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Helping Our Homeless

At a casual glance, we might consider Glenferrie, Hawthorn relatively ‘low’ in the number of people generally experiencing homelessness. But like any populated area, ‘visible homelessness’ is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. According to the Council To Homeless Persons, ‘visible homelessness' - the type we encounter in busy, commercial zones - only constitutes around seven percent of the actual number nationally.

Homelessness more commonly constitutes couch surfing, which typically means having no fixed address but sleeping at friend's places temporarily; occupying a tent or car for shelter; crisis accommodation or other forms of ‘unstable’ living arrangements. While the struggle of ‘invisible homelessness’ plays out largely unobserved, the ‘visible’, begging and sleeping rough counterpart, forces us to confront the issue and can trigger reactions ranging from pity to disdain through to a sense of helplessness.

Most of us know the hectic pace of modern life means time and empathy can both be stretched thin. We take some comfort in knowing there are many social services available as we pass the visible homeless, but perhaps with surprisingly little effort, the individual can make a difference beyond parting with a few coins. For instance, not many people may be aware that local Councils are often properly versed in assisting the homeless.

Locally, Boroondara Council provide detailed advice on how you might help someone sleeping rough. They recommend you note down the location, time, date and a description of the person and their belongs as well as any risks or hazards present for someone approaching the homeless person. With these details then contact Boroondara Council on (03) 9278 4326 or Council will then notify The Salvation Army – Homelessness East, who will complete an outreach service, which involves visiting the person sleeping rough and offering support services, or refer them to Victoria Police for a welfare check.

Also offering assistance locally are Servants Community Housing, who are one of 39 registered not-for-profit Community Housing Providers in Victoria. They manage four properties supporting 96 residents across Hawthorn and Kew. People find accommodation at Servants by direct application from those experiencing/at risk of homelessness or through referral by a family member, case worker, or other trusted person.

Jayden from Servants told The Glenferrie Times, “Many of our residents come to us after a significant trauma; for example, a family violence incident, a stint in hospital, or a period of sleeping on the streets. Some also experience challenges including a mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia), a disability, or an acquired brain injury.” Servants CEO Amanda Donohoe, explained that “Every person has a different story. We see people who have been severely impacted by a workplace injury and cannot afford their rent or mortgage. Patients exiting psychiatric hospital or ageing parents who have cared for their children with mental health issues long into their adult life are desperate to find a safe, affordable home for their loved ones.”

Homelessness amongst youths is another increasing statistic, according to Lisa O’Brien from Melbourne City Mission (MCM). She explained that family violence is the most common cause of youth homelessness, and that many youths come into the city from regional Victoria because it represents a ‘safe space’ where one can hide in anonymity. Additionally, there are more resources. Regional town’s resources are very limited compared to urban areas, and due to an increase in the number of homeless recently, a bottleneck of people needing assistance has occurred.

the annual Sleep at the G fundraiser

Coming dates to take note of are; Youth Homelessness Matters Day (YHMD) on Wednesday 17 April, which aims to raise awareness. ‘Sleep at the G’ on Thursday 16 May 2024, raises funds for MCM, who have been offering assistance to disadvantaged Victorians since 1854.

Local community organisations that you could donate or approach about volunteering include: Boroondara Community Outreach, Camcare, The Salvation Army Camberwell and Servants Community Housing.

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