On any given night in Australia, it is estimated that 105,000 people are homeless and the Hunter is not immune; it is believed 400, some as young as 12, are homeless or else “sleeping rough” in our own backyard.
Many people would be horrified to think that some teenagers spend their days and nights travelling on trains between Maitland and Sydney because they have nowhere else to go.
But that is the stark reality of the homelessness
problem that governments and welfare agencies alike seem unable to conquer, no matter how strong their will.
What is of particular concern is the cyclical nature of the problem. People fall into a poverty trap; they have little education and so find it difficult to secure a job, without a job they find it hard to put food on their table or a roof over their head, and so the no-job-no-home cycle begins like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Self-esteem plummets, along with personal hygiene and all too often relationships, and so the downward spiral continues. Unfortunately, crime often enters the scenario.
Maitland’s lack of affordable housing has been well documented; even cashed-up newcomers with secure jobs find it difficult to secure housing, let alone those who may be unemployed or otherwise impoverished.
The problem is too great for governments or welfare agencies to tackle singly.
A new approach is needed. Jobs and housing need to looked at as a package – not in isolation from each other.
Real skills need to be taught to enable these people to get real jobs; but that means nothing if their last resort is to sleep on trains.