You may have noticed that it's #HomelessnessWeek - we had the City of Sydney street count on Monday night, the Homeless Memorial Service yesterday, and last night the legendary Councillor Jess Miller slept out to raise money for the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, and their outreach work supporting rough sleepers.
All of this is important and valuable. But you'll also see hypocrisy in action, people supporting these events and efforts, who then vote or speak against funding for affordable housing or real action on ending housing inequality.
The thing is, homelessness is just the most visible tip of the iceberg that is the Australian #housingcrisis.
We've seen government policies like negative gearing turn housing into an investment vehicle for the few, rather than prioritising access to shelter for the many. It's why a huge number of Sydneysiders are living in rental stress (paying more than 1/3 of their income on rent or mortgages): does that include you? We've seen governments, both Labor and Liberal, underinvest in public housing for decades. We haven't got workable models for alternative, affordable rental housing for people at different income levels (this is something that we're trying to work on at the City of Sydney - stay tuned).
If seeing people sleeping rough makes you uncomfortable, you have to do more than complain about that, or show up that one week of the year. You have to act on, advocate for, fight for, real investment in social/public and affordable housing. You have to fight against the privatisation of public land *without* genuine increases in numbers of public housing units. You have to address the cause (a broken model of housing and growing inequality) and not just the symptom (homelessness).
This incredible opinion piece by John Falzon says it better than I can:
"Homelessness is not an indicator of bad personal choices leading to the personal tragedy of poverty. Homelessness is an indicator of bad political choices leading to the manufacture of inequality...
It’s time we built a more equitable society in which housing is enjoyed by all as a human right instead of by some as a speculative sport. At present, however, it seems we are spending far too much time building extensions to the house of lies."