Our united effort to end homelessness

The following is an excerpt from the St Vincent de Paul Society National President's Report.

Last year in Australia 84,000 children tried to get help from a homeless service in Australia, but more than half of them were turned away. We have a great many things to be positive about as a nation. This is not one of them

I would even go so far as to say that this is no time to be patting ourselves on the back, either as a nation or as an organisation committed to creating a more just and compassionate society.

It is hard to believe that in a prosperous country like ours we are still facing the reality of over 105,000 people experiencing homelessness every night in Australia. Even worse, with such levels of homelessness, no one should ever have to be turned away from a homelessness service. In the meantime we need to be there at the coalface of marginalisation, not as paternalistic dispensers of charity, but as real sisters and brothers to the people that have been pushed to the edges of society.

The St Vincent de Paul Society has never tired of telling governments that housing is a human right. If we can’t even guarantee this right to children then we’re seriously in need of re-examining our national priorities.

It has been said in many places that a society should be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members. For me, I will always remember these words being uttered by our former Governor-General, Sir William Deane, a man who continues to bear prophetic witness to this Gospel value.

Our work with Christ’s Poor should not stop with simply supplying the immediate solution to an immediate need. We are challenged to go much further. We are challenged to enable people to take control of their own lives. We do not accept the idea that people are to blame for their own marginalisation.