Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people." That triggered a response from one of the guests: "How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!"
Jesus followed up. "Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’
"Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’
"Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’
"And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’
"The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.’
"The servant reported back, ‘Master, I did what you commanded— and there’s still room.’
"The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’"
From a Salvation Army Media Release, dated 9 July, 2009.
The Challenge to Slash Homelessness by 2020
The Salvation Army welcomes the release of state and territory Counting The Homeless 2006 reports today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. These provide the benchmark data for the efforts required to address homelessness in Australia.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Counting the Homeless 2006 reports were co-authored by Associate Professor David Mackenzie from the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University and Associate Professor Chris Chamberlain from RMIT using 2006 Census data, data on users of SAAP services combined with data from a national census of homeless students. Australia is unique amongst Western countries in having good data on the homeless population and on service usage.
Homeless has remained at about 100,000 persons – men, women and children for a decade and in the past period little priority was given to addressing this issue. Some 30,000 units of public housing were lost and real funding for homelessness services steadily decreased. At a time when Government revenues were recording unprecedented surpluses and unemployment reached a fifteen-year low, homeless people were not able to benefit nor was public money invested in the issue.
The Rudd Government has given homelessness a high priority on its social policy agenda. The White Paper released in December, 2008 by Minister Tanya Plibersek was a landmark document with strong policy positions. However, the global financial crisis has caused huge dislocations in the international economic system and unemployment rates are beginning to rise. Reports are coming in of disadvantaged people being especially affected.
The number of rough sleepers in the inner-city areas of capitals throughout Australia has increased, with the exception of Melbourne, along with the number of children 12 years and under and elderly people 65 and older.
Young people (aged 12 to 25 years) are a significant group in the homeless population on census night – 32,444 individuals in total. The good news is that the number of homeless teenagers on their own has decreased by some 21% from 2001 to 2006 and this is attributed to the impact of early intervention. However, over the same period the number of homeless families increased by 17 per cent. There were 2714 homeless children under 12 in Victoria on census night 2006 – compared with 2618 in 2001 – an increase of 7 per cent. During 2006-2007, the AIHW report Homeless people in SAAP for Victoria reported that 20,500 children had accompanied a parent(s) who were clients of SAAP services.
The Salvation Army is committed to working with the Commonwealth and State Governments to develop effective responses to homelessness. We are particularly concerned about the growing numbers of homeless families. The Global Financial Crisis and the crisis in supply of affordable housing impact this group significantly. It is imperative that we develop early intervention strategies to prevent more families becoming homeless and that interim housing options are put in place for those who lose their homes.
The bold targets set in the Rudd Government’s Homelessness White Paper are achievable but can only be realised if community groups, local communities, corporate and government work collaboratively at the local level to prevent people becoming homeless and respond quickly and appropriately to those experiencing housing crisis. These Census figures assist us to confront these challenges.
Southern Territory Comissioner Jim Knaggs recently posted that The Salvation Army was voted by consumers the most trusted brand in Australia. And with good reason – the Salvos are very much into working with those who are overlooked. Their homelessness programs, their domestic violence refuges, their counselling and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs have enabled them to help a great number of people. That help can’t happen without financial support, so why not consider donating to the Salvos – you can do so from their website.