Iain Hall's SANDPIT

Home » Australian Politics » Brother Number One is big on conspicuous compassion but very small on actual outcomes

Brother Number One is big on conspicuous compassion but very small on actual outcomes

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.

Shane Summerfield, left, and Sergio Ballantyne live under the railway viaduct in Sydneys Woolloomooloo. Picture: Renee Nowytarger

Shane Summerfield, left, and Sergio Ballantyne live under the railway viaduct in Sydney's Woolloomooloo. Picture: Renee Nowytarger

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?

Cheers comrades

8)


15 Comments

  1. Phill says:

    Iain you can’t be serious “105.000 homeless out of a population of 21 million aint that bad” !?!?

    I would ask, bad for who?

    Iain because of you political bent I can understand you wanting to paint Rudd in a bad light as far as social welfare is concerned, I mean compared to your side, he must look like Santa Claus on speed.Of course the Santa in your world is like the Jewish Santa “Hey kid ya wanna buy a present” Oh Jesus that’ll get the P.C. crowd on fire.

    What is it with the right that they are such an uncaring mob of bastards? I mean, anything that smacks of feeling sorry for people that are less fortunate than the rest of society, is treated with utter contempt.

    Have you ever met any genuine poor people Iain?

    One day you may well travel to India or some other exotic place in the world and actually meet some people who are poor.You will find most of them will invite you into the hovels they live in, and be prepared to share their food with you.

    But what will most surprise you the most is, these people that should hate you, don’t. Because they don’t see you like we see them, as just another commodity and tool to be exploited.

    You have much to learn about the world Iain.

  2. Alan Jackson says:

    I dont agree with Iain on this, 105,000 homeless people is 105,000 too many, esp. in this country where anyone can wander in to Centrelink and get themselves $400 a fortnight. Surely people can live on this?? Which makes you wonder why they are homeless in the first place, do they like the lifestyle, do they waste their dole money on drugs, are they mentally unwell? Either way I reckon we should do as much as we can to get as many people off the streets as possible.

    There was a prog on TV a while ago about some old cricket player from the 30s who used to play with Bradman, toured England, stayed in all the best hotels, etc. He ended up a bum living under bridges in Melbourne, a few of his ex cricketing mates tracked him down and tried to get him into a flat or something, this guy said “No thanks I prefer this”. (Sorry cant remember his name but Mrs Jacko might remember)

  3. PKD says:

    What the heck have you been smoking Iain? Do you think most the homeless *like* being homeless????

    And as for..

    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.

    …What – would you rather Rudd not bother to lift a finger in the 1st place than try to do some good and not succeed???

    The only thing I remotely agree with you is your cynicism – and you are being a lot more than a little bit cynical!

  4. Iain Hall says:

    Alan

    I dont agree with Iain on this, 105,000 homeless people is 105,000 too many, esp. in this country where anyone can wander in to Centrelink and get themselves $400 a fortnight. Surely people can live on this?? Which makes you wonder why they are homeless in the first place, do they like the lifestyle, do they waste their dole money on drugs, are they mentally unwell? Either way I reckon we should do as much as we can to get as many people off the streets as possible.

    Don’t get me wrong Alan, I have as much compassion as you do for those who are down and out but many of them are such broken people that much of the well intended attempts to help them ultimately fall down due to a lack of will on their part to live any other way. If such will could be easily imparted programs like those proposed by Brother Number One would have a chance of success but I really think that at the end of the day this effort will fail to make much difference at all.

    There was a prog on TV a while ago about some old cricket player from the 30s who used to play with Bradman, toured England, stayed in all the best hotels, etc. He ended up a bum living under bridges in Melbourne, a few of his ex cricketing mates tracked him down and tried to get him into a flat or something, this guy said “No thanks I prefer this”. (Sorry cant remember his name but Mrs Jacko might remember)

    The name eludes me too Alan but your anecdote is consistent with the “Australian story” that I cited in the post it is also consistent with many other things that I have seen and heard about the homeless.
    PKD

    What the heck have you been smoking Iain? Do you think most the homeless *like* being homeless????

    quite clearly many of them do PKD even though they will make noises to the contrary if pressed on the matter. This happens because they know that such a response is required/ expected from many who offer their largess or charity.

