Sunday, December 2, 2012

Do People Choose Homelessness?


I looked at this photo the other day and while it was nice what the policeman did and shows an all too rare burst of kindness in this world, I wonder how he ended up in this state. I do not believe for one moment that the family really cared for him. If they did, he would not be where he is now. Simply he has been through hell of some sort and he is bankrupt. Being bankrupt does not mean you should be on the streets barefoot, homeless and bleeding. Something broke his spirit and I would guess it has a lot to do with his family. If he was really welcome there, he would be there. I feel the statement of his so called niece has shockingly hollow overtones. 'He chose this lifestyle.' she pontificates like some well worn mantra. Who is she to say this and who knows what went on between these three brothers. I do not believe for one moment that man chose homelessness.
Someone or some people beat him down into the gutter by their insensitive and uncaring attitudes and their inability to empathise with him. It is very hard not to project and many people do. I read this article and felt sick when I thought about what may have led this man down to where he is now.
Believe me, people do not choose to be homeless.

I talked to a man called Simon once. He was on the steps of a building near the Windsor Hotel across from the Victorian parliament.  He was adopted and later his adoptive parents had a biological son as sometimes happens. When his adoptive parents passed on his 'brother', and I use the term loosely, had him disinherited and he being a proud person and having his own profession as an electrician walked away from the situation and made his own life. Well to cut a long story short, he injured his back and was unable to do the work demanded of him in his profession and had dealings with the notorious Workcover. This organisation does little to help the injured and he is a good example of how he was thrust into the gutter literally.
 he was sitting on the steps with his dog in his lap and he told me that it was very difficult to get into some of the shelters because he has a dog. He was told to get rid of his dog. His dog has been his only mate and friend in the lonely and painful years of the homeless experience that he has endured.
He seemed a very decent young fellow and for this type of person you can can weep and say why? There are plenty of unfeeling nasty bastards / bitches out there and these are the people who do so well. They don't care for others and if they can get to the top on someone else's head they do and who cares? They care for themselves and are able to cover up their loss of compassion as they work the system oh so well.
We should have accommodation in the country and city for single men who are down on their luck and we should be setting up education facilities to assist them back into employment of some sort. There are plenty of professions out there that this guy could be supported and trained into. It is lack of work and lack of purpose that drives a person into homelessness.
My own situation could be like this man's if it was not for the intervention of my friends in Melbourne who are closer than family. I could have been on the streets with my son and then it is a never ending spiral downwards and you are considered unemployable. The latter is the most demeaning and insulting of attitudes. You are robbed of your humanity and worth as a human being and told that you are of no use to anyone, not even as a companion.
I often think about the irony of this poor bloke with his dog on the steps of the building across from the parliament house where these politicians vote themselves massive pay rises and they are feeding like pigs in a trough on tax payers' money and decent blokes like this guy who have been injured at work are on the streets.
While we are about it, I am sick of money spent on glossy brochures and pamphlets about what a 'good job' this or that government is doing. Deeds speak for themselves. Those who trumpet about what they are doing, are usually doing nothing of worth. They want it to appear as though they are doing stuff.
I would like to see government accommodation set up in country and outer city areas for homeless men, women and children. You do need separate accommodation for men and women and you need sometimes family accommodation.
 I could envisage a village type affair with a no drink or smoking or drugs policy in place and people are given a room and required to cook in a communal kitchen with one hot meal at night. There is a shower and toilet en suite in each room. Families have two rooms with bunk beds for children in one room and a small kitchenette area. There is a minimum of two people to a room and a maximum of four to a room. That is in the case of single men and single women without children. There should be rooms for single parents with children and there must be a shower and toilet for each room.
People would be given life skills in looking after their houses through what would be expected of them in their rooms. They would be expected to keep it clean and tidy. They would be expected to serve duty in the kitchens of each hostel and to do work in the vegetable gardens and hothouses as well as learn to look after chooks and mow lawns and do general maintenance and up keep. Also the hostel would require all tenants to take a course in basic living skills and healthy eating habits. There would be art therapy and creative courses in a number of skills dealing with forgotten skills like care of themselves, cooking, music and literacy.
There would be a common room with tea, coffee and cocoa and biscuits. All tenants would be expected to clean their own cups and to keep the area tidy and the tenants would be expected to do duties with regard to the grounds and the inside of buildings. They would pay some of their money towards the upkeep of the accommodation. For example if they received $500 a fortnight in New start or a pension $400 would go towards the accommodation and food and of that $400 they would get a maximum of $100 working credits which they would be able to save towards their accommodation privately when they leave. They would have a required number of hours to do like 15 hours a week and then if they did up to another 10 hours of work they could receive say $3,000 plus interest at the end of a 30 week stay in the hostel.
People deteriorate when they are lying about and doing nothing. Each hostel would have a fish tank and some sort of animal for residents to care for. People would need to sign a contract when they entered that would be a commitment to living a more fulfilling life and to honour that contract or leave. Smokers would not be able to smoke within 30 metres of buildings and need to dispose of their butts in specially designed bins.
Children of homeless people would need to be put into a school staffed by regular teachers and older volunteers who would assist them with their numeracy and literacy skills. They would be at school from 8am to 4pm a day but they would have other activities incorporated into the curriculum that would be learning but not in the conventional sense. There would be a NO MOBILE policy through out the school, any school I created. Students should be handing mobiles into an administration office and picking them up after school.They are a bloody nuisance and a distraction to learning.
We are living in an age where people are increasing forgetting how to be people. Fast food takes away a lot from the feeling of community and it dehumanises people. I hate fast food places. Even when I did not keep kosher I did not go to them. I am proud to say that I have never ever eaten a MacDonald's hamburger. Even in Israel. I had a friend who was an Art Teacher many years ago from Sydney. Rick was so amazed that I had never eaten under the golden arches. He begged, pleaded and cajoled me into going to the MacDonalds in Elstenwick in 1982 and bought me fish and chips. The fish I would not eat. I was a strict vegetarian. I asked the people at the counter if the chips had touched meat. They showed me how the chips came in bags precut and they were cooked in oil that was vegetable oil with no meat lard. Anyway I tried one of the chips and promptly spat it out. I told him it tasted like thin salted cardboard sticks fried in something that smells like meat lard oil.
He could not understand how I could not like the chips and he ate them himself. I was amazed that anyone could such vile stuff. It is not even a meal.
I must confess that I am a cafe cult person. I love to sit in coffee shops and write or read and observe others at their business. In a past life I probably lived in France in Paris on the Left Bank. Maybe I worked in a library, but I have read since I was five or six years of age and I love to read and learn. I must read each day something and write something. It is my sanity that is at stake when I am unable to read or write or do something connected to an intellectual activity or learning.
I think education is our saviour and we must put into practise what we learn, otherwise what is the point?

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