All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

World Homeless Day: The day Australia forgot

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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.

As I wrote once before: all it will take is one or two sudden events and you too could find yourself sleeping in a park with a possum on your head.

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)

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11 thoughts on “World Homeless Day: The day Australia forgot

  1. Thanks for this! I’m now tweeting about it!

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  2. Pingback: Reblog: World Homeless Day: The day Australia forgot « Pride in Madness

  3. Reblogged this on The Bipolar Place.

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  4. Although its unfortunate, I can understand the staggering difference. Mental Health effects more people than homelessness. Also, anyone of us can end up homeless, so many try their hardest not to think about it.

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  5. Okay I love Australia!…Homelessness is a problem world wide!!!
    As for our Prime Minister? She wasn’t even voted in!..They pushed Kevin Rudd out! *smiles*.

    Australia is a very rich country..not just in money but resources too!!..In Western Australia where I’m from, Mining is booming. Without the money the west produces the country wouldn’t be as well off!!..Yet people only know of Melbourne and Sydney!!!

    No matter where I am in the world I give to the homeless..I feel incredible sadness when I look at them and feel it’s my duty to help in any way I can. Problem here (Aus) if you don’t have a home address you don’t get the dole.
    How can you have a home address if your homeless?????

    It’s like a vicious circle!! So they go in and out of shelters/hostels then back on the streets. They have soup kitchens etc…but thats nothing really!…Or is it?…Who know’s like I said its a world wide epidemic.

    Most people don’t even think about it! I don’t think it’s because they don’t care!…more that its a case of *out of sight out of mind*
    xx

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    • Don’t get me wrong, I love Australia too, but having been homeless in this country for 3+ years it just frustrates me that this issue is rarely a priority.

      Yes, homelessness is a worldwide problem, but from following homeless individuals and services in other countries, it appears to me that there is far more being done in other countries to raise awareness of homelessness and working up solutions to fix it. The sheer number of tweets from UK and US when compared to Australia completely overwhelmed me yesterday and reminded me how far Australia has to go in this issue.

      It’s fantastastic you give to the homeless wherever you are – I also give what I can – but many do revert to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality (not just in Australia, but overseas as well).

      I just feel on a personal level that more could be done in Australia. But perhaps I’m biased :)

      P.S…I never forget Western Australia (have been trying to get back there since a brief stopover at the airport four years ago) though I agree that Melbourne and Sydney are all people think about. Something else that needs to change :)

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  6. Great point. It’s something that I found over the ditch in New Zealand too. I had to look at long way before I found any mention of this day, although for that matter WMHD didn’t get much of a look in either. It makes me sad that it seems far too easy to overlook that homelessness even exists. I guess one other concern I have rising inside right now is the over-abundance of awareness days. I totally support raising awareness for these issues but I fear that they just dont’ get enough coverage and attention because it is too easy to say “oh just another one”. I’m not sure what the answer is to that. It tells me that we have a whole heap of problems, that we can’t afford to ignore.

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  7. Pingback: Talking to the Homeless in France | travelbugdotme

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