The Hidden Poor

by | Aug 21, 2018 | Formation, Reflections

The St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Herbert Portanier fears for the homeless and says government help is not enough to provide for the needs of society’s disadvantaged. Picture: Meg De Young

Becoming homeless ‘not chosen’

Homeslessness is not something people choose – sometimes they are simply unlucky and fall on hard times.

St Vincent de Paul Society executive and volunteer Herbert Portanier regularly meets people experiencing housing insecurity.

“All it takes is for the primary income earner to lose their job,” Mr Portanier said.

“This can often mean relying on Newstart or other welfare benefits to pay for the basics.”

If a family or individual were renting, government assistance generally was not enough to pay for the basics – especially rent, which was on the rise.

“The stress this puts on confidence and relationships is immense and, in extreme circumstances, can lead to homelessness,” Mr Portanier said.

Other examples were people who had been in traffic accidents or injured in the workplace.

A sudden loss of income could lead to seeking temporary accommodation, such as couch surfing with friends, or living in a rooming house, a notoriously expensive and tough environment.

“If someone is working and they lose their job, the current Newstart weekly payment for a single person is about $272 [a week], plus some rent assistance of about $67,” Mr Portanier said:.

“If they’re paying $220 in rent, then they will have $17 a day to pay for everything else – food, clothing, transport and more.”

This was why many people did without secure accommodation and ended up sleeping rough.

Mr Portanier agreed that they were the hidden poor: “Unless you look, you don’t see them.”

Source: Morning Peninsula News, Australia

Questions to ponder:

  • Do you know of any hidden poor?
  • Are we keeping our eyes open, looking for the hidden poor?

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