Research forms the basis for each program and the material put forward in advocacy for specific places and needs. Research draws on the academic background of Sr Myree Harris, key members of the other organisations and other support personnel. It is also founded on personal experience of these people living and working with those in need in a variety of situations of homelessness.
The ABS has provided a statistical definition of homelessness in which it defines the difference between homelessness and rooflessness. Research suggests elements of a home include a sense of security, stability, privacy, safety and the ability to control living space. Homelessness is therefore a lack of one or more of these elements.
Sr Myree was asked to represent the Australian Bishops conference at an international meeting in Rome for the Pastoral Care of the Homeless in 2007. Prior to the meeting she was asked to obtain data on the situation with respect to homelessness in Australia and New Zealand. She was later asked to represent them in a conference held in Asia where she was asked to address the problem in Oceania. All this research has assisted her to identify the extent of the issue of homelessness and to be able to present these realities to the various committees of Church and State where she speaks on behalf of the homeless. The following excerpt from one of her presentations is just a snapshot as gathered from 2007 data.
Homelessness in Australia.
- There are 105,000 people homeless on any given night in Australia, based on the Counting the homeless segment of the 2006 census. (1)Among these are 7, 483 families with children. On census night 2006, there were 26,790 families without a home to call their own. This is an increase of 17% since the 2001 census. 12,133 or 12% are children under 12. Another 21% or 21,940 are children and young people aged 12 to 18, most of them homeless as well as estranged from their families. (2)17% are people over 55, almost 18,000 people. Of these, 64% are men and 36% are women.
- Asylum seekers have become Australia’s invisible homeless, because the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not track them. A 2009 survey in Victoria found that 78% of this group on the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme met the government definition for homelessness.
- Among the street homeless, 75% have been found to have mental illness. 23% of homeless men and 46% of homeless women have schizophrenia, in contrast to 1% of the general population.
- People with disabilities, especially women, make up another invisible group.
- Indigenous people are over-represented in every category of homelessness. While they represent 2.4% of the population, they represent 10% of the homeless. Rates are much higher in rural areas where they represent 69% of homelessness service users and in remote areas where they make up 88% of service users.
Another key area of research completed by Myree Harris in 2002.Churchill fellowship enabled study of treatment/ rehabilitation facilities for people with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse in USA, Canada and UK. Many people suffering with a dual diagnosis end in prison rather than hospital and do not receive appropriate treatment and on leaving prison often end up on the streets and are completely homeless. The full text of her report is available here.
Research is an ongoing part of Gethsemane Community Inc because change can only be brought about:
- By direct help to those who are in immediate need and
- By study to improve the system so that people will not be placed in such a needy position.
Society keeps changing and with each change whether it’s increasing globalisation, war, economic fallout or new groups of refugees fleeing from persecution, there are always new groups of people suffering physical and mental illness as well as experiencing homelessness in a new way. Ongoing research will always be seeking new ways to respond to the needs of these people, and groups like Gethsemane Community Inc will need your help to respond.
If you’d like to donate to Gethsemane Community to help us continue responding to those in need, please click the button below. Any amount will help us, and any donation is tax deductible.