Stigma on homelessness prevents people from getting help

Sharon - Swanston StA rough sleeper tries to make herself comfortable on the sidewalk of the crowded Swanston Street.

Homelessness in Melbourne has reached a new lowpoint with a 74% increase of people sleeping rough over the last 2 years, according to the City of Melbourne’s 2016 StreetCount. Research showed that there are over 22.500 people homeless in the state of Victoria, from which 5% sleeps rough.

“People don’t come for help because of a stigma, they don’t want to admit they’re homeless,” says Ian Gott from the Council to Homeless Persons. Gott also says admitting to homelessness feels as a shame and a national plan is needed in order to end homelessness.

Homelessness is not just the man sleeping on the street, he says referring to secondary and tertiary homelessness whereby people are moving between temporary shelters, reside with other households or live in boarding houses on medium or long-term basis. Jeff - Lonsdale St
Jeff has been asked to leave by the police many times, but says he simply has no other place to go.

Not everyone agrees that a stigma is a cause of the problem. “We’re not afraid to ask, there’s just not much help,” says Jeff, who has been living on the streets of Melbourne for the last 4 years. “We can get everything [blankets, food, showers – Ed.] except the main thing, a home.” He also stresses that City Council should talk to the homeless, instead of just to organizations.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle says in a reaction to the StreetCount that there’s no easy fix to the issue and that there needs to be a focus on the underlying cause.
But City Council’s attempt to reduce homelessness in Melbourne by broadening the definition of camping in the Activities Local Law has caused a storm of protest.

During the Submissions Committee meetings on March 30 and April 6, questions were raised whether the proposed ban on homelessness would be in conflict with International Human Rights Law.
The proposed law would discriminate against homeless and Council would neglect their obligation to combat discrimination and stigma of homeless people, says Bill Swannie, College of Law & Justice (Victoria University).

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