25 Aug 2015

Hope for Homeless

6:32AM Sunday 23rd August.
When I wake up it's raining. It's windy and cold. It's the kind of day that makes you want to roll over and go back to sleep... except when you're sleeping on cardboard. I thank God I'm undercover and spare a thought for the thousands in Sydney tonight that aren't. They lie in bus stops, park benches or like me on the ground, representing a voiceless group within society - a group that is struggling.

Over 105 000 people in Australia are homeless. That's around 1 in 200. 27% of these people are under 18. Kids and teens living on the street, going through things I can't even begin to imagine every single day. Over the weekend I tried to get a feel for their situation in a homelessness simulation through my school. We collected cardboard to make up our 'beds' on the concrete. We were given some soup from the local 'soup kitchen' before playing cards to fight the intense boredom that comes with homelessness. It was nearly impossible to sleep on the ground, and we didn't have any safety concerns keeping us awake. Many homeless people in Sydney sleep in the day for fear of being mugged or attacked at night. We were woken early and told to move on, as homeless people so often are as not to disturb the public. It's just so terrible.

Homeless people are such a misunderstood group in our society, and before studying the issue of homelessness I didn't understand it either. As a young girl I always saw homeless people as dirty and highly dangerous. I naively assumed they were all frequent users of drugs and generally unstable people. I'd never dream of approaching a homeless person, even to give them money. I thought I was protecting myself. Us Australians pride ourselves on being friendly, but look at how we treat our poorest people. Every night they sit in the shadows, forgotten and avoided.

But what I've learnt over the past few weeks is a homeless person is not just a homeless person. A homeless person is a human! We seem to have seriously forgotten this. Behind every homeless person is a face, a story, something that got them to the point where they are. And in front of every homeless person is a future, a plan, a hope. That's what I keep telling myself as a way to deal with this problem. There's a way up for every homeless person. We have so many incredible volunteers and helpers willing and every day homeless people are turning their lives around.

In between that past story and the future hope is you, it's us, it's community. I'm not asking you to donate to a charity, start volunteering or anything like that. I'm just asking for something really small and its this - rethink how you treat homeless people. Remember this week that the homeless are people. Skin and bones just like you! If you pass a homeless person smile, say hi, just like you would if you passed any other person on the street. The little things like this can be huge for a homeless person. So theres your challenge - say hi to a homeless person this week. Don't ever think you're too young to make a difference. We've got the power to change our culture toward homeless people. Because when it comes down to it, a homeless person is still just another person in Australia's 21 million and each one has just as much potential as you and me.

Have an incredible week, and remember to keep your safety first if you do decide to get amongst your community!