homeless nsw

What Poverty Means

Poverty

When we think of the word “poverty”, we often talk about not having enough to eat. The truth is, it is much more than that.

With Anti-Poverty Week (Oct 12-18) just passing, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the real state of poverty.

Poverty can take many forms, and when we come to realise this, it’s easy to appreciate just how fortunate we are. Poverty includes the woman and her family escaping domestic violence and landing in homelessness, the youth who didn’t have access to as many opportunities during school and struggles to find work, the Aboriginal man or women experiencing years of exploitation and laters faces health issues.

It can be hard to overlook in Australia, considering our relative affluence. However, it still exists, in plenty of variations. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 13% of the population lives in relative poverty. That’s around three million Aussies.

Those living in poverty face battles each day, both structural and personal, that make it difficult to carry one. They can have low paying jobs with meagre hours, or not even be paid at all. They may have a disability or suffer health problems. They may be struggling to make ends meet and afford the basics. Many are driven into a state of homelessness or live in insecure housing.

In these situations, it’s easy for them to feel alone, excluded and forgotten. Whichever way we want to measure it, by income of social inclusion, this gap between Australians is increasing. So what action can we take to stop this?

The first is to recognise that this disparity exists, even in our fortunate nation. Anti-Poverty Week was instrumental in raising awareness and driving action. It’s one thing to read about the state of our nation, but another to rise to the challenge and do something about it. Organise a forum, write a letter to your local paper, help raise funds for the disadvantaged.

Don’t be afraid to use your voice to make a difference. What are your ideas to tackle the issue of poverty? Share them in the comments below!

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Why I Think Pets Are Good For Shelters

What are the benefits of letting pets accompany their owners in refuges and shelters? Patrick Caruana shares his personal experiences in the sector, seeing the many and varied benefits of animal companionship.

Patrick Caruana

Guest author Patrick Caruana has a passion for social justice and housing and has been working in the sector for many years to help people change their lives for the better. He currently works at GCJ Sessional Management Services to help businesses reach their potential in a dynamic environment.

I have seen the benefits first-hand of providing accommodation for pets of the homeless in shelters and refuges.

As a landlord, I provided my tenant a property with two kennels, secure gates and fences for her two dogs. When she came to view the house and saw the facilities for her dogs I saw her visibly relax. She had separated from her husband, who had threatened to destroy the dogs if they were left behind. She had been unsuccessful in securing housing because she had four girls and the two dogs. She has lived in the house and made it a home for the past five years.

I managed a retirement living and aged care facility in rural Victoria in the early 2000s. All the Independent Living Residents were encouraged to have pets. Those that did were encouraged to take their pets when visiting the Residential Care Facility to see friends or family. The joy on the faces of both residents and staff was really special. The staff were also encouraged to bring their dogs in to the residential care facility. The Director of Nursing and the two Division 1 nurses used to bring in their golden retrievers daily. From the moment they walked through the doors they would be off lead and free to wander the facility. They could sense the impending passing of a resident and would go and sit in their room with them.

Having the dogs there was so successful that we actually turned a glassed-off internal courtyard into a mini zoo. The local vets advised us and we put together a menagerie of birds, different reptiles, possums and a small pond. The animals were not natural predators of each other and we made sure they were always well fed. Residents often watched the animals around the glass. It was a really calming feature.

I moved on from that organisation and began working for a youth support agency, which had a crisis refuge for young people up to the age of 21. Again, all staff were encouraged to bring their dogs in when they came to work. The really amazing thing is that the dogs seemed to sense which of the young people were really vulnerable and approach and nuzzled them until they got a response. The dogs stayed by the side of the young person until they sensed that they were calm. They wandered freely through the house. If a group of young people stayed for a week, the dogs would rotate and spend one night with each young person. They did this intuitively without any input from the staff. Those who called the service were asked if they had a pet and were invited to bring them

The amazing thing is that the dogs seem to understand that the refuge was a place of high stress and tension and they didn’t get aggressive with each other at all. They sensed that peace and calm was what was needed, and they provided that.

I, myself, have two kelpies and could not consider a life without them. When I’m down or worried and when I’m happy, they sense that and provide fun and extroverted companionship.

In 2014, the recognition that pet therapy is integral to also assisting those with mental health issues, along with the anecdotal evidence that I presented, should go some way to establish and confirm the benefits of allowing pets to accompany their owners into homeless refuges. Perhaps the refuges could form partnerships and collaborate with animal shelters. That way, the shelters can provide the homeless centres with either pet food packages or through larger economies of scale purchasing partnerships to provide the homeless centres with cheaper pet foods.

From my experience and perspective, there are no significant negative impacts in allowing the homeless to bring their pets into the centres and providing pet accommodation. The only impediment to instituting initial change is in our minds. Once we are prepared to step outside the accepted thought lines, anything is possible.

Top 3 Portraits of Homeless People and their Pets

It can be heartbreaking to see homeless people struggling on the streets, and even more so when they have four-legged friends by their side. However, there is also something to be seen in the power of the bond between homeless people and the pets they keep. Projects in Australia and all throughout the world have captured the beauty of this relationship in a series of touching portraits. Here are some great ones:

1. LifeLines by Norah Levine

Norah Levine, photographer and animal-lover from Austin, TX, honours the relationship between people who are homeless with pets through amazing photographs and interviews.

“I wanted to capture the universal bond that exists between people and their pets and to illustrate that this shared bond is universal; it isn’t based on finances or home-ownership. The vast majority of pets I encountered during this project were treated with love and respect, both physically and emotionally and the relationship was mutually beneficial and positive.”

Photo credit: Norah Levine

Photo credit: Norah Levine

Photo credit: Norah Levine

Photo credit: Norah Levine

2. Love is the Colour: Portraits from Pets in the Park

This series of black and white portraits taken by Linda Warland portray the amazing bond between homeless owner and pet. They are specifically the clients of a great organisation in Sydney called Pets in the Park. Pets in the Park work to provide veterinary services to struggling Australians with pets. The exhibition is being shown alongside more works donated by artists during the 5 -30 November at the Gallery Mercure.

Photo credit: Pets in the Park

Photo credit: Pets in the Park

Photo credit: Pets in the Park

Photo credit: Pets in the Park

3. My Dog is My Home

My Dog is My Home: The Experience of Human-Animal Homelessness is a truly beautiful exhibition for the National Museum of Animals & Society’s LA facility. The exhibition pays homage to the bond between humans and animals who are living on the streets. It is inspiring, empowering and the artwork comes in many forms.

Elephant Forget Me Not Exhibitition

Elephant Forget Me Not Exhibition

Dog, Cat, Mouse Exhibition

Dog, Cat, Mouse Exhibition

There is beauty in such a strong and unique bond, and it’s great to be able to celebrate homeless people with pets through art.