Thursday, August 04, 2011

We privileged travellers and Homeless Persons' Week

Here in Australia it's National Homeless Persons' Week. So I'm going to hop on my soapbox for just a few minutes. Because I want to remind myself that I'm truly privileged to be able to write a blog about travel (and to even complain, sometimes, because I can't travel as much as I'd like to!). The closest I ever get to homelessness is landing in a city without an accommodation booking and having trouble finding a place to stay because everything's booked out for some big festival. That is like 0.000000000001% of the feeling of being homeless, I guess. What I mean to say is, I really can't imagine what it must be like not to have a home for the night.

But it can happen to anyone. A couple of years ago, when I was teaching English as a second language to foreign students here in Perth, I regularly took in copies of The Big Issue and talked to my students about the problems faced by Big Issue vendors (a number of whom are homeless). Some of my students were from countries that are generally considered poorer than Australia - south-east Asian and South American nations in particular - and those students expressed their surprise at seeing homeless people on Perth streets. They thought that in a rich country like Australia there wouldn't be any homeless people. Their logic is absolutely reasonable but sadly their thoughts are just not true.

So my thought for the week is to hope that I can encourage you, my readers, to also consider what it would be like to be homeless, and consider how you can help. I'm a big fan of The Big Issue because I know the vendors who sell it receive half of the cost of the magazine, and I know that The Big Issue as a whole does great work looking after homeless people and others with various disadvantages. But I'd love to hear some other ways so let me know in the comments. And whether you're at home or off travelling, remember that we're really lucky. Okay, I'm dismounting from the soap box right now. Thanks for listening!


  1. Here's something I haven't done yet, but I would like to buy some of these Backpack Beds and donate them to an organisation that works with homeless people in Perth, so they can distribute them. I think they're a wonderful idea and great design.

  2. I hadn't heard of these before Jane but what a great idea? Thanks heaps for passing it on. Have just liked them on Facebook to get more info and updates.

  3. Amanda, just yesterday I caught some random story on the news, and it showed this homeless person making their "home" underneath a bridge. He was a vet. I thought to myself, how can a rich country like the US, allow such BS to happen...

    I sat for a time, thinking about the rumbling train above that bridge, and crawly things and the three foot space from the belly of the bridge to the floorspace where he slept, and for the rest of the day I kept my mouth shut. I think it pleased a lot of people around me.

  4. Mila, it's so true. It can happy to anyone even in a supposedly rich country. I remember in Japan seeing middle-aged men camping out under canvas in the gardens of Osaka Castle Park and my students explained they were men who had lost their jobs (good jobs) and couldn't get another one so their wives divorced them (the women could then get pensions or something) and they went to live in the park. I always imagined they were people just like my dad, it was very sad.

  5. It also surprised me to see homeless people in Perth,since there is so much "richness" around!
    Just recently I wanted to donate a few bags of clothing and blankets to homeless people and after phoning a few organizations didn´t get any closer to giving them, so eventually I donated them to the Red Cross. I just hope that through the sale of stuff in their shops the money really goes to needy people. More should be done by the government to house the homeless.

  6. Sami, I agree, it's problematic to know sometimes where the donations (goods or money) go and if they're really used for the right people. One of the reasons I like buying The Big Issue is I get to know the vendors and can get a feeling for what they might be doing with the extra money they're getting (plus have a friend who worked with The Big Issue who made me feel reassured that the organisation as a whole is doing the "right thing").


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