In South Australia, around 6000 people experience homelessness each year.
They are doing it tough for a number of reasons – from housing affordability and supply issues to poverty, under-employment, domestic violence and relationship issues.
While National Homelessness Week, being held this week, is a great opportunity to tell these stories, we need to do more than just provide essential services – we need to listen, show our support and take action.
Each year, Hutt St Centre serves up more than 40,000 meals and offers case management, housing support and assistance, pathways to employment, education and training services and allied health support services to nearly 1800 people.
In doing so, we hear some amazing stories from clients like Scott*, who became homeless having experienced mental health issues following a death in his family. He says sleeping rough is the most unnatural feeling and he wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Scott came to us initially for hot meals, blankets and to feel like there were people out there who cared about him. He now sees a bright future ahead of him.
Then there’s Sarah*, who was left homeless after a relationship breakdown. She felt scared, lost, unsafe and unsure whether each day would be her last.
Through our Aspire program, we helped her find permanent accommodation coupled with ongoing three-year case management support. She looks forward to a brighter future.
I’m also deeply moved by the story of April*, who described homelessness as a confronting and overpowering reality, particularly during this cold winter period. She describes Hutt St Centre as a giving place and, for her, a lifesaver.
We believe people challenged by homelessness, while incredibly vulnerable, are some of the most courageous and resilient people in society.
Homelessness can and does happen to anyone.
Walk a Mile in My Boots, to be held tomorrow, is our major annual event to raise both awareness of this issue and much-needed funds to help continue the important work.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Walk a Mile in My Boots, we’d like to see 6000 people walk down Hutt St to represent the number of South Australians experiencing homelessness.
When you “walk a mile”, you get a small taste of what it’s like to be challenged by homelessness – to get up early and have to walk the streets just to get breakfast and a hot shower.
The walk will also demonstrate to those people doing it tough that there is a compassionate community around them. The Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp recently said: “This conversation on rough sleeping should be emotional, and not about issues and protocols, but about forming compassionate responses to homelessness.”’
While there has been a spotlight on the street, the most vulnerable people in our community need your support now more than ever.
After all, homelessness isn’t just about a week or a day – it’s a year-round reality for thousands of Australians, which is why the ongoing work of organisations like Hutt St Centre and our many colleagues is so important.
Governor Hieu Van Le, Premier Steven Marshall, and the Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas have pledged to walk with us alongside the community. Long-standing Walk a Mile in My Boots Ambassador Justin Westhoff from the Port Adelaide Football Club – yes, he’ll walk with us too. Will you?
By joining us for Walk a Mile in My Boots, you’ll be showing that this is an important issue to you, and that no person should feel like they’re walking alone.
When you go the extra mile, you’re having a direct impact on the lives of people experiencing homelessness in our community.
This Friday, we’re asking you to spare more than just a thought for our homeless. To find out how you can get involved, visit walkamile.org.au.
*Names have been changed to protect client identities.