The Big Issue : Edition 490
THEBIGISSUE7–13AUG2015 21 “I WAS PERSONALLY homeless on and off for nearly a decade. Ozanam House, the Gill, the Gatwick, beaches, parks (where I was attacked by a family of possums) – how dare I invade like a typical Captain Cook gubba? The attack led me to the Gatwick homeless hotel without beer – Rose and Yvette to the recue. True angels. Health time led me to the arms of the Inner South Community Health Service. They took me in hand and led me kicking and screaming to the current roof over my head. God bless all those without whom I might not be here talking so inadequately about such an important issue. We the homeless... What I’d like to see is far more affordable housing. Not only to the true homeless but also for the working poor, those ‘Aussie battlers’ sometimes used for federal and state politicians’ feel- good speeches. Suicide rates among the homeless both in rural areas and in the cities aren’t even counted as such; just another depressive succumbing to the stress of depression. It’s off the scale how we get to this. Tens of thousands in this country have no housing – not even a tin sheet. We, the homeless, demand affordable and adequate, child-friendly, well- built homes away from the dangerous and sometimes predatory streets, parks, squats and slums. We want law enforcement to recognise the myriad quantum of problems associated with homelessness. Drugs, violence, alcoholism – to name a few biggies. Depression, anxiety and a sense of hopelessness also come to mind. Politicians must act now! Appropriate funding being the key words. On any given night, thousands of Australian people – including children – have no roof over their heads. This is a disgrace, a bloody disgrace. All the shelters are chockers, the workers who carry the load are often overwhelmed, public-housing lists are off the scale... Some die waiting. Most, like myself, give up trying to find cheapish private rentals. If it wasn’t so tragic, it’d be a joke. No one is laughing, at least in the underground I came out of. There is no joyous mirth sitting through a rainy, frozen Melbourne winter. Sleeping rough, frozen sick. Nup, no laughter there. A good mate, long gone, once threw half a brick at a St Kilda police-station window. After half-a -dozen bounces off the plate glass, he finally got their attention and with screaming, deafening abuse convinced them to arrest him. To him, a cold cell with the obligatory one blanket was better than being outside overnight in the pissing icy rain! “They even gave me a cuppa tea and toast for breakfast,” he bragged later. He couldn’t cope with life... He purposefully OD’d one late night at my squat... At least it gave him a safe place to be, free of his pain inside. So let me tell you, homelessness isn’t vagrancy; it is a moral and economic crime (by the system). We the homeless only want a roof over our heads to call ‘home’. It isn’t much to ask. Now, for the moment, I may have a roof over my head. Yet I know I am just one fuck-up, one bureaucratic decision, two more breaches from being back to the park; back to the gutter, where I have been told so often I belong. We the homeless are sick to death of rejection and of decisions made for and about us... We the homeless deserve just a wee bit more, but not too much. Just care, guidance, understanding and, above all, a home. Nothing much really, just a home. Bless us all.” » Jem Buckley is a writer and musician. Once, during his 10 years in St Kilda, he was stabbed. A nurse, who happened to be nearby, saved him. He also paints, but loves writing most of all. WE THE HOMELESS ONE OF THE SPEAKERS AT THE HOMELESS MEMORIAL WAS JEM BUCKLEY. THIS IS SOME OF WHAT HE SAID ABOUT HIS OWN EXPERIENCES.