Earlier on today I wrote a small post about World Mental Health Day. A day set up to raise awareness of mental illness and the problems those suffering from it face on a day-to-day basis. I also questioned the merit of yet another day to raise awareness of mental health problems when there are already so many events on the calendar for this cause.
What many forgot – or simply don’t realise – is that today is also World Homeless Day, a day that does need more awareness.
On the last census night (August 2011) there were 89,728 human beings classified as being homeless in Australia. Some were sleeping in boarding houses, some refuges, some motel hopping or staying with friends. Others, like myself, were huddled under blankets or sleeping bags trying to endure the harsh winter’s night. Every one of them had been forgotten; cast aside by a society that doesn’t care.
Since first logging onto Twitter this morning I have watched the #WorldMentalHealthDay hashtags filling my stream from every corner of this country. Dozens of organisations, politicians, celebrities, journalists and regular folk have been tweeting to raise awareness of this important health issue.
They haven’t for World Homeless Day.
Since first logging on this morning I’ve seen a mere three tweets mentioning this day of action and awareness, not a single one from politicians, celebrities, journalists or regular folk. (Perhaps they were there, I just didn’t see them, and I follow almost all the homeless organisations and advocates in Australia!)
Earlier this evening I tweeted a simple little tweet that, so far, has been retweeted once.
Another tweet I wrote, in response to Prime Minister Julia Gillard‘s tweet about World Mental Health Day has been retweeted five times.
For many years now I’ve been aware of the non-issue that homelessness is in Australia. Certainly, I will acknowledge that every now and then an article is written or a political promise made (the infamous halving of homelessness by 2020 comes immediately to mind), but compared to movements overseas there is nothing even comparable in this country.
My UK Tweeps have been doing me proud today. World Homeless Day has been mentioned almost as equally as World Mental Health Day, with many making the comparison I made in my second tweet about the two issues being connected. Specific hashtags – in addition to the general one – have also been created and pushed to promote the issue (#whatsyourstep, being one such example).
Given the time difference I know when I log onto Twitter tomorrow my US Tweeps will also be going World Homeless Day crazy, for unlike Australia, it is a real issue in both of these countries. An issue that people understand needs to be discussed and promoted at length if we stand any chance of ending homelessness for good.
Given Australia relishes in promoting it’s world-beating economy and the richness of its land, it is despicable that 90,000 people (rounded up to take into account those homeless – myself included – that were not counted as part of the census) do not have a place to call home. That they are living a cold, lonely existence on the streets of every town and city in this country with very few caring about their plight.
Not even the Prime Minister cared enough today to tweet a simple 140 character message in support of Australia’s homeless; an honor, as mentioned above, she did bestow on those with mental health problems. Perhaps because, unlike mental health, homelessness is still seen as the individual’s fault. Whereas in reality, it is a situation that could befall anyone; regardless of colour, creed or class.
The tagline for World Homeless Day is ‘thinking outside the cardboard box’.
Perhaps Australia could start with simply thinking about the homeless. Only then will we be able to put our heads together and come up with innovative ways to solve it.
Posts I have written about my homelessness:
♦ Reflections on being homeless
(a six part series looking back on my 2009-2012 homeless period)
♦ Twenty life lessons I learnt whilst homeless
♦ No home, no life, no love, no stranger singing in your name
(a journal entry from my time on the street)
♦ Five ways you could help the homeless
(written in 2010, whilst homeless)
♦ Hope; the greatest weapon of all
(the things that gave me hope through my homelessness)
♦ Addy’s (slightly tongue in cheek) guide to dealing with having a home after being homeless
(written in 2010, whilst homeless)
- Tweetathon: World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day 2012 (prweb.com)
- The hidden voice of Australia’s homeless youth (radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com)
- Couch Surfing and the young homeless (radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com)