Father Bob’s Without a Home

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image of Father Bob MaguireOn a sunny Wednesday the renowned Father Bob Maguire stood in the back of the old Anglican Church in Acland St and launched the “Without a Home” campaign. A small group had gathered to hear him talk about the need to make affordable housing a political issue in the next election.

 

Previously he had said “We can and should do much better than this. It’s as much a matter of political will as it is funding. I call on all three main parties to commit to an affordable housing agenda for the State election. It’s time to stop selling and start investing.”

 

Father Bob is working together with three housing groups that cover this local area. They are the Port Phillip Housing Association “Housing for the Locals”, the St Kilda Community Housing and the South Port Community Housing Group. These groups supplied the facts and figures that helped us understand the extent of the problem. We learned that from 2006 to 2011 homelessness went up to 30%.

 

Varying amounts of money were put into the system, some housing units were sold, some were replaced and some were rented out to tenants who had to take out a loan to hold onto their housing. All of this contributed to a financial tangle that qualifies the issue for its own tenancy in the too-hard basket.

 

Father Bob was nattily attired in white pants, a loose blue and white shirt and carried his trusty walking stick. He stood before us and talked about the personal side of homelessness. He said “Call me by my name” meaning that it was important to see the personal and creative possibilities of the poor and homeless.

 

He said that “Most homeless people are talented beyond our imagination” and recommended that those working with the housing services should learn to be “people whisperers”. His own tactics included teaching people to beg with style, as a way to counter the police and magistrates’ comments that some beggars are frightening passer-bys.

 

We were asked to take a range of posters with us and put them around our workplace in order to generate the grass roots’ interest and political energy that the issue needs. These posters highlight the secondary problems that homelessness brings with it. There’s the obvious problem of personal safety, with the danger from a despised sub-group of predators who think the poor and homeless are fair game.

 

Other problems involve health and hygiene with people needing a safe place to wash. Keeping custody of your children is another problem if the kids must live with you in a car. Though it may be only an occasional problem voting is difficult if you have no official place of residence to record on the electoral roll. Some institutions will not accept a post office box number as a point of contact.

 

Anyone interested in more information on this issue can go to http://www.stkch.org.au/withoutahome/ or http://www.chfy.org.au/votehousing/ Posters can also be downloaded from this site or garden signs ordered.

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