The Home­less Ye Shall Always Have With You

Flattr this!

Par­don the Bib­li­cal open­ing from an agnos­tic, but there’s wis­dom in Jesus’s say­ing that is rel­e­vant here: what­ever we do to reduce home­less­ness, there will still be home­less.

At the most basic level, it’s a sim­ple func­tion of turnover. Even if we could house every­one who was home­less today, there would be home­less peo­ple liv­ing on the streets tomor­row, because there are always peo­ple leav­ing where they live and hav­ing nowhere to go.

It may be because they are escap­ing an abu­sive rela­tion­ship, and being nowhere is bet­ter than being “home”; or they might have a men­tal ill­ness, or an addic­tion, that leads to evic­tion with no notice–and results in them being turned away from other pri­vate accom­mo­da­tion, and unable to find space in a home­less shel­ter.

So though it may be a noble social aim to house every­body, there will always be some peo­ple sleep­ing rough. And the cur­rent plight of the home­less in Australia–and the rest of the world–is a long way from ideal. The ABS 2006 Cen­sus esti­mated that on aver­age over 16,000 Aus­tralians were sleep­ing rough on any given night, out of the over 100,000 who are home­less. Char­i­ties and shel­ters are not cop­ing with the demands for emer­gency accom­mo­da­tion, with 4 out of 5 fam­i­lies and 3 out of 5 indi­vid­u­als being turned away from home­less shel­ters every day.

This real­ity is what pro­pelled Tony Clark to estab­lish national char­ity Swags for Home­less. If it was impos­si­ble to house all the home­less, then even if there was a polit­i­cal com­mit­ment to abol­ish home­less­ness, some­thing had to be done for those who were home­less now.

Tony’s solu­tion was a portable bed or “Back­pack Bed” that pro­vided far more com­fort and safety than the usual home­less person’s solu­tion of card­board boxes, papers, or old blan­kets. The Back­pack Bed he and his co-designer wife Lisa designed is so inno­v­a­tive that it is now the ‘Best of the Best’ win­ner in this year’s Red Dot awards, the worlds largest and most pres­ti­gious inter­na­tional prod­uct design com­pe­ti­tion that has pre­vi­ously been won by the Apple iPad and Dyson vac­uum clean­ers. Tony and Lisa will col­lect the Award on behalf of Swags for Home­less on July 4th in Essen, Ger­many.

Given this inter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, and the fact that over 100+ home­less char­i­ties dis­trib­ute the Back­pack Bed
- it is rather galling that Swags for Home­less is receiv­ing zero fund­ing assis­tance from the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment, and has to rely instead on pri­vate tax deductible dona­tions to pro­vide the A$68 needed to pro­duce each Back­pack Bed (why not con­sider donat­ing today–there’s still time to get the tax deduc­tion for this finan­cial year). If the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment made a mere $2.1 mil­lion avail­able, Swags for Home­less could pro­duce enough study-proven life sav­ing Back­pack Beds for every rough sleeper in the coun­try to have a bet­ter night’s sleep. This com­pares to the multi-bil­lion p.a. com­mit­ment that the gov­ern­ment made to reduc­ing home­less­ness in its 2008 Whitepa­per.

The stated aim of that Whitepa­per is to “Halve over­all home­less­ness; and Offer sup­ported accom­mo­da­tion to all rough sleep­ers who need it” by 2020. But that noble aim will still leave half those sleep­ing rough on park benches with­out decent cover, and it will take a dozen years to get there even if it suc­ceeds (par­don my cyn­i­cism. but I do recall a pre­vi­ous Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter declar­ing that “by 1990 no Aus­tralian child will be liv­ing in poverty “; that tar­get was declared a mere 3 years before it failed to be achieved).

The Government’s reluc­tance to sup­port Swags for Home­less seems to emanate from the “if we do this we under­mine our noble objec­tive” syndrome–even though the objec­tive is a future goal rather than a cer­tainty, and even though it would still leave 50% of the home­less with­out accom­mo­da­tion even if it suc­ceeded.

This is silly: polit­i­cal grand­stand­ing is get­ting in the way of sim­ple, afford­able prag­ma­tism.

If you’d like to help prag­ma­tism win over grand­stand­ing, email the Min­is­ter for Social Hous­ing and Home­less­ness Mark Arbib and sug­gest that he make a dona­tion of A$2.1 mil­lion to Swags for Home­less. Wouldn’t it be great if, when Tony and Lisa accept the Award, they can announce this sup­port from the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment?

About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.
Bookmark the permalink.
  • sir­ius

    If the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment made a mere $2.1 mil­lion avail­able”

    Is it a vote win­ner ? (sorry to sound so cyn­i­cal).

    But here I see an age-old prob­lem along the lines of “give a man a fish he shall live for a day, teach him to fish and…well you know what I am talk­ing about.

    In truth I believe that if we search within our­selves we already know the answer(s).

    I like the Bib­li­cal com­ment because in truth I now start to realise just how much the Bible and tak­ing a good look around at “God’s Cre­ation” can reveal the answer.

    (That still sounds funny for me to say).

    Carry on.

  • sir­ius

    I read 1000s of posts and every so often I get one that is start­ing to unravel the truth about this sys­tem.

    There is a lit­tle “con­flab” going on at the Mar­ket-Ticker — I pro­vide two posts. (There is “link­age” to my prior post).…


    @bertdilbert So any­one who deliv­ered a truck full of toi­let paper to the GSA and expects to get paid is part of the FSA?

    I love wingnuts rec­tocra­nial inver­sion.

    Yes. That is because you were under taxed. To pay your fair share of taxes you would have to pay 42% more tax. Even if you did not receive money from the gov­ern­ment, you indi­rectly took advan­tage of the increased eco­nomic activ­ity and thus got your free ****.

    Now pony up and pay your 42% more tax or admit you are part of the free **** army. Every­body here got free ****.


    Even if you