    …What – would you rather Rudd not bother to lift a finger in the 1st place than try to do some good and not succeed???

    I would be far less cynical about the efforts of Brother Number One if they were not done with such fanfare and self-congratulation about how good throwing money at this problem makes him and his government look.

    The only thing I remotely agree with you is your cynicism – and you are being a lot more than a little bit cynical!

    find me a reason not to be cynical about this issue PKD and I will be very glad indeed to be wrong about it. But the history of such efforts and the actual results that they achieve is poor enough to make my cynicism a very reasonable position. In the end isn’t it more important to get real results rather than making a large but ultimately futile effort?
    As i have said we can offer some practical assistance (street swags ect) but until street people really want to help themselves nothing will change.

  5. Lucy Z says:

    Phill, PKD, Alan,
    I’m with Iain on this one. Now, before you jump on me for being a heartless conservative, let me explain. I have, in the past, taken homeless people into my home. That’s right. I met a couple of Aboriginal people who were homeless and offered them a place to stay. Things went really well. For nearly a week, we looked after them and had only one rule: no alcohol. We spent time together and they were dry. But unfortunately, there is a downside. Come pension day, they both hit the bottle – bigtime. After a brawl in the back yard, my husband and I had to ask them to leave. We have young children and brawling in the back yard is not something I want them witnessing. We did try to get them into rehab withthe Salvos but there were no available facilities. The key thing was that we offered all that we had to get them off the streets and give them a place to stay. But the bottle was more important. Since they left, I have never heard from them. But we all think of Ernie and Fiona often, including my kids. I really hope they are OK.
    Giving people hope and a chance to escape from homelessness only works if that chance is taken.
    But here is another thought: if every household in Australia took in one homeless person for one night once a month, would we still have a problem with homelessness?

  6. David says:

    Lucy

    I applaud your spirit. BUT

    Did it really help them, in the long run ? We have many fine organisations, that deal in these sad situations, on a daily basis. We have a public housing crisis, and have had for years. We have a private rental market, that due to abuse, has unbelievably strict rental conditions, due to that misuse.

    Unfortunately, we don’t live in the 50’s anymore. We do not, and unfortunately cannot, trust those that we do not know, and perhaps, with sufficient reason.

  7. PKD says:

    I’m with you David.

    Well Lucy as I think Banksy once wrote on a wall somewhere ‘spare me your coins, I want change.’

    And I think it was probably a bit naive for you to think people with a long term alcohol addiction are going to magically go tee-total just because you took them under your wing. Now I am sure you had the noblest of intentions, but you just weren’t equipped or prepared to give these people the support they really needed to change. Sure you could ‘give them a few coins’ (or a roof in your case), but thats not enough to give these people the long term change they really needed…

  8. PKD says:

    BTW – dont get me wrong BTW Lucy – like David I applaud you wanting to make a difference and do some good! So kudos to you – but I think helping homeless people especially with serious addictions like you encountered is best done by giving your support to the experts : The Salvos, Heart of St Laurence etc.

  9. Lucy Z says:

    You’re all right. I and my husband were naive in expecting a long term addiction to just go because they were no longer on the street. However, we DID try to get them specialist help from the Salvos, only to be brushed off quite rudely, something which saddened me as the Salvos do a lot of good.
    I also donate to the Salvos, among other charities, as well as shopping in their stores.
    What about my suggestion of all of us taking in one person for one night once a month. Too risky?

  10. Lucy Z says:

    PKD,
    How do we give these people the long term change they really need? Leave it to organisations that are so overburdened that they turn people away? Leave it to the government? What are the underlying causes of homelessness? What happened to the single sex hostels that existed in the 70s and 80s where people could live away from home reasonably cheaply and have access to facilities? Does a softening of attitudes to soft and hard drugs contribute to a rise in homelessness? Is there a connection? I have lots of questions but very few answers.

  11. David says:

    I once took a friend to the Salvo’s as he was down to eating crackers. I have been giving to every charity that ever knocked on the door, and always have done.

