Cos We Care is a small Adelaide based charity that’s transforming lives and community attitudes about homelessness.
I spoke with one of the Founders, Ann Cooper about how she came to start Cos We Care and how it’s quietly transforming people and community in Adelaide. Read More
Although Christmas is a joyful time for many of us, it can be a very difficult time for many. Financial pressures, social isolation, and family separation increase dramatically over this period, making it one of the busiest times of year for the projects and services we support.
That’s why we have a number of ways to lend a hand to those who are doing it tough this holiday season – with DineSmart in full swing and StreetFunder supporting four projects to help meet the demand of Christmas – there are lots of ways to pay it forward. Read More
Over the last few decades, there has been an increasing trend towards living alone or with immediate family. However, the increase of the sharing economy has been changing that. The founders of Home Share Melbourne think there is much to be gained from rediscovering shared living, and that it might be a big part of the solution to the current housing affordability crisis. Read More
While the Australian electorate is still seething from the knifing of yet another sitting Prime Minister, there is no sign the freshly conservative face of the federal Coalition is likely to attend to voters most pressing concerns: insecure work, the cost of living, good public healthcare and education, affordable housing and wealth inequality. While politicians in Canberra have been busy wrestling control of government, an estimated third of the population are in rental stress. Read More
1. People need a Safe Permanent Home Before Other Supports.
Housing First is an evidence based model that tells us something that’s pretty intuitive – people need a stable roof over their heads before they need anything else. Shelter (and food) are the core needs of every individual without exception. Read More
Research from overseas suggests that homeless people, who sleep rough, have a life expectancy of between 43 – 47 years. Sleeping on the street is dangerous and creates a host of health issues, and untreated chronic illness, wounds, and infections, that most people think we left to the earlier parts of the 20th century, can turn deadly.
Rough sleepers commonly suffer from untreated mental health issues, injuries, skin infections, poor foot and mouth care, and blood-borne viruses. In winter it’s especially hard to keep on top of even the most minor of ailments, which can become serious problems.
As numbers of homeless people swell, and winter closes in, this months EOFY StreetFunder campaign will raise vital funding for three lifesaving health projects – Night Nurses (Melbourne), Homeless Healthcare (Perth) and Street Med (Sydney) – who hit the streets each night to care for the most vulnerable in our community.
HOMELESS HEALTH – PERTH
Homeless Health is a vital service run out of the back a van by Dr Andrew Davis, and a social worker. They cover drop in centres and homeless street ‘hot spots’. They provide care 365 days a year – including nights, round the clock nurses, support workers, and special support for newly housed people, to help keep them housed. This month we are helping to replenish their medical supplies.
“One of the major issues we face is wounds. When you’re living on the street and you get a cut, or can’t keep your feet dry – the rate of infection is very high and can be fatal if left untreated. That’s why we always need a good stock of wound dressings. The other issue that our patients face is chronic health conditions like diabetes which have been untreated for a long time. Having Diabetes kits available is really essential.” Dr Andrew Davis, Homeless Health.
NIGHT NURSES – MELBOURNE
Night Nurses are a team of committed professional nurses who walk the streets of Melbourne’s CBD every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from – 7pm to 11pm, helping care for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They help support the work of Youth Projects primary health service – the Living Room and the Women’s Wellness Center (both of which have been supported by StreetSmart).
“It will go a long way to providing the basics needed for keeping people healthy and well. That might be as simple as snacks for diabetics, providing a wound dressing, or socks for people whose greatest challenge is keeping their feet protected from ‘trench foot’ – a condition that is used to describe what happened to men in the trenches of WW1. We need to ensure our Nurses are properly equipped with the tools they need to treat people effectively, on the spot, and this grant will make a good dint in our equipment needs.” Richi Goonan, Operations Manager for Community Health, Youth Projects.
STREET MEDIC – SYDNEY
StreetMed Inc. provides street-level first aid, mental health and advocacy for the homeless and at-risk people in Outer Western Sydney. On an average shift, they see 20-30 people and help treat and manage chronic health conditions like diabetes and wounds from life on the street. One of their aims is to equip people with the things they need to treat problems before they get serious.
“At street level, we see a variety of injuries and wounds ranging from minimal right through the spectrum to requiring medical assistance. If our clients were equipped with early intervention measures such as first aid kits, their level of care would increase and the long-term ramifications of infection and medical intervention would decrease. Currently, as volunteers, we have been sourcing first aid kits funded from our own pockets and the response we have received to the few we have handed out has been overwhelmingly positive.” Chris Cleary, Founder, Street Med
These three projects provide vital care for people sleeping on the streets, in parks, under bridges or where ever they can find shelter. As winter sets in the demand for their services increases and these services depend on public support. We believe no one should be sleeping rough, but they are, and numbers have increased dramatically over the past 5 years.
Our aim is to raise $20,000 during June to share across the three projects. All donations are tax-deductible and we’d love your support to help deliver care where it is needed most.
Sleeping rough in winter is tough and it takes a toll on health, with research from overseas indicating that homeless people have a life expectancy of between 43 and 47 years. Untreated chronic illness, wounds, and even minor infections, that most people think we left behind in the earlier parts of the 20th century, can turn deadly.
