Five myths about homelessness

1. People choose to be homeless

By “banning” homelessness, Melbourne City Council is implying it is a “choice”. Homelessness is usually the cause of a range of interconnected factors, some of which include poverty, unemployment and family violence. There is also a shortage of affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage.

2. It will never happen to me

Anyone can become homeless. Sometimes, all it takes is a sudden change in circumstance, such as job loss. This is especially the case for those living week-to-week. In addition, not everyone has family and friends willing to accommodate them.

3. People who are homeless are alcoholics or drug addicts

Most of those who are homeless (68%) are not addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Many people become addicted to drugs after they become homeless. Banning “rough sleeping” may exacerbate drug use as a result of stress and isolation.

4. Homeless have been offered accommodation

There is not enough public housing. On the other hand, there are 80,000 empty properties.

Despite the media having reported that immediate housing has been offered to those sleeping rough, the Homeless Persons Union Victoria says only 40 people will be housed by late this year. There are about 22,000 homeless Melbournians.

Many homeless people report that crisis accommodation is unsafe and “pointlessly temporary”. Many people also prefer the “safety in numbers” and political expression of well-lit Melbourne CBD streets. A large number of crisis accommodation facilities are run by faith-based organisations.

Melbourne City Council needs to invest in public housing with long-term leases so that people can lead stable lives.

5. People are faking homelessness

Homelessness is not a lifestyle choice. Nobody would choose to be attacked, urinated on or spat on. Not many people would choose to be ignored in most of their interactions. Nobody would choose to sleep outside on a winter's night in Melbourne.

[Submissions to Melbourne City Council’s new by-laws on homelessness open on February 16 and close on March 17. Details on how to make a submission will be available in the Age, the Victorian Government Gazette and by clicking here.]

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