Homelessness has been a topic close to my heart for many years. It saddens me that our latest Census in 2016 shows that there are 116,427 people in Australia who are homeless, but it shocks me to hear that 1 in 20 of these people may be ex-military personnel.
We know that there are so many contributing factors to homelessness, among those housing and renting stress, domestic violence, mental illness, unemployment and age as discussed in the Australian Catholic Bishops 2018-19 Social Justice Statement, “A Place to Call Home”, but returned veterans can be particularly vulnerable to homelessness.
Physical impairment and mental illness are, as I see it, two of some of the major issues facing those who return from war. At CatholicCare, while we are not a specialised homelessness service or one that tends specifically to physical impairment, we certainly see the impact of mental illness on those who find themselves without a place to call home.
Mental illness alone can lead to strained or broken relationships in the family and in the wider community, such as with friends or colleagues. It can also contribute to domestic violence and substance misuse, and all of these issues can make it difficult and often impossible to maintain employment and, essentially, to retain a place they call home.
As we currently stand, CatholicCare provides housing support to refugees and asylum seekers with the collaboration and help from parishes and other service organisations. We also refer clients who are without a home, or on the verge of homelessness, to service organisations which can provide them with emergency accommodation while we work together to provide them with emergency financial assistance and support them with their mental health, employment status and any other issues they may be facing.
At CatholicCare we are here to support everyone who finds themselves on the fringes of society, and we do all in our power to bring them back in. Everyone deserves the right to have a place to call home, and everyone deserves the chance to live life to the fullest. We will keep doing our part to help strengthen and build relationships for those who are vulnerable, in a bid to keep them home and stop homelessness before it occurs. And I hope that one day we will be able to say that Australia is a place where everyone, regardless of age, background or anything else, has the right to a home.
Netty Horton is the Chief Executive Officer of CatholicCare Archdiocese of Melbourne and Diocese of Sale.