A MAN contacted our Church the other day; he was struggling to find secure accommodation for himself and the two young people he cared for, both of whom had complex needs.
Unable to access social housing and finding it impossible to survive in the rental market he came to the Church looking for assistance and a supportive community.
How could I help? I was new to the area, not familiar with the services in the community. Where could I go to find out what was in my area? I didn’t just want to refer them to someone who might know more than me only to begin a long chain of referrals.
It was this kind of scenario that began the idea of an online homelessness directory launched in September.
This directory is the implementation of a decision made by the 27th Queensland Synod as part of a comprehensive suite of proposals adopted as a response to homelessness. Collaboration between UnitingCare’s Centre for Social Justice and the Synod Communication Services Unit has made this possible.
Rather than having expert local knowledge, anyone can respond to enquiries using information from one website tailored to the needs of the Uniting Church. It also provides guides to engaging with people who come seeking assistance.
So often not only are we unaware of the services available but we also lack experience about the best way to help. Often people will be far from their normal locality when they contact a church. This directory means someone in Mansfield can find out the services available in Aspley or people in Charters Towers can find the services available in Robina.
This alone will not solve Australia’s homelessness crisis.
Homelessness Australia reports that nearly one in every 200 Australians is without safe, secure or affordable housing. 23 percent of Australia’s homeless are children, half the people who request accommodation are turned away and two out of every three children who need support are turned away.
Those who work with the most marginalised in our community, including asylum seekers fleeing torture and persecution, report that finding safe secure housing is the most difficult need to meet.
In light of that evidence the website also seeks to inform people about how to engage in advocacy. It includes details about how to contact your local politician and even sample letters that can be adapted to local situations.
Later down the track the aim is for congregation members to be able to add their own local services so that it can be more useful across Queensland.
This initiative is another way the Queensland Synod is seeking to live out its commitment to be a reconciling community called to see Christ in the poor and the marginalised.
A Place to Call Home – 27th Synod recap
AT THE 27th Queensland Synod meeting last November members affirmed a proposal relating to homelessness from Aitkenvale Uniting Church minister Mark Dewar and UnitingCare Chief Executive Officer Anne Cross entitled A Place to Call Home.
Ms Cross said the proposal was a step towards congregations and Church agencies making a real difference in the lives of Queensland’s homeless community.
The proposal came out of a Housing and Homelessness Forum sponsored by the Synod Leadership Team held in 2008 and explored ways the Church could respond to these major social issues.
A Place to Call Home requests all arms of the Church to form relationships in their local community and to work out ways to assist people struggling with homelessness or in need of emergency accommodation.
It asks the financial and organisational bodies of the Church (including UnitingCare) to investigate appropriate models for structuring the provision of affordable housing, to support congregations who wish to provide support, and to lobby local, state and federal government to amend public policy on the issues involved with homelessness in Australia.