Here’s a heartwarming story. Over in the United States, a homeless man called Billy Ray Harris has earned himself adulation and one hell of a payday after returning a woman’s lost engagement ring.
Sarah Darling accidentally dropped her rather pricey ring into Harris’ coin cup with some spare change. Billy presumably could have sold it for a few thousand hot meals, but when an understandably panicked Darling tracked him down the next day, he happily returned it.
Now Darling’s fiancee has set up a website seeking donations for Billy, and the money is pouring in. It just goes to show that sometimes kindness does pay. Big time. So, would you have returned Sarah’s engagement ring? Be honest now. We’re not such a judgmental bunch here.
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New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show an 8 per cent increase in the homelessness rate on 2006 figures, a fact that should be a matter of concern for all Australians. The figures demonstrate that there is still a lot of work to be done to address homelessness and that far too many Australians are being pushed to the margins of society; struggling to find a way out and rebuild their lives.
The figures show that 105,237 people in Australia are experiencing homelessness, with 60 per cent of those under the age of 35. In NSW, the results showed that there were 28,190 people experiencing homelessness up by 21 per cent on 2006 figures.
Perhaps surprising to many people is that 41 per cent of these are women, 13 per cent are under the age of 12 and 56 per cent are under the age of 35.
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This week marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of Anti-Poverty Week. It is a timely opportunity to think about what experiencing poverty means in Australia in 2012 and more importantly, what can be done to address it.
Australia is undoubtedly doing very well on most economic and social indicators. We have had largely uninterrupted economic growth for the last 20 years, survived the GFC without too much pain, unemployment remains very low and high school completion rates are the highest they have ever been.
You could be forgiven for thinking that poverty is not an issue that should concern us greatly.
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Where would you go if you had to sleep rough? Would you sleep in a cemetery, a doorway, a drain, an abandoned building?
People who work with the homeless see and hear some amazing, dark stories – one of the oddest they tell is that desperate people have been known to sleep in cemeteries, even climbing into graves to find shelter and safety.
An Adelaide homeless man was found living in a drain a few years back – they worked out he’d been there for six years.
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Each night in Australia 105,000 people are homeless, including 7,500 families. Each June leading Australian CEOs and business leaders sleep rough for one night in support of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.
Contrary to common perceptions about homelessness, 44 per cent of homeless people are women, many of these accompanied by children. It is a shocking fact that more than 12,000 Australian children under the age of 12 are experiencing some form of homelessness. A further 22,000 young people aged 12 to 18 are homeless, most of them estranged from their families. That’s more than 34,000 kids without a place they can call home.
Speaking at the recent launch of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout 2012, Dr John Falzon, St Vincent de Paul Society CEO, National Council said: “Children who are homeless are more likely to become homeless later in life and raise families who, in turn, also become homeless. You can guess why we haven’t solved the problem.”
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Welcome to this week’s I Call Bullshit, a regular column where we take a look at codswallop and propaganda, logical failures and brain farts. The big news today is the Government’s plan to pay families to look after asylum seekers.
Last year, to ease pressure on detention centres, the Government started releasing more people into the community on bridging visas – but there’s still not enough room.
So now they’re going to use the Australian Homestay Network - a network of households who have already signed up to look after international students. The Government will cover the costs of room and board – about $140 per asylum seeker per week.
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This is an edited extract of a moving and deeply personal speech a man called Ian gave at the launch of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s CEO Sleepout. The actual event is tonight. Visit the website if you want to help out.
You’ve never met me, you don’t know me. My name is Ian and I was an addict for 15 years. I started when I was 15 when a dealer dropped a packet of heroin in front of me and my mate. Three days later we were injecting. The dealer looked after us. He gave us a job which was to carry his little wraps of tinfoil for him - it was my first job.
He and his dealer mates were my role models at the time. My dad was alcoholic and had left early on and my mum struggled to raise me and my three sisters. All but one sister became drug addicts too.
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