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We'll never get the big picture of how widespread it is, either in cities or across regional Australia, because there is no way of quantifying the number of people who are couch surfing, sleeping rough in a car or living on the street.
The stories we hear tell us that some people can be just one event away from finding themselves homeless. It could happen in an instant. Others may be experiencing a number of complex issues that have been building up over time.
Relationship breakdowns, having no support system, poverty and financial crisis, domestic and family violence, mental health, the chronic shortage of affordable housing, and more.
At BaptistCare HopeStreet we see it all. People sleeping in their cars. People passing away within reach of our front door or surrounding streets and alleys.
They often run - from their families and friends and their support systems - straight into drugs, alcohol and other addictive behaviours, which leads them into the path of the police, where their problems escalate significantly.
We see that homelessness changes a person’s entire wellbeing. There is isolation and extreme social exclusion. There is a higher risk of early death, particularly in Winter, and a strong likelihood of being exposed to violence.
Inequality underpins your every move, with nutritional food, health services and employment rarely accessible. Survival is instinctive, yes, but it also relies on your capacity to protect yourself and your “patch”, night after night.
So how do we do this together? At BaptistCare HopeStreet we approach every person as an individual. This means we get to know them by name and take time to hear their story and what they want to share with us. Every person has a past, a future, and right now they have challenges and needs.
These people are so much more than just what we see on the outside. They are often women escaping domestic violence, people who never had safe or loving homes, people living without relational support and care or any number of other situations and circumstances.
They have hopes, dreams and desires. They are sleeping rough for a number of reasons and all we can do is try our best to accept them as they are and do whatever we can to help.
Will you join us?