Searching for a home

By Melita Knight

People have four basic needs: food, water, clothing, and shelter. Unfortunately for 105 000 Australians, these necessities are non-existent.

There are just over 400 people in Ballarat who are homeless, this is 47 in 10 000 people homeless compared to the state average of 42 per 10 000.

Homelessness is not simply living without a home. It is living without safety, and security. Rough sleepers, couch surfers (people staying temporarily with friends), and people staying in emergency shelter are all regarded as homeless.

Homeless youth from rural towns and cities tend to stay in their area rather than going to larger, more urban areas to seek help. Therefore it is even more important to try to help and reduce the amount of homeless in Ballarat.

Services like the Uniting Care, Centacare and Peplow House provide people with short-term accommodation, and the Soup Bus provide a small meal after-dark to those who cannot afford it. But if we really want to help get people off the streets, we need to do more.

There are many buildings around Ballarat which are simply sitting there collecting dust. If the council were to purchase one of these buildings and convert it into a housing and educating facility for the homeless, then it would go a long way to solving Ballarat's homeless problem.

The old civic hall is one such building which the Ballarat Council already owns and are planning to redevelop anyway. If they redeveloped the old civic hall for homelessness purposes it would solve more than one problem.

A centre for the homeless could not only provide shelter for those who have none, but it could provide educational services to help homeless people get back on their feet. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only 51 per cent of homeless youth in Victoria stay within the school system.  This is a worryingly low percent, and one we can change if we give them the chance to learn and study even if they can't afford it.

By combining a homeless shelter with an education facility, the community would also be able to provide homeless and disadvantaged people with skills and knowledge to help turn their lives around. Cooking skills, business skills, social skills, and life skills, could all be taught in workshops throughout the week. The facility could also house a psychiatrist or therapist to help people deal with abuse-physical, emotional, drug and alcohol-which is one of the leading causes of homelessness.

Everyone has the right to feel safe, secure, and to have access to basic human needs. When there are people who do not have these, not always through fault of themselves, the council and the community has the responsibility to help provide these.

If we were to create a combined homeless shelter and education facility, then we will not only provide the citizens of Ballarat with more jobs and better access to education, but we can help to end the homeless problem.

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