Do we want another bandaid or actually act to fix homelessness?
Published 8 November 2019
I have had a bad case of writer’s block. It has been inevitable while I take a step back to gather my thoughts about what I see going on around me. There is part of me that doesn’t want to share what I think and part of me that feels like I have a responsibility to say it how I see it.
10 October was World Homelessness Day. On the same day it was World Mental Health Day and World Sight Day. My love/hate relationship with social media saw me reading post after post about the issues and silently sighing to myself. On the 11th of October it was International Day of the Girl Child and on the 13th it was International Day of Disaster Reduction. Nearly every day of the year is a day of awareness for something. Did any of the posts that went up on social media on World Homelessness Day do anything to end homelessness? I doubt it very much. Raising awareness is an inert and impotent notion unless it drives action, because it is action that is needed.
We live in a country with over 56,000 registered charities. Charities that are formed by passionate people who care about others and want to make a difference. And for the most part, they want to make a difference their way. That involves time and effort to establish good governance systems, create strategy and then deploy it. It also involves money. To raise enough capital to build and sustain a charitable organization takes public support. Inevitably that means telling the public the stories of the work you do. Philanthropy can be a winner takes all affair.
Social media and in fact any avenue where we tell the stories of our work engenders a phenomenon where people want to be inspired or they don’t engage. Inspired people are more likely to support a charity. Charities do what works, which is to create stories, media and material that inspire.
Recently I saw a video we just created that makes our washing machines look deeply meaningful and maybe even a bit sexy. Picture a video showing clothes gently sashaying into a washing machine in slow motion, with words about our impact overlaying images of washing powder gently scattering into the drum of our Kleenmaid. I want to thank our talented public relations firm, The Comms Team, who produced the video as part of their generous pro bono support package for 3rd Space. While it’s true the 3rd Space laundry helps people doing it tough, there is nothing about our washing machines or laundry that is remotely inviting. They are essential utilitarian pieces of equipment working all day every day and generating enough heat to raise the temperature in our hallways by about five degrees.
Last week a man approached me for assistance with clothes and washing because he had been incontinent due to lack of access to a toilet. He has a chronic neurological condition that impacts on his bladder. I could feel his shame as he asked me for help. The best I could do was move as quickly as possible to meet his need and try to be as kind as I could whilst doing it.
Data tells me that If I posted something about this on social media people’s level of engagement will be quite poor compared to the engagement and positive commentary that we will attract if we post our video about our washing machines. It’s life. It’s human nature. We are all doing what we need to in order to keep doing the work. But do we need to live in a winner takes all environment when it comes to ending homelessness?
The evidence says that the only thing that solves homelessness is affordable, appropriately amenable accommodation with support to sustain it. It is that simple.
If I asked you, your business or any charity working in the homelessness space in this country a question which I believe holds the key to solving homelessness, it would be this. If you could end homelessness, but you got no money for your organization and no kudos or acknowledgement for the part you played, would you do it? If the answer to that is yes, then imagine the amount of funds that could be raised to directly solve the issue.
We have had a project which would take one third out of the number of people who are homeless in inner city Brisbane sitting in waiting for two years because we haven’t yet found the financial resources to make it happen. We have a wonderful partner organization in Common Ground Queensland who are there with us ready to make it a reality. We are about to go out to talk to our local community to see if we can find enough people who have the will to end homelessness, first here in inner city Brisbane, and then in other places. And we are about to launch a drive for sponsors for a fundraising community walk planned for 31 May next year.
So on behalf of 3rd Space. Yes! We are in. If we can do something to end homelessness and we get no money or acknowledgement, then we are happy to proceed. Look for more information on our actions to end homelessness and let us know if you’d like to be in too. And about those washing machines! When you see our video of them, please be kind now you know the secret.
SARA HARRUP – Chief Executive Officer