    I walk in with my mate, and the Salvos told him to p**s off !
    They stated they didn’t have anything to give him.On our way out, out the back of the store, (as the curtain had been left open), I am not kidding, there were half a dozen workers, rifling through boxes of donated goods. Probably looking for the “good stuff”.

    Needless to say, they haven’t received a zack from me every since. I ended up taking my mate to the local RSL, as he was a vet, the same as I, and they helped him with a voucher. So, there are some good people in the world left. As for these so called charitable organisations, and don’t get me wrong, the Salvos do some great work, but it appears the work only ever happens, when there is media around.

    As to charities in general, there is way too much siphoning off going on, way too much administration expenses, that make the final coin going to those who need it most, minute to what they should be.

    To refresh our memories, in the not so distant past, what has happened to the money raised for the fire victims ? On last nights news for f**ks sake, the money is being ripped off by people not affected by fire, and those that were wiped out, are still waiting for help ?

    I guess, in a nutshell, charity begins at home, but make certain the doors and windows, are locked and chained !!!

  12. Shawn Whelan says:

    It’s just people Lucy.

    My best buddy from high school went that route.

    I have never been able to figure out what went wrong with him. A very sad thing.

    He was very popular in High School a great big guy, handsome and the tackle on the football team. And a personality that just drew people to him. The girls loved him. We had a lot of good times.

    After High School he would sometimes become very withdrawn and stop communicating for months at a time. He flunked out of university.

    He wouldn’t talk about it and I have no idea what was going through his head. To be honest at the young age I never really thought it over that much.

    All of a sudden he seemed to be over it and back to his old self.

    So anyhow there was no work around here and we decided to go out west to Alberta where the oil industry was booming. It was quite an adventure for a couple of young kids and we took are time travelling the couple thousand miles. We had a great time and landed jobs right away.

    After a couple months he all of a sudden just dissapeared. I couldn’t find him and checked at his employer where he had quit his job.

    About ten years later I was back in my hometown and came home one day to find him sitting on my porch with his one year old daughter.

    We renewed our friendship just like he had never ended He was still living out in the west and had married and settled down.

    Well what he had done was go live on the streets like a bum for a few years and somehow met his wife. He told me some of what went on but I really never prodded. Now his wife was a very nice lady that had a lot of trouble in her family.

    So they ended up with three kids and he decided to move back here. He was very lucky to land a good job as a stationary engineer in the salt mine. Good pay, little work and a powerful union. Beat out a hundred guys to get the position, yes he was a charmer. Things were good, he had a nice house, a nice family and was making a very nice living.

    So things were fine for a few years.

    Then all of a sudden he went back into the funk. Drinking like crazy, not going to work and hiding bottles all over the house. He would dissapear for twenty minutes and come back stoned out of his head. The company sent him to rehab a couple times and then fired him. Well the union got him back in after another stint in rehab and he was alright for a while and then started up again. Two more stints in rehab and then he was fired for good. The family lost their house and everything else.

    So the wife finally gave up (more because the kids didn’t want him back in the house, they had gone through hell) and he ended up back on the streets.

    He died of a heart attack at fifty years old.

    I will always miss the guy. Certain things you can’t fix. the human mind is awful complicated.

  13. PKD says:

    Well Lucy, as cynical as Iain finds it, I reckon Rudd’s plan is at least a step in the right direction.

    Will it get every homeless person off the street? Almost certianly not. It’s like trying to have a zero road toll policy. Its guaranteed to fail, but then – one death on the road is one too many, hence the policy.

    And why we should always try to redice the homeless levels to zero, although though its almost as unrealistic to happen – one homeless person is still one too many – hence the ideal.

  14. PKD says:

    And thanks for the story BTW Shawn.

    You’re right – if there was an easy answer to why some people end up homeless…but sometimes there just isn’t.

  15. Shawn Whelan says:

    Well when he told me the stories of living on the street it reminded me of the oldtimers I worked with that fought in WW2 and told the stories of the war. Or the Vietnam vets that told me that was the best time of their lives.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the Sandpit

I love a good argument so please leave a comment

Please support the Sandpit

Please support the Sandpit

Do you feel lucky?

Do you feel lucky?

%d bloggers like this: