Every time that I tuck my kids into their warm beds I am thankful that we have a very adequate roof over our heads , food to eat and a respectable place in our community. In a hard world these little things are the foundations of my happiness. With this thought in mind I read the story of Brother Number One’s attempts to “halve homelessness” with more than a little cynicism, finding it very hard to believe that such a laudable aim could ever be achieved.
A landmark Council of Australian Governments meeting last November agreed to boost services for the homeless under a four-year deal that requires the states and territories to collectively match a $400m commonwealth contribution.
“The implementation plan for each state and territory to achieve the objectives of this agreement is to be agreed by no later than 31 March, 2009,” the pact states.
The government’s white paper on homelessness, released in December, pledged the plans “will be in place in the first half of 2009”.
It also promised a new council on homelessness, to report to Mr Rudd on progress towards the targets captured in the partnership deal.
More than six months later, no appointments have been made to the council.
A spokesman for federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek acknowledged the delays, although he said the council would be “finalised in the near future”.
“As the Homelessness National Partnership requires state and territory governments to match commonwealth investment, there has been additional time required for some of the implementation plans to be finalised,” the spokesman said.
“As it stands, five of the eight implementation plans with the states and territories have now been agreed to.”
NSW and the ACT were still in negotiations with the commonwealth while the Northern Territory was close to agreement, the spokesman said.
But Western Australia and Queensland told The Australian they were waiting to hear back from the commonwealth, despite submitting their plans on time. “We’re still in discussions with Minister Plibersek’s office, and the Bligh government is hopeful of securing a better deal for homeless Queenslanders,” Queensland Housing Minister Karen Struthers said.
The big promise was made before the collapse in government revenues and the spending sprees of the stimulus packages and now at both the state and federal level they find that, as old mother Hubbard’s dog discovered, the cupboard is bare.
The reality is that there are always going to be a number of people who fall into the hand to mouth existence of living on the streets, some of them may even be capable of returning to the mainstream to sleeping in a warm bed rather than under a railway viaduct but many will never get their act together enough to do so. The reasons for their plight are as varied as there are homeless individuals but to think that their numbers can be magically halved by the application of wads of cash is naive at best and delusional if any hard eye of realism is focused on the issue. As I have said before if you want to help the homeless support programs like the Street Swag idea, or provide safe places where they can store their belongings during the day and try to appreciate that many of them will never be saved or “reformed”. In any event with a population of, what, 21 Million having just 105,000 homeless people is not that bad at all…
The other day I saw the “Australian Story” on the ABC about the chap who has spent the last twenty five years just tramping along the roads of Australia, he carries all of his possessions on his back, he draws no welfare , sleeping under the stars with his simple needs met by the gleanings that he finds along his endless journey and he seemed more than happy with the life he lives, with its simplicity and variety. I can’t help but think that there are many more like him among the homeless those who are comfortable, after a fashion, with the simplicity of a warm place to sleep and some tucker when the need arises, perhaps the fellowship of a bottle or a smoke when the opportunity presents its self. Happiness does not have to be the same size and shape for all, Now could someone please explain that the Brother Number One and all those who wish to put their tongues to his bottom?