Opinion

HOMELESSNESS: It is here and now, on our doorsteps

By Charmayne Allison

OPINION:

I’VE never been personally touched by homelessness.

Never in my 25 years have I worried where I’ll sleep at night.

How I’ll stay warm.

Whether I’ll even have a roof over my head.

But just 40 minutes with local couple Tony and Melissa was enough to open my eyes to this local crisis – and leave me absolutely heartbroken.

I'm mystified that in a country like Australia and a booming town like Echuca-Moama this couple, and so many others, can’t get a roof over their heads.

Especially in the freezing depths of winter.

It’s a national disgrace for which no one seems to want to take responsibility.

Everybody knows there's a problem and everybody says it's someone else's problem.

It doesn't matter who you talk to – homelessness seems to get passed around like the proverbial hot potato.

After ringing around to the powers that be, I still couldn’t get a satisfactory answer as to how and when this crisis would be properly addressed.

And who would address it.

Housing services are buckling under the pressure, struggling to rehome a revolving door of desperate locals in a district with high rental prices and scant available real estate.

Meanwhile state politicians claim they can offer little assistance besides a letter or a phone call back to these services or other politicians to pressure them to take action.

As for Federal officials – well, they brushed it off as a state issue.

The homelessness crisis is being treated like a political football, tossed from service to service, politician to politician.

I get that it can be complicated.

I get that there are two sides to every story.

What about issues with drugs, alcohol, vandalism, you name it – the myriad caveats which can cause local services to pause before putting a roof back over these people’s heads?

But as Moama Local Aboriginal Land Council’s John Kerr eloquently put it, people deserve second chances.

And third and fourth and fifth chances.

No matter how many times someone makes a mistake, forgive again.

Because no human should have to live like this.

After hours of interviews, I'm getting nothing. No answers.

And tonight, I'll go home to my nice, warm house with a meal on the table and a toasty bed.

I'm not under any pressure to house my partner, family, children.

Meanwhile locals like Tony and Melissa are shivering through the night, clawing for hope.

Clawing for the will to even live another day.

These are people.

They have names, stories, bodies fighting sickness, faces ageing too quickly and mental health hanging by a thread.

It’s not enough to point fingers or say “one day”.

This crisis is here and now, on our doorstep.

And it can no longer be ignored.

HOMELESSNESS: OUR FORGOTTEN FAMILIES

Read more of Tony and Melissa's heartbreaking story of homelessness here.

Read more from our politicians here.

Read more from local homelessness services here.

Read more from Moama LALC chief executive John Kerr here.