they are making a donation to the NSW government.”

In the wake of devastating fires in that state, the Victorian government has established a new government agency – Bushfire Recovery Victoria – to coordinate the state’s fire recovery. The agency, headed by former police chief commissioner Ken Lay, has been given a budget of $50m.

Lay said the new agency would work with local communities to guide their own recoveries.

“When disasters happen in local communities, the answers are generally in their community, so I’ll be looking for local people to give local advice, local resources to address these issues.”

Premier Daniel Andrews asked those wanting to help not to donate clothing, goods, or food, but money to the state government-run bushfire appeal.

“I know it’s tough to watch this all unfold and feel helpless. I know a lot of people want to get stuck in and lend a hand. But it’s important to remember that the emergency relief effort is being run by experienced organisations, and they don’t have space to sort or store donations.

“If you want to help, please consider donating to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Every dollar raised will go towards immediate support for those who have lost everything.

“Victorians have been incredibly generous already. After just a few days, the appeal is sitting at $2m, and our government will match the current amount raised.”

Ending Homelessness in Finland

https://scoop.me/housing-first-finland-homelessness/

Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter for all in need

In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the “Housing First” concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling – without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness.

Read this article in German here.

Finland is the only country in Europe where homelessness is in decline

In 2008 you could see tent villages and huts standing between trees in the parks of Helsinki. Homeless people had built makeshift homes in the middle of Finland’s capital city. They were exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Since the 1980s, Finnish governments had been trying to reduce homelessness. Short-term shelters were built. However, long-term homeless people were still left out. There were too few emergency shelters and many affected people did not manage to get out of homelessness: They couldn’t find jobs – without a housing address. And without any job, they couldn’t find a flat. It was a vicious circle. Furthermore, they had problems applying for social benefits. All in all, homeless people found themselves trapped.

But in 2008 the Finnish government introduced a new policy for the homeless: It started implementing the “Housing First” concept. Since then the number of people affected has fallen sharply.

Finland has set itself a target: Nobody should have to live on the streets – every citizen should have a residence.

And the country is successful: It is the only EU-country where the number of homeless people is declining.

How everyone is given residence in Finland

It is NGOs such as the “Y-Foundation” that provide housing for people in need. They take care of the construction themselves, buy flats on the private housing market and renovate existing flats. The apartments have one to two rooms. In addition to that, former emergency shelters have been converted into apartments in order to offer long-term housing.

“It was clear to everyone that the old system wasn’t working; we needed radical change,” says Juha Kaakinen, Director of the Y-Foundation.

Homeless people turn into tenants with a tenancy agreement. They also have to pay rent and operating costs. Social workers, who have offices in the residential buildings, help with financial issues such as applications for social benefits.

Juha Kaakinen is head of the Y-Foundation. The NGO receives discounted loans from the state to buy housing. Additionally, social workers caring for the homeless and future tenants are paid by the state. The Finnish lottery, on the other hand, supports the NGO when it buys apartments on the private housing market. The Y-Foundation also receives regular loans from banks. The NGO later uses the rental income to repay the loans.

“We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions.” (Juha Kaakinen, Director of the Y-Foundation)

That’s how the “Housing First” concept works

The policy applied in Finland is called “HousingFirst”. It reverses conventional homeless aid. More commonly, those affected are expected to look for a job and free themselves from their psychological problems or addictions. Only then they get help in finding accommodation.

“Housing First”, on the other hand, reverses the path: Homeless people get a flat – without any preconditions. Social workers help them with applications for social benefits and are available for counselling in general. In such a new, secure situation, it is easier for those affected to find a job and take care of their physical and mental health.

The result is impressive: 4 out of 5 homeless people will be able to keep their flat for a long time with “Housing First” and lead a more stable life.

In the last 10 years, the “Housing First” programme provided 4,600 homes in Finland. In 2017 there were still about 1,900 people living on the streets – but there were enough places for them in emergency shelters so that they at least didn’t have to sleep outside anymore.

Providing people with apartments is cheaper than leaving them on the street

Creating housing for people costs money. In the past 10 years, 270 million euros were spent on the construction, purchase and renovation of housing as part of the “Housing First” programme. However, Juha Kaakinen points out, this is far less than the cost of homelessness itself. Because when people are in emergency situations, emergencies are more frequent: Assaults, injuries, breakdowns. The police, health care and justice systems are more often called upon to step in – and this also costs money.
In comparison, “Housing First” is cheaper than accepting homelessness: Now, the state spends 15,000 euros less per year per homeless person than before.

No miracle cure – but a high success rate

With 4 out of 5 people keeping their flats, “Housing First” is effective in the long run. In 20 percent of the cases, people move out because they prefer to stay with friends or relatives – or because they don’t manage to pay the rent. But even in this case they are not dropped. They can apply again for an apartment and are supported again if they wish.

Of course, there is no guarantee for success. Especially homeless women are more difficult to reach: They conceal their emergency situation more often: They live on the streets less frequently and rather stay with friends or acquaintances.

In case of new replublication, please cite Kontrast.at/Kathrin Glöselas the Source/Author. The rights to the content remain with the original publisher.