One of the big challenges is that people sleeping on the street are moved on or temporarily housed in the outer suburbs and are generally disconnected from the basic services they rely on, including health care.
Thankfully, there are committed teams of medical professionals and support workers working day and night to treat the medical conditions of rough sleepers, where they are. That’s why we are supporting three of these angel projects this month – in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. Read More
This 17th May is #IDAHOBIT International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia. That’s why our monthly StreetFunder campaign is supporting Open Doors Youth Service Inc, a safe space and lifeline for LGBTI young people in Brisbane.
To shine a light on the experiences of young LGBTI people we dove into the research and had a chat with Open Doors General Manager Chris Pickard.
LGBTI youth are more likely to experience homelessness.
The big data sets on homelessness have so far excluded sexual orientation and to fill this gap new research has been investigating the issue. A recent study found that LGBT people are at least twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to experience homelessness and are more likely to experience homelessness at a younger age.
Sadly the main reason cited for homelessness among queer youth is ‘running away’ due to rejection and fear of reprisal or being kicked out of home. When forced out of the family home, the majority of these young people end up couch surfing, rough sleeping or in boarding houses, all of which can be not only precarious but dangerous.
This is why Open Doors focuses a lot of its efforts on educating schools, health services and families. Chris says that for many parents the biggest issue is simply lack of understanding of what their child is going through. “Some basic education can go a long way to creating a safe, accepting environment at home.”
LGBTI youth are at a higher risk of alcohol or drug abuse, and suicide.
Amid the ugly debates around the Same Sex Marriage vote, we forgot that there were young people listening and hearing the message that they are not normal, accepted, or safe.
This type of messaging is part of the reason why LGBTI youth and those who don’t ‘fit-in’ with rigid social ideas about gender are more likely to attempt suicide and to develop substance abuse issues than heterosexual peers. A new study of young people aged 16-to-25 found that 43% of LGBTI people were at high risk of dying by suicide, compared to 23% of heterosexual people.
The reasons for this boil down to what psychologists call “minority stress” – the experience of rejection, bullying, discrimination and prejudice. When simply being you become a cause of potential harm from others, young LGBT people turn to risky means to cope or to give up altogether.
It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that family acceptance and inclusive school and work environments have the power to save lives. Educating communities and families is central to suicide prevention, and when in crisis, Open Doors also step in to support young people who are at especially high risk.
LGBT youth have poorer mental health and are more likely to attempt suicide
Given that LGBT youth are more likely to experience violence, discrimination and homelessness it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this trauma is not good for their mental health.
About 50% of LGBT youth experience anxiety compared to 39% of their heterosexual peers, and about 30% experience bipolar or PTSD, which affects 9% and 17% of their peers respectively.
All of these numbers stack up to clear evidence that social norms, structures and dynamics at home, school, work and out in public spaces are dangerous for LGBTI youth.
Trans and non-gender-conforming young people are most at risk.
Chris says that transgender and gender diverse young people are at higher risks of finding themselves homeless, and are at high risk of violence, theft, and bullying in most crisis accommodation setups: “In terms of safe housing for trans and gender diverse young people, there is next to nothing. We have two safe referral points and if there are no free beds it is often safer for us to prepare them to sleep rough until something becomes available.
Sadly that experience is also occurring within homelessness services traditional options – like boarding houses, emergency accommodation or crisis centres – which are dangerous places for LGBTI people. While outright discrimination has been reported, even a simple lack of understanding can place transgender clients at risk. Trans women are at a high risk of violent assault when forced into male-only boarding houses.
In the rental market, discrimination is standard, with visibly non-conforming young people competing with heterosexual, high earning candidates for a dwindling supply of affordable housing.
Acceptance and safer spaces save lives
During the Same Sex Marriage campaign, LGBTQ services experienced a surge in demand for their services. Major advocacy organisations believe the successful Yes vote will halve the number of LGBT suicides. They have cause to hope because this has happened across US states that have legalised same-sex marriage.
That is a big hint that change does not exclusively start at home – the big stuff matters too. The tone of our public discourse sets the standard for what happens at home, and in our schools. What happens in those spaces determines whether a young LGBTI person feels safe, accepted and able to succeed – or put down with bullying, violence and discrimination. Genuine equality is more than wedding vows, it is the right to live free from violence and harassment, and to have a safe place to call home.
There is something you can do
There is a long way to go to create a safe environment for LGBTI people, and youth in particular. More specialist services that understand their specific needs and experiences is a big step in the right direction. There are few specialist homelessness services for LGBTI youth, and Open Doors is leading the way, in Brisbane. While they do all the hard stuff, the simple act of providing a safe space is often enough to change a young person’s journey.
“Many young people will have never met another queer person, let alone been in a room full of people who also identify that way. For their entire life they’ve been an outsider, confused and excluded. When they come to us, you can see the change in the way they carry themselves with a new confidence. To be part of a community, feel welcomed and not alone. It’s huge.” – Chris
Here are some actions you can take if you want to support vulnerable LGBTI young people.
Support Open Doors by donating to our StreetFunder campaign
Support the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia here.
Be a positive voice for inclusion in your homes, schools, and workplaces.