Some weeks ago I wrote in the Pastoral Note (1 Sept) about the man sleeping in the patio near the men’s toilets; how we assisted him, looked after his cat and how he was so grateful that he gave us $20 for the Centre and resolved to return and confront the problem at home. Well he returned dismayed and broken.
After some considerable networking I am so pleased to report that we have been able to find accommodation for him at Southside Village caravan park. It is a six-week trial, but he is over the moon! Probably for the first time he has his own space where he and his cat can just be. We have linked him with a Community Services caseworker as well who has arranged for Centrelink payments to be processed properly and for him to receive extra services and support.
This story highlights the problems of homelessness in the ACT. Homelessness can sometimes be seen as a transient issue; a short-term problem that can be resolved like it has for this man. For others the reality can be somewhat different. People who have enduring mental health issues, those battling drug and alcohol addictions, those in crisis and who have lost community connections often need more long-term support and need to stay in a safe place. And without those supports or because of their particular circumstance many are unable to live independently and so find refuge in the streets.
In 2017, the ACT government engaged in a consultation process that led to the first ACT Housing Summit. The message was that there is a real housing problem particularly for those who have complex and interrelated needs for support. In response the ACT government commissioned some research (a Cohort Study) to better grasp the situation especially for those with high and complex service needs (HCSN); ie those with addictions and chronic needs, and for those in particular crisis situations.
The results of the study, which have only recently been released as I understand, indicates that while homelessness in the ACT declined by 8.2% against the current rising trend nationally (Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census 2016), there is now a greater risk of homelessness for those in this HSCN category. In other words, there is a perceived trend that services that are already stretched will not be able to cope with a rising demand. And the demand or at least the accommodation gaps appear to be, according to the Cohort Study, for couples, pet owners (like our friend), for people with a disability, women and families escaping violence, single men and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There are many support services available and there are short term accommodation options but long-term supportive housing is now very much needed; meaning, something stable, secure and safe.
The study gives us a broader context into what we have experienced. And it might be something we as a church could consider as we look toward the future?
A verse from recent days keeps coming to mind: what does the Lord require of us? Let it just sit within you!