VCAL students this week participated in a City Tour, run by the Salvation Army looking at homelessness in Melbourne. This tour was organised to give students insight into a complex social problem, around which they can organise a project for their PDS subject in semester 2.
The tour started with an insightful workshop at the Savation Army building in Swanston St. This building is the base for many Salvation Army services, such as crisis accommodation, a café available to people experiencing homelessness, a store providing free essential items and food, and various counselling services. It was very moving to see first hand the workers providing assistance to people from all walks of life going through a tough time. After our workshop, we went on a walking tour through the city and gardens, looking at places that people experiencing homelessness sleep rough, and heard some of their stories.
This was an eye opening experience. The workers smashed the stereotype and our prejudices. We learned (among many other things) that:
- 40% of people experiencing homelessness are under 25
- The biggest contributing factor leading to homelessness is family violence (approximately 40%), followed by family breakdown – NOT drug and alcohol abuse (3%)
- 500 people were 'sleeping rough' in the city on census night. We visited a few of the popular areas in the city that people sleep rough.
- Many people who are don’t have stable, long-term housing (from 'couch-surfing' to staying in short term accommodation) don’t realise they can access homelessness services. We learned about the website askizzy.org.au as a resource for people experiencing homelessness or needing other assistance.
Importantly, we learnt that it is important to reflect on our prejudice, and address the stigma and language that we use. Rather than use the term 'Homeless person', we should try to refer to people as 'experiencing homelessness'.
Homelessness is hopefully somebody experiences for a time – it is not a label that somebody should be burdened with.
Some comments from students who attended the tour:
“It was a good learning curve and shock to see what some people go through to become homeless” – Cameron
“It was very eye opening and surprising” – Max M
“I was very grateful for having the opportunity to learn about people who are less fortunate than me and it was a shock to see how big of an issue homelessness is”
“It was an eye-opening experience and was good to learn about homelessness, and that we should all be grateful for what we have”
“It’s interesting to know more about homelessness and how it can affect each human being. I also enjoyed working with and getting to know the other students"