We often hear the saying ‘spare a thought’, when charities or organisations are promoting certain causes within the community.
Whilst giving thought and acknowledging the existence of illness, injustice and societal problems is an important first step in finding solutions, it doesn’t yield nearly as much power as action.
We have all been guilty of the thinking without action. Knowing that the issue exists but feeling like we can’t support everything. Thinking that our participation alone won’t make a difference.
However there is one problem we can solve, collectively as a society. Homelessness. This week is national Homeless Persons Week. A week designed to acknowledge the 105,237 people in our society that sometimes we overlook. Over look them on our busy commute to work, over look them as we avoid eye contact rushing to the train station. Or cross over to the other side of the street with our kids as we walk them to school. Maybe we convince ourselves that they’ve chosen to be there; they made some life decisions that has resulted in homelessness and they are choosing not to do anything about it.
But this is simply not always that case. There are a range of reasons why someone is homeless, and it is often not by choice. Sometimes homelessness is circumstantial. Family breakdowns , chronic shortage of affordable and available rental properties, long-term unemployment, severe untreated mental illness, inter-generational poverty or exiting other forms of state care.
At Teen Challenge, we see a lot of young people that are homeless or at risk of homelessness because of factors like domestic violence, family breakdown, emotional or sexual abuse. Often they are kicked out, sometimes due to behavioural issues. Homelessness, like addiction or addictive behaviour, is the outcome of deeper issues.
So instead of putting our blinders on we can chose to see them. To see that they have had something happen in their lives that we might never understand but to also see that everyone deserves a second chance. We can choose to see rather than ignore, help rather than judge and do rather than think.
Here are some practical ways you can help those that are homeless:
Volunteer at organisations such as Teen Challenge, Salvation Army and Wesley Mission. Or lesser know organisations like Vital Connection (a soup kitchen operating in Brisbane).
If you’re a professional you can offer your professional services free of charge. Maybe to help find a rental property, give financial advice or help put together a CV. You can do this through organisations like Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre or West End Community House.
Do a spring clean and donate excess blankets or clothing to services like St Vincent de Paul.
Financial resources go a long way within not-for-profits. Providing services, accommodation and meals takes funds. So think about what you might be able to give to an agency. Or perhaps hold a fundraiser with your friends or work colleagues, and encourage some collective action to make a difference for those doing it tough.
Any of these are worthwhile and impact activities to help combat homelessness. At Teen Challenge we provide emergency accommodation for boys aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness at our New Hope House in Brisbane’s West. Click here to read more about New Hope House.