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Issue #1921      June 29, 2020

Vulnerable workers will inevitably slide into skid-row because of the moribund system

Our youths have been at the forefront of being unemployed, under-employed, and homeless; soon, they will be joined by some of the low waged workers. The homeless youths are the most vulnerable. Their situation often has disruptive effects on their education, ability to find employment, and establishing a stable social network. These individuals face a higher mortality rate from mental health, injury, violence, communicable diseases, substance abuse, and lack of consistent medical care and basic hygiene and sanitation. They are often sexually exploited, increasing the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.

With growing inequity and austerity in Australia, a new innovative approach is urgently needed to protect workers of all ages from the disruptive effects of the moribund capitalist system, which victimises the victims.

To implement permanent supportive housing, all politicians, in both federal and state governments, need to start developing policy to provide the additional funds needed. The additional costs of delivering income assistance would be minimal and outweighed by its economic benefits to society.

People on skid-row in the land of the free – what can be done?

The Los Angeles Times reported 16th May that US District Judge David O Carter ordered city, county, and homelessness officials to provide space in shelters or alternative housing for the estimated 6,000-7,000 county residents living near freeway overpasses, underpasses, and ramps. The judge’s ruling compels local governments to develop a plan for doing so by 26th June.

In his ruling, Judge Carter wrote in part: “Homeless residents living near freeways are not only at risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the disease throughout the community, but also of being exposed to lead and other carcinogens as well as being hit by cars.”

As with many issues involving individuals experiencing homelessness, no party appears to be addressing this problem with any urgency, Judge Carter wrote.

While the figure provided to us by the four-year census may be an accurate measure of the number of homelessness people in Australia, the figure could be higher. Some individuals may only be homeless for a short period or a couch surfer. Thus, many people who experience homelessness may not be indicated on the census or, if they have not made contact with a shelter, never recorded at all. Therefore, the figures may be much higher.

Since the Great Depression of the ’30s there has never been a government program to prevent homelessness and give permanent rent and mortgage assistance within the intrinsically defective capitalist system.

There is an urgent necessity to persist in the most challenging task of educating our local and federal Australian politicians. We must also inform the public about food insecurity and the devastation of being hungry, the inability to pay high rent, and being homeless.

Next article – OP-ED: Wage theft off the menu in Victoria

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