I’m probably not the person you may have in mind when you think of a homeless person, as I’m now a director of two psychology clinics.
Being homeless is often caused by family domestic violence as it was in my case. I spent many months “nannying” my way through my business degree at QUT to avoid being on the street. It caused me considerable hardship to have to work a casual job, nanny till late hours and study full-time commerce.
This is an unusual Christmas message, but with all the storms in Brisbane this week I have been thinking about all the storms in my life. Severe storms threaten our homes and where we live. The storms of life mean that so many don’t even have a place to live. I am not one of those company directors that needs a night on the streets to know how homelessness feels: I have woken up enough mornings in my young life where I didn’t know where I would be sleeping that night!
What are the causes of Homelessness?
This Christmas many of our young people will be staying on the couches of friends or maybe in a refuge. Over 100,000 people in Australia will not have access to stable housing.
Family and relationship breakdown and domestic violence would probably top the list of reasons behind homelessness. Unemployment, poverty and lack of affordable housing are other common factors. Natural disasters such as severe storms, fire and floods are events that cause large proportions of our local population to become homeless.
People that are homeless are both men and women, half are single, and sadly, a quarter are families with children.
Who could be Homeless?
What our statistics don’t explain is the number of people that fear homelessness. Many in our society would not be sure of housing in 2015 if their businesses were close to collapse, if they experienced domestic violence and if they were without savings or stable employment. In fact, according to the South Queensland Council for Homelessness, most of us are just two payslips away from homelessness.
What can you do?
There are many things we can all do to help our community this Christmas to prevent homelessness.
- You could provide the couch or spare room to a friend or family member at risk of homelessness.
- If you are an employer, you might be able to help out a staff member who is homeless, to move into more stable housing by providing the job that supports them financially. Be open and talk to your staff, and bear in mind that some may need that job or hours more than others.
- If you are able to donate to charities that help the homeless, then this is really great idea.
- If you know of someone going through a hard time, then don’t be surprised if they raise the fear of being homeless as one of the reasons they stay in a violent relationship. Be a friend and offer a shoulder to cry on, and help them to find alternatives.
What can change Homelessness?
In my case, finding a wonderful partner was one solution; gaining an education was another. It isn’t easy to know how to find a stable place when you are are young with few resources. The stigma of homelessness can affect how you perceive yourself. and prevent you from asking for help.
One of the profoundly wonderful parts of my job as a psychologist is seeing many of my clients move out of relationships that are violent, moving into education and secure employment. and taking control of events that may cause homelessness. I know that this process can take many years but with determination and willpower it is entirely possible.
The stigma of mental health problems is another issue with homelessness. It is nearly impossible to not be depressed or anxious if you don’t have a place to live! Mild depression/anxiety feeds off the insecurity caused by homelessness and sometimes disables the person from putting in the hard yards to move into more secure housing.
My Top Tips for Avoiding Future Homelessness
There are no easy solutions, but these are my top tips for getting yourself out of fearing homelessness or being homeless:
- Long term planning is the key – don’t focus on the present, see a picture of how things can be rather than how they are. This will help you feel less depressed and hopeless.
- Access all the help you can find – don’t avoid help if you feel stigmatised. Don’t get overwhelmed if some people don’t help, just keep asking, just keep looking, persist and persist and persist.
- Education and secure work – find educational programs that have a good chance of a secure job. Don’t go for glamorous, try to study jobs that pay good money. My top tip is to study nursing or aged care. With our ageing population, this is a growing market. It may not be glamorous – but it will pay the bills. Your self esteem will get a greater boost from paid employment, than if you study a fancy course with no job at the end!
- Seek Mentors – Homelessness often means that relationships end. Find mentors and people you can trust to give you honest feedback about what is good for you. Maybe you would have better chances of success if you managed how you present to an interview, or change how you study, or how you communicate.
- Co-operation and Self-Direction – these are two personality assets you will need every day. Get up and make yourself succeed and also care for others when you do that. We have enough self-centred people in the world, caring about others will cause reciprocation and help you in the long term. To develop both self-direction and co-operation skills, will take you many years and lots of hard work.
I hope this list will help drive your New Year to future success. One of my goals for sharing my personal journey with you is to give hope. As we share the things we have struggled with, then we give hope to others. If you could help share this post that would be wonderful. Thank you!
If you think that any of my wonderful psychology team may be of assistance please call my offices on Loganholme (07) 3067 9129 or Mt Gravatt (07) 3088 5422. We offer the free emotional health check ups and bulk billing to help those that are homeless or fear homelessness. I also provide the Free Emotional Health Check Ups because I remember being homeless and wondering who on earth could help, or would understand. My way of helping now is to be available for free, without a referral and without a cost.
There is a way ahead and the journey is not hopeless. May you find you and your family in a prosperous and caring New Year!
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (Hons), MAPS, MAICD.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- ABS (2012) http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/2049.0Main%20Features22011
- Australian Homelessness Clearinghouse. http://homelessnessclearinghouse.govspace.gov.au/about-homelessness/