Homeless for Christmas: A Charity’s Desperate Plea - Hope 103.2

Homeless for Christmas: A Charity’s Desperate Plea

Mission Australia is calling on the nation to dig deep this gift-giving season for those without a place to call home.

By Mike CrooksWednesday 22 Nov 2023Social JusticeReading Time: 4 minutes

A charity is shining a light on a shocking statistic ahead of the festive season.

Mission Australia reports that every hour in Australia, a staggering 3,000 people reach out to homelessness services for help.

The news comes amid high cost-of-living pressures in Australia, which is forcing some people into desperate circumstances.

Many others are facing homelessness due to being displaced through natural disasters, domestic violence and other reasons.

“Without a doubt, Australia’s homelessness crisis has now escalated to an emergency,” Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister said.

71,000 per day

The startling amount of people calling for help was revealed in a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a Mission Australia spokesperson told Hope 103.2.

AIHW’s Specialist Homelessness Services Annual Report 2021–22 notes that homelessness services in Australia supported more than 71,000 people each day in that period.

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This means that nearly 3,000 people, on average, are calling support services for help.

Christmas Safe Homes

So, this December, Mission Australia is calling on the community to give a special gift this Christmas that will help someone in need.

Mission Australia’s Christmas Safe Homes campaign is a drive for donations to help the thousands of vulnerable individuals and families who are without a safe space to call home.

“This year in particular, we’ve seen really quite bleak circumstances which have pushed more people into homelessness and financial distress,” Ms Callister said.

“There’s not nearly enough social and affordable housing, we’ve had really tough economic times causing living and rental costs to rise, and people are going through challenges like domestic and family violence, mental health concerns and natural disasters.”

Donna’s agonising loss

One victim of such disaster is Lismore resident Donna*, who lost her home and belongings in last year’s devastating floods on the Australian east coast, reports Mission Australia.

“Half the house is underwater, I’ve lost the lot,” Donna said at the time.

It led to a desperate search for accommodation for her and her dog, Tucker.

But through Mission Australia’s team in Coffs Harbour, on NSW’s north coast, Donna was able to secure emergency accommodation in the city, and now has a permanent home.

Yet other people remain displaced from the floods.

“We hope people see our Christmas campaign and start to rethink their understanding of homelessness and understand that it happens to people that we know,” Ms Callister said.

Ruby’s sadness

In another example of the thousands seeking help every hour, single dad Justin* and his daughter Ruby were evicted from their home after Justin lost his job and could no longer pay the rent.

“Rent and expenses have just gone up so much, we couldn’t stay,” Justin told Mission Australia.

The pair were living in a friend’s garage, until Mission Australia found the family temporary accommodation.

“People who have never been homeless are struggling to make ends meet and find a safe, secure home – and they’re asking us for help,” Ms Callister said.

Laura’s brave act

Laura* is one of those desperate Australians who reached out for help.

The 30-year-old and her 5-year-old boy Ollie* found themselves displaced due to domestic violence.

Though she had tried to keep her family together, Laura became so fearful for her and Ollie’s safety, she made the courageous decision to escape.

“I just needed to get us out,” she said. “Anywhere is better than a violent home.”

After devising a plan with a Mission Australia specialist, she fled her partner. A case worker ushered her and Ollie into a safe house.

They now have a permanent home.

“Our staff, volunteers and supporters are committed to creating hope and opportunity for the people we assist, particularly at this time of increased need and the Christmas period,” Ms Callister said.

Homeless Australians

Homelessness Australia reports that there over 120,000 people experiencing homeless in the country on any given night (based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2021 Census).

Only around 6 per cent of these people are “sleeping rough.”

Indeed, the majority of homelessness is hidden: “People in crisis accommodation, rooming houses, insecure housing, overcrowded dwellings or couch surfing,” Homelessness Australia reported.

A plea to help

Ms Callister said that Mission Australia knows the extent to which Australians are doing it tough, “but we hope that those who can, consider donating to help people struggling to keep themselves and their families safe, well and housed.

“We also know that at Christmas time, financial and other pressures can increase, and we anticipate this will again be the case this year given the massive trials faced by people in 2023.”

For more information, or to donate, visit missionaustralia.com.au or phone 1800 888 868.

*Mission Australia has changed the names of the case studies to protect their identity.