I met Kath on Twitter when she was hosting the @homelessinMelbourne account as a guest curator. I responded to a few of the things she tweeted and we started a conversation. It was around this time she started her own twitter account @kathhomeless, so I started to follow that too.
Kath is a 52 year old, homeless woman who lives out of her car in Queensland. She tweets about the problems of being homeless, how one lives in a car, tweets the stories of her life and how she ended up homeless (and it’s not a simple story), shares photos of her home cooking (and it looks pretty tasty), and beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
Kath also has a blog, which initially was put together by one of Kath’s other followers, giving Kath an opportunity to collate her stories, share information with others, and host her great photos (so you don’t have to be up at sunrise to see the great shots).
Because this is the internet, and people are cynical, doubting arsehats, Kath cops a fair amount of abuse on Twitter, with some people claiming she’s only on Twitter to beg for money (which she’s never done in my interactions with her), that she’s lying about being homeless, that she’s homeless by choice, or that she’s lying about all the things she’s done or had happen to her in the past which has resulted in her current situation.
If you really feel it’s your place to do due diligence while reading a person’s story, perhaps you should be asking what your motivations are and who made you ruler of other people’s lives.
Kath’s most recent blog post calls for an understanding of homelessness:
The last few days have been quite draining for me trying to explain my situation to people that just don’t understand or think they do but don’t! I have been attacked by people that don’t care and think homelessness is a joke and is not real. They think it is my choice to be homeless or I choose to live this way. They have no idea of the reality of homelessness. They have never experienced it and probably never will. They have led a sheltered life away from the real harsh world. They do not understand how it can happen to people and blame me for being that way. They do not know any facts and really don’t care to find out the truth as they really don’t want to be involved with it. They question my answers to their questions and ridicule me on my comments. I try my best to be polite and help them understand what homelessness involves but they don’t care to listen. About the closest they will ever get to homelessness if the cross the street if they see a homeless person or do a sleep out which I call a camping adventure to act as if they care of to promote themselves that they are involved in a cause. It is a shame that they do not even want to understand such a major problem in Australia but why should they after all we choose to live this way. How can anyone end up homeless? It must have been my fault. I try to explain to them to read my blog and comments on twitter and maybe help them to understand my situation but they do not even do that. They are to ready to ridicule and simply don’t care enough to find out the fact. If they did it would problem raise emotions they have never and probably never will and make a fool of them for being so abrupt and uncaring. So I say to all of them good luck.
Many of my followers think that is easy and they can help me with my homelessness. Many have tried to help me by contacting charity organisations or government organisations including local MP members without my knowledge. After they do they contact me and their reaction is shock horror now they understand why I am homeless. I say to all don’t bother. No one can help as their is no housing. A shortage of housing is the problem simple. A MP or a charity just cant pull out a room or unit or house out of the air. I wish all would understand this. I have so many that try to tell me what to do with good intentions but they just don’t understand that I already have. I spent the first 6 months in Brisbane searching for answers. I learnt a lot about how the government deal with homelessness and how the charities and organisations spend there funding. It became a bit of a game for me. Gave me something to do researching all of this. No going on the housing list will not work. Yes I am injured but not disabled. No I am not a priority and will not get prioritised because I am sleeping in my car. In fact most don’t recognise me as homeless because I have a car and I am not sleeping under a bridge or a park.
Poverty is rising in Australia, which means that those who are homeless are going to remain that way, and that more people will be at risk of homelessness.
The OECD finds that poverty is rising in Australia with the number of those living in poverty accounting for 14.4 per cent of the population, compared to the OECD average of 11.3 per cent.
But Professor Whiteford, from the Australian National University in Canberra, says it does reveal some concerns within Australia.”We’ve got a lot of issues we need to address in Australia, and I think there are some obvious ones, like unemployment’s deteriorated over the past year or so. And there seems to be, particularly, problems of increasing proportions of young people who are neither in employment, education or training.”
What can we do about homelessness? We can help those we know are homeless by giving them a couple of dollars when we see them. Short-term accommodation is very expensive, not to mention quite risky as you end up living without a safety net or somewhere to store your belongings. It is not our job to judge how people spend money once we give it to them, and it is not our job to pre-judge people’s spending intents and avoid giving them money because you believe they may not spend it in a way you agree with.
How can you help Kath? Well another one of her followers set up a Pozible campaign in order to be able to buy her a new car fridge so she can keep her required medication close to hand. Excess money will go towards much needed surgery and/or a camper van if possible. If you have a couple of spare dollars handy, then I fully recommend this Pozible campaign.
Homelessness is a complex issue with no simple answers. People who are homeless have often ended up that way through a collection of misfortune and, despite what our great Prime Minister Tones says, no one chooses to be homeless. Helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves is not only what good people do, it’s necessary when the Governments of the day are likely to reduce the current level of Newstart allowance because they want to abolish the Mining Tax.
The chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, Cassandra Goldie, sought to broaden the debate over the consequences of the mining tax repeal legislation.
“In addition to assistance for the children of veterans, the government is proposing to abolish a range of measures which provide much needed assistance to low-income households, on the pretext that they are linked to the minerals resource rent tax,” Goldie said.
“This includes a $4 a week supplement for people struggling to cope on the $36 a day Newstart allowance, now widely recognised as grossly inadequate. The supplement is the only real increase in the Newstart allowance in 20 years. In this context, taking away this meagre increase from those already in hardship is unconscionable.”
Kath, and everyone else on Newstart is doing it hard, and when we can help them out, we should as good fellow citizens and as good people. Some of this will be lobbying MPs, some will be working with charities to provide services, goods or food to people in need, some of this will be direct cash hand outs, and some of this will be educating others about the fact that homelessness is not simple, and is worth more than a sound-bite or some CEOs sleeping in nice sleeping bags one night a year.
We can do better as a nation and as people by looking after the vulnerable members of our society.