The ‘positive’ side to a national crisis

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Luke Howarth is the government’s Assistant Minister for Homelessness, tasked with tackling the huge increase in the number of people without somewhere safe and secure to sleep.

But the poor Queensland MP is tired of always dwelling on the negatives of the issue — sad statistics like the 13.7 per cent increase in the number of homeless people over the past five years.

Instead, he said this morning that he wants to put “a positive spin” on the issue.

Australia is “a fantastic country” and only a “very, very small percentage” of people are battling the housing crisis, he told ABC Radio.

“What I’m saying, and I want your listeners to know, is that Australia, we live in a fantastic country,” Mr Howarth said.

“We have 99.5 per cent of Australians … homed and living in safe places.

“I want to put a positive spin on it as well and not just say Australia’s in a housing crisis when it affects a very, very small percentage of the population.”

Mr Howarth has a really good point.

If you think about it, there are so many positives to not having a stable place to stay and relying on the streets, a tent in a park, a rare spot in a shelter or someone’s couch.

If you like camping, you might just love being homeless — just one of the positives of the issue. Picture: Hollie Adams
media_cameraIf you like camping, you might just love being homeless — just one of the positives of the issue. Picture: Hollie Adams

For one, overbearing relatives and friends who ignore social convention can’t just pop in unannounced when you’re homeless. There’s no door for them to unexpectedly knock on.

You never have to worry about cleaning or doing laundry. I know I hate folding clothes after they come out of the dryer.

Forget the skyrocketing cost of electricity. You don’t get bills when you’re homeless. In fact, you don’t get mail at all.

No door-to-door salespeople or other nuisance guests.

And what a diverse range of scenery the homeless must experience. Being so mobile, they can virtually relocate to anywhere they like!

Well, that is, until the police move them on, away from the nice public spaces and to the dark and damp patch of dirt beneath a bridge or overpass.

RELATED: Inside the homeless tent city taking over Sydney’s iconic Martin Place

Luke Howarth did the CEO Sleepout and got to wear a super cool beanie, which is a positive of homelessness, presumably. Picture: AAP
media_cameraLuke Howarth did the CEO Sleepout and got to wear a super cool beanie, which is a positive of homelessness, presumably. Picture: AAP

Shuffling between boarding houses and crisis accommodation, desperately trying to find a vacant spot to crash in for a while, to escape extreme weather or blistering cold, must be a bit like going on holiday all the time.

Think of all the friends you’d get to make.

Homeless people can dine alfresco every day, which I know I really enjoy. Sure, typically when it’s warm or I’m on holiday, but still.

Homeless people can make a game out counting all those who ignore them like they don’t exist.
media_cameraHomeless people can make a game out counting all those who ignore them like they don’t exist.

And the people-watching all day long must be incredible.

All of those thousands of faces rushing by, averting their gazes, must be fascinating to take in, and you could even make a little game of counting how many walk around or step over you, like you don’t exist.

Avoiding violence and other precarious and life-threatening situations could be a bit like a constant game of hide and seek, which might be fun.

Sure, access to essential services like medicine and social support is extremely difficult, but what a way to learn how to be self-sufficient.

Homeless people enjoy a variety of scenery. Picture: Tim Pascoe
media_cameraHomeless people enjoy a variety of scenery. Picture: Tim Pascoe

For the thousands of young people who are homeless, some say that life experience is the best education you can get. And good thing, because most of them don’t get an actual education.

Yes, Mr Howarth is right, Australia truly is a wonderful place and there are more people in homes than not.

Just like there are more people without cancer than there are, more instances of peaceful society than terror attacks, and more safe car journeys than not.

So, maybe we should follow Mr Howarth’s lead and put a positive spin on all those other issues that ordinarily get attention and government funding.

The 116,000 homeless Australians will no doubt appreciate a bit of happiness and optimism in the discussion.

Originally published as The ‘positive’ side to a national crisis

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