Take on social justice in bite-sized chunks
Welcome to the fourth “Monthly Byte” prepared by the Tasmanian Baptist Social Justice Taskforce.
Each month there will be a “byte” addressing a critical social justice issue in our society.
In August, our focus is on Homelessness. Joanna Sinclair, from Hobart Baptist Church, has provided some powerful information including data, some great videos, prayers and some suggested actions.
First some background: Homelessness in Tasmania
Here is some information from Shelter Tas – the peak body housing and homelessness in Tasmania:
Who Can Become Homeless?
Homelessness can affect any member of the Tasmanian community, including the very young or elderly, families and single people, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
What is Homelessness?
The most commonly accepted definition of homelessness comprises of three categories.
Primary homelessness is experienced by people without conventional accommodation (e.g. sleeping rough or in improvised dwellings, including tents).
Secondary homelessness is experienced by people who frequently move from one temporary shelter to another (e.g. emergency accommodation, youth refuge/shelter, “couch-surfing”).
Tertiary homelessness is experienced by people staying in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (e.g. boarding houses and caravan parks).
The Effects of Homelessness
Homelessness can result in great social and economic cost to the individual and to the community. It creates great instability, leaves people vulnerable to chronic unemployment, ill health and limits their capacity to participate in the social and economic life of the community. People experiencing homelessness are often living without basic human rights being met.
Demographics in Tasmania
The data from the 2016 census shows that the total number of people experiencing homelessness was 1,622 (an increase from 1,145 in 2006 and 1,537 in 2011). The regional breakdown shows greater Hobart and the South East had the highest proportion, 57%; Launceston and the North East had 23% and the West and North West coast areas a very similar 20%.
On census night in 2016, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania were aged under 44 years old. Young people aged 12 to 24 comprised one quarter of all Tasmanian people experiencing homelessness (25%).
The majority of Tasmania’s 1,622 people experiencing homelessness were living in supported accommodation (35%) or staying temporarily with other households (30%) on census night in 2016. The remainder were in severely overcrowded dwellings (17%), staying in boarding houses (8%) or rough sleeping; that is, in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out (8%).
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people
Preliminary data from the 2016 Census showed there were 23,572 people who identified as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in Tasmania. This represented 4.6% of Tasmania’s population of 509,965. In 2016, 8% (130) of all people experiencing homelessness identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. ASTI Tasmanians were overrepresented in all sections of the population of people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania.
Specialist Homelessness Services
Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) in Tasmania provide housing and accommodation. This includes immediate emergency accommodation (including shelters), supervised accommodation and placement support services for young people and transitional support services for people experiencing homelessness to (re)establish themselves in independent living. These services also provide information and advice, advocacy and financial supports.
The service most requested and unavailable is consistently short term accommodation.
Here is a sample of short videos that could be used in services or small groups. Alternatively the link could be distributed throughout your church via email, to be watched at home.
Colony 47 has prepared a soundscape of stories from people experiencing homelessness in Tasmania:
CLICK HERE for some images for social media prepared by Colony 47 for Homelessness week.
Orange Sky Australia is helping to positively connect people experiencing homelessness through free laundry, showers and conversation.
Safe Night Space is a pilot program to help people experiencing homelessness in Hobart. A place for people to rest, seek informal support and connect to formal support services. CLICK HERE for more information.
Action: so what can we do?
Love without action is not love at all. 1 John 3:18.
1. Find out about homelessness and homeless services:
Shelter Tas – the peak body for housing and homelessness in Tasmania:
Housing Connect – Free call – 24hrs – 1800 800 588. Provides case management support for people experiencing housing stress, needing emergency accommodation, rent or bond assistance. In southern Tasmania, Housing Connect is a collaboration between 5 agencies (Anglicare, Hobart City Mission, Salvation Army and Colony 47).
Find Help Tasmania – provides up to date information on food, shower and recreation programs and services.
2. Volunteer or donate
Where is your local homeless shelter? What needs do they have? Is there an Orange Sky Australia location near you or could your church host one? Consider offering your time or sharing your resources.
3. Contact your local member:
Homelessness will end when everyone has access to appropriate, affordable and secure housing, along with the support needed to help people stay housed. Housing ends homelessness. Shelter Tas has outlined some key areas where action can be taken at a national and state level to address homelessness – why not have a conversation with your local member about the following:
• A National Affordable Housing Strategy to increase the supply of affordable and social housing
• Strengthening the Tasmanian Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plans with a target of 10% of all dwellings to be social and affordable housing
• Increased investment in Tasmania’s homelessness and crisis accommodation support
• Increased resources to ensure housing and support for Tasmania’s young people at risk
• Raising the rates of government income support for low income households
• Making affordable housing a priority in Tasmania’s planning system.
Should you require more information or wish to talk about this issue you can email Joanna Sinclair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Prayers . . .
Heavenly Father. My neighbour has nowhere to call home: help me be aware. My neighbour needs love and community: help me be active. My neighbour is crying out for justice: help me be adamant …to see an end to homelessness.
Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless this day.
For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.
For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime.
For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.
For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.
For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.
For those who are afraid and hopeless.
For those who have been let down by our social safety net.
For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope. We pray that those of us with warm houses not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.
Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through all the means we have, to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.
Almighty God, who loves all His children and is a home to those who are in any need or trouble; inspire your Church with the spirit of Christ’s love, empower us to battle the scourge of homelessness, and help us to live as one with one another; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, ever world without end. Amen
O God of Mercy: We hear the persistent call to feed the hungry and find shelter for the homeless. Stir our hearts to move more deeply in our walk with Jesus. Help us answer the question, “Why do we feel comfortable living beyond our needs when others do not have their basic needs met?” Help us not be hypocrites of lip service but the disciples of action. Keep our hearts soft enough to keep hearing the cry of the hungry and the homeless.
From the Bethany Christian Trust
Lord our God,
You who so mysteriously call upon us
to share in the sufferings of Christ,
fill our hearts with compassion
for those who lack the warmth of a home.
We commend to you in prayer this day
all men, women and children
who suffer because they have no shelter;
those who sleep in our streets and public spaces,
who have nowhere safe to lay their heads,
and who wander from place to place as a way of life.
We pray for broken families who cannot pay the rent,
for those who are lost and abandoned,
for those on the streets whose minds
have been touched by illness
or whose bodies are sorely affected by disabilities.
We ask that your merciful Grace be poured out
upon those with addictions,
those who have given up
in the face of enormous tribulations,
and those driven into a homeless life
by crushing poverty.
God of Compassion, your love for us is revealed
in your beloved son Jesus,
who was born into homelessness,
lived with nowhere to lay his head,
and died for us in agony on the cross.
Inspire us to act in justice,
by all means at our disposal, to right the wrongs
of peoples who are suffering
the deprivations of homelessness,
and to see in them the dignity of a brother and sister
redeemed by Jesus Christ.
Let us have the commitment,
as people of the Gospel, to be ever mindful
of our obligations we have
to the poor and marginalised,
to work in your name, O God,
to turn sorrow into joy
and to bring all those who live in darkness
into your own wonderful light.
From the Office of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Featured image: Photo from ShelterTas 2020 Homelessness Week Fact Sheet