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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Friday, 23 April 2021) . . Page.. 1182 ..

Homelessness—personal account

DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (2.07): My speech today is written by a man that we will just call Pro Bono. He contacted me during the election campaign and we have been communicating over email ever since. I am very grateful for the trust that Pro Bono has put in me to share his words and experiences of being a public housing tenant in the ACT and of homelessness. I believe his experiences provide unique insight, so I would like to share some of his words today. His words are titled “The Invisible People”:

In 2001 I was homeless for some months, due to mental breakdown.

The good people at Samaritan House, a refuge for homeless men, rescued me and helped me to get back settled into society. It was a struggle, but I was eventually able to settle down and resume something like a normal life.

Understandably, to most people becoming homeless is very traumatic. Suddenly, one is alone. One has no home to retreat into, to hide from the pain. All hope has gone. It seems common, at this time, to feel disorientated, lost, confused, and particularly helpless. The newly homeless often find themselves wandering around, not knowing where to go, what to do, just having to keep moving, unable to settle in one particular place, unable to think.

The first night out on the street is often said to be the worst. Night-time is when all we want to do is retreat to the safety of our own homes. The loneliness and helplessness of that first night is something that you never forget.

Many homeless people manage to find some friendliness, or at least acknowledgement, from other homeless people. For them there is a culture of sorts that will welcome them and help them to cope with the loneliness and emptiness of their life. Much depends on the individuals, who they meet on their daily wanderings, and whether they are still capable of making human contact with others. Many aren’t. They are the ones for whom the loneliness never ends.

One of the biggest problems with understanding homeless people is that there is no single reason why anyone becomes homeless, which makes it harder to understand the homeless as a group. They need to be treated as individuals, each with their own individual problems.

The best way to find out why people are homeless is to go and ask them. They are the ones who know why they are there, and they can be very articulate when it comes to the matter of how society has failed them.

Most people in the wider community think that drug abuse is the main cause of homelessness. In my experience, this is not necessarily so. It is only true in a minority of cases, although many homeless people become drug users to escape their situation. However, the so-called “experts”, the policy makers, and most researchers, believe that drug abuse leads to homelessness. It is lazy and discriminatory thinking to conflate the two issues.

Common to all people who are homeless is the extreme vulnerability of the person, the lack of adequate and suitable housing, the lack of an income to pay

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