Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shifting Goalposts

The past few weeks have been damn hard and it's becoming a serious effort to deal with the new rules and the resulting shift in the goalposts. It's very, very complicated, but here's one of the issues that now face us - as if we needed anymore grief. I swear at times that people who sit making these new policies have no regard at all for the front line people. The policy makers haven't done our job for years (if at all) and as such they've forgotten how difficult it can be. They remember another, easier and simpler time than it is now, a time without screaming, knives, death threats, general hate and confusion as what you were told two weeks ago might not apply this week.

Yesterday I was told that more people hate us now than the dole office. That's low because they're right bastards.

So the goalposts. Answer me this - how do you define a homeless person? A person without a fixed abode perhaps? A squatter? Someone who sleeps in their car? On the streets? In a box? How about one out of that group. You see the new Government policy is that to be truly homeless you have to be without a home and sleeping on a bench. The following are no longer to be considered homeless:
Sleeping in a car - you have a safe, secure place to sleep and a roof.
Sleeping in a tent - see above.
Squatting - illegal, but see above.
Sleeping in an abandoned building (site or otherwise). See above.
Sleeping in a sturdy cardboard box. See above.
Going from home to home (family and/or friends, abusers) sleeping on couches, floors or bathtubs. See above.
Sleeping in shelters such as homeless shelter and/or medical shelters. See above.

And you get the drift. You're only homeless now if you sleep on a bench out in the open. People come to us who are genuinely homeless and we can't assist them. We take an application and register it and even though they're homeless they fall into the general category. Perversely refugees and drug addicts (the bulk of whom are housed, have money and resources) all fall into the urgent need categories - and if you can work that out then I'd love to hear the explanation (I once assessed a family of four who were getting over $1,200 a week in government payments who were automatically deemed by the system to be in dire need of housing as they can't afford it. They make more than most people make in a fortnight who work 75 hours of back breaking labour). It's only recently that we stopped re-housing people we evicted for harassing their neighbours or simply not paying their rent - however that might change on a whim. Luckily domestic violence is untouched, for now. If you're a victim of DV then we'll bend over backwards to help. The flip side? Getting thrown out of house and home by an abusive husband doesn't cut any mustard - unless he bashed you and is stalking you. Just getting kicked to the streets, especially if a chum takes pity, means you're not homeless. I had a guy in this week who told me he'd be better off back in prison because at least there he gets 'four hot and a cot'. I couldn't agree with him out loud, but inside of me a voice was saying, "Mate, you're probably right".

This is designed to save money in the long run, because clearly we were giving too much away to those in need, both property and financial assistance. Never mind that nearly $4,000,000 was wasted in five months on a new computer system that was scrapped without any benefit, that's fine. But we can't keep wasting nearly half that amount each year on those who might need it.

At the end of the day it boils down to this: we have twice as many public houses as any other state in Australia with half the population. Instead of seeing this as a good thing some minister somewhere has decided that it's not right and as such we eventually have to have half as many houses as any other state - which means eventually losing 3/4 of the stock we have. That means that people who might need a house might never get near one, unless they walk past one. As houses now become empty they're being offered for sale - get in as the bargains are good and the deals/offers you'll get are brilliant. That's the only bonus. However in about five to ten years from now public housing as we now know it in this state will cease to exist.

The goalposts shift almost daily now. If what I'm expecting to happen, happens, then expect a lot more abuse and problems as people come in and discover that they're not defined as what they clearly are. Me? I do wonder where our duty of care went. I guess it went out the windows a while back, along with compassion.


Benedict 16th said...

Yep, I was listening to a podcast the other day on this very subject. The transcript is still availavle at ABC's Life Matters 26 Feb 07 if you can stand listening to it.

Actually I couldn't find the transcript...

All there was is
"A new report has produced a map of Australia which shows the poverty hotspots in every state and says that little has changed in a decade.

Called Dropping Off the Edge, the report was commissioned by Catholic and Jesuit Social Services.

They argue that there's no quick fix and we need long-term funding of social programs, beyond the short-term focus on election cycles."

If you want I can mail/email you the MP3 or give it to Bronze John?

I stopped watching "Order in the House" and stopped listening to "Late Night Live" when I lost any hope in 1996 (and look what a decade since turned out like)


The Regional Support Clerk said...

By all means either email to me or to BJ - I'd love to hear it.

Benedict 16th said...

sent to BJ

or you can find me at xviben

usually at gmaildotcom


David Drury said...

And if you listen to the news, you think the government was solving all the housing problems in this state !

The Regional Support Clerk said...

They are solving a lot of the housing issues, and working damn hard to fix the rest, however some of the solutions will cause more long term problems than what they'll fix. The biggest problem is that departments have to show a profit, or that they're sustainable, in order to survive. That's what's happening in this case.

Anonymous said...

The great tragedy of supported housing in SA is that the person currently in charge of Families SA is the same person who restructured the DSS and CES into the horribly inadequate structure that is Centrelink.
And just wait there is more. Shared Services are coming, as well as every government department coming under review for restructure.
If you think things are bad now, just you wait and see the mess that's coming.
Love the blog by the way. Sorry I can't add a name.