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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Homelessness or Houselessness?

Another new suburb is opening in Melbourne. Its vast former farming lands will stretch the boundaries of our city once more. People slept in their cars over night to be first in line to buy empty blocks, just one more sign of the desperation felt by many who cannot afford housing in our wonderful city. But amazingly, there were also a good percentage of investors queuing up for the new blocks. One man and his wife were there to buy what will become their twelfth investment property.

So, where does this leave people who are yet to own their own home? With housing prices going through the roof, it is becoming more and more difficult to even save the deposit in order to buy a home. It is estimated that it will take couples at least five years to save for a deposit for a home in one of the outer suburbs. At least ten years to save for a deposit for a home closer to the city. I guess it would take even longer for single people to save.

Rents are sky rocketing and there is a distinct lack of social housing. More and more people are sleeping in their cars, couch surfing or taking to the streets. These are the new houseless members of our society. Why do we tolerate this? By the same token, Melbourne’s boundaries can only be stretched so far before the effects are felt with a lack of infrastructure, leaving these new suburbs in a state of disconnect from the rest of the city.

According to the website, homelessness is defined as: 'An inadequate experience of connectedness with family and or community,' (Dominic Mapstone). This fact is now recognized by Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

Until I looked it up I didn’t realise there was a difference between homelessness and houselessness. Reading through the website it appears that homelessness is more about social connectivity and feeling a part of something, more than actually not having a roof above one’s head. There have been instances of people refusing shelter simply because the shelter offered is not in the geographic area that they consider themselves to be part of. And there are instances of people having shelter, but ending up on the streets because they are lonely in their accommodation and all their friends are still on the streets.

Of course there is also the matter of safety in some of our rooming houses and shelters. I’ve heard many stories of women and children dealing with environments that we wouldn’t want our animals to live in, let alone other human beings. There are corrupt and greedy landlords everywhere, but apparently there are more than enough of them preying on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

So what is the answer to both homelessness and houselessness? How do we prevent people suffering from loneliness and a lack of social connection? Will the same feeling prevail in our new distant suburbs, where people will be left in nice houses in the middle of nowhere, with little public transport? Have we not only created a society of haves and have nots, but also a society where the privileged are also geographically better off?


  1. This is an issue here in the UK too, and has been since the erection of high-rise flats (apartments) in the 1960's. While the majority of these edifices are now gone, they have been replaced by vast estates of housing that have encrached on what little countryside some areas have left. I wouldn't like to be starting out on the property ladder at this moment because of inflated pricing and unrealistic rents.

  2. I think it is very hard on people everywhere. People with wealth buying and reselling to make more money doesn't help those trying to buy their first home.

  3. I didn't know there was a difference either. You make extremely good points.

    Off topic, but have you written any of this to you're local news? You could have your own news column.

  4. I believe that the biggest cause of homelessness is a lack of low income housing. Period. Even in the 80's and 90's it was already being written in Rachel and her Children (excellent book about homelessness) that is the root cause and how it is highly misunderstood by the majority of society to be the root cause.

  5. With high rents and ridiculous prices paid for land and property, no one stands a chance. I don't envy what my kids are going to face in the future.

  6. Housing problems are constantly growing. Scary.

  7. Everywhere houselessness is driving people to desperation and squatting. Homelessness to me would be less uncomfortable because though you want good company, it cannot be fun to be sleeping outside in the rain or a old car. This urban divide is getting larger as people fight to live in cities and the working class can barely afford to pay rent.

  8. Whenever I even consider proposing a move, I am glad to have my nice, humble home. I think I will just stay put for awhile.

  9. According to that definition of homelessness ("inadequate connection with family.."), nearly all Americans are homeless!

  10. Leah - it sounds like there's a similar story around the world.

    gayle - very true! but I don't know how to combat that.

    Domestic - I hadn't thought of approaching the local newspaper! Will have to think about that.

    Kristy - I agree. Here the government is lagging behind with low income housing options.

    Gaz - I wonder what my boys will do too!

    Marnie - it is scary. I wish I knew the answer.

    Joedian - very true. There is definitely a divide between the haves and have nots.

    Kazzy - I'm renting and I'd love to own my own home. It might be a pipe dream, but I'm going to see if I can make it!

    Robyn - now thats sad!!! xo

  11. Wow, that is interesting. It's hard to reach out to people who aren't getting enough social'ness, though because they're never know what I mean? I think we need to always remember kindess when we reach out to people, sometimes all someone needs is that inviting smile and they're hooked. Crazy market out there! Good luck!!

  12. I wish that we, globally speaking, spent more time on the needy than on war.

  13. Isn't it amazing that no matter how far apart we live, we experience the same situations? Until we stop thinking in terms of me, myself and I, things won't change too much.

  14. Eneida - kindness is always a good thing to remember!

    Jessi - I guess more people make money out of war than out of helping the needy.

    Joy - No matter how different, we are all the same! I guess the way we can change things is by teaching our children to think of others.


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