According to the Commonwealth of Australia’s 2017-18 Budget, Australia needs more than 270,000 additional affordable houses for low-income families. The Australian Parliament recognises housing as a human right and the Australian Human Rights Commission states, “every person has the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to adequate housing” (ICESCR, article 11).
To launch the statement, local Catholic organisations who work together to combat homelessness gathered at Matthew Talbot Hostel in Wickham.
Manager of Matthew Talbot Hostel, Karen Soper, spoke about the specialised homeless service they provide. “We operate from a ‘housing first’ model,” she said. “Our aim is to break the cycle of homelessness.” Accommodation is provided at the hostel for three months for men in need. During that time, the men see a support worker every day to help them reconnect with the community and find long term housing.
Matthew Talbot is the only men’s service in Newcastle and the only one that helps men who have children. If anyone sees a rough sleeper in Newcastle they can contact Matthew Talbot Hostel on 4961 1411 and someone will visit that person. Karen concluded by sharing the quote, “‘Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on. Remember, we are all three life events away from being in the same situation.”
Catherine Mahoney lives in affordable housing built by the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Catherine is blind and lived at home until she was 43. “Where I would live plagued me for most of my adult life,” she said. The opportunity for her to move out and find independence would not have been possible without the help of the Diocese. Catherine had contacted the Department of Housing and was told there was an 18 year wait on affordable housing. On Catherine’s 44th birthday, she woke up to her first morning in a home of her own. “I found support through a community that was so important to me,” she said.
Assistant Director of CatholicCare, Tanya Russell, spoke about the Supported Independent Living program, designed to assist those that are leaving foster care. The young people in the program are very vulnerable to homelessness and CatholicCare caseworkers help them to overcome barriers to find and maintain housing.
Head of Property in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Ray Bowen, spoke about affordable housing. The Diocese has built 65 affordable housing dwellings, which are rented 20% below market rental rates. Sites have been built in Booragul, Mayfield, and Mount Hutton. Ray said “It’s wonderful to hear how access to housing has positively impacted Catherine’s life, I don’t often get to hear the stories of those impacted by our work.”
“We’ve tried to make everything work without being given extra funding,” Diocesan CEO Sean Scanlon said. “We don’t get any leeway from local government, and are treated like normal developers.”
Bishop Bill officially launched A Place To Call Home, reminding everyone that the bishops use their Annual Statement to address an issue of concern that impacts the whole community, not only Catholics.
“I’m happy that they’ve gone with homelessness for the statement. This issue must grow in the consciousness of the whole community. It is a very important document for Australia now,” Bishop Bill said. He then encouraged all those gathered to “mention it to your relatives and friends.
Ten steps we can take to make a home for everyone in our land
- Reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan.
- Get the facts about homelessness and the housing crisis.
- Reach out to people experiencing housing difficulties and homelessness.
- Understand the bigger picture behind the housing crisis.
- Make our parishes and communities welcoming places.
- Take action to support housing initiatives and programs.
- Advocate for change locally and nationwide.
- Help combat misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
- Remember: Standing with those in need is central to our faith.
- Let us pray.
Visit socialjustice.catholic.org.au for details.