To be homeless is not just to lack a place to call home.
For those of us to whom homelessness is unimaginable, easy access to everyday necessities is a given. A hot shower, a fridge full of food, the ability to go to work. But to experience homelessness is to go without almost everything most of us take for granted, not just the obvious.
Here are eight hidden things people experiencing homelessness go without every day.
There is no safe place to store possessions when you don’t have anywhere to call home. Everything they own must be portable and easily moved, as anything left behind is usually cleaned up by City rangers or parks officers.
2. A fixed address
Without a fixed address, someone experiencing homelessness is not able to access financial support through Centrelink. The irony is that they need the Centrelink payments to pay for a PO Box but cannot get the payments until they have that PO Box. You also cannot renew a driver’s license, bank cards, or open a bank account, making it even more of a challenge for a person experiencing homelessness to get back on their feet.
We all have a right to feel safe. But for a person experiencing homelessness, the ability to lay their head down at night feeling safe and secure, ready for a full night’s rest, is far from their reality. With no access to a bed and fearing for their safety, sleep deprivation adds up and can lead to a host of other problems, like mental illness, drug abuse and higher rates of violence.
Privacy is another fundamental human right that is not afforded to those experiencing homelessness. A person without a home may have no other choice but to sleep, urinate and wash in public, which most of us are able to do in the privacy of our own homes.
5. Cooking facilities
With no regular access to a fridge, microwave or other cooking facilities, a person experiencing homelessness has no way to prepare their own food. Cooking your own meals is often a cheaper and healthier option, not to mention a freedom that is taken away when you don’t have a place to live.
6. Laundry and bathroom facilities
Without easy access to a bathroom or washing machine, personal hygiene is difficult to maintain. Someone experiencing homelessness may be forced to live and sleep in the same clothes for days on end. And imagine trying to hold down a job when you’ve got nowhere to take a shower.
Taken for granted for a good night’s sleep by most of us, a person experiencing homelessness must do without the comfort and support of a mattress. The cold, hard ground causes pain, making sleep difficult. Cardboard is a poor substitute.
8. Access to electricity
It seems trivial when you’re fearing for your safety and battling sleep deprivation, but a mobile phone is a necessity in today’s world – a lifeline to employment and overcoming homelessness. But even with a device, finding somewhere to charge it is a challenge.
On 23 June 2022, leaders in business, community and government will sleep without shelter on one of the longest nights of the year to help change the lives of Australians experiencing homelessness. Visit the website to find out more about the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.