The 2011 Census showed there were more than 105,000 people living in Australia who were homeless. Anecdotal evidence suggests that number is growing rapidly. Thankfully, many agencies of the Catholic Church are working to assist people who are homeless, but a lot more needs to be done.
Homelessness, and the people affected by it, are the subject of the latest publication from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council in collaboration with Catholic Social Services Australia.
The paper, The Human Face of Homelessness, is by Liz de Chastel and Frank Brennan SJ AO, respectively the Director of Social Policy and the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia. It is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the issue and to bring about change.
People become homeless for a variety of reasons, including insecure and low-paid employment, the high cost of housing and general living expenses, poor mental health and domestic violence. Without a place to call home, people will struggle to work, support their families and contribute to society.
The authors look at people who experience homelessness, at its causes, and at what the Catholic Church is doing to alleviate it. The paper also examines the Church’s social teaching as it relates to homelessness. It suggests more ways in which governments and the Church can help people who are homeless.
The Chairman of the ACSJC, Bishop Vincent Long, says in the foreword:
‘The figure on a street corner huddled on a bench or in a doorway – even in the doorway of a church – is a daily rebuke to us as followers of Christ in a rich society. Yet, as this paper reminds us, the face of homelessness is not just that of the woman or man sleeping rough. Homeless people find themselves in run-down, exploitative boarding houses, or sleeping in cars, or trekking from house to house of friends or family in the hope that there will be a spare bed, a couch or a bit of floor to sleep on for a week or a night.’
Bishop Long says Jesus ‘spent his life seeking out and ministering to the excluded and rootless, and reminded us constantly that our obligation is first of all to them’.
The paper is available for $7.50 from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council: www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/publications/series-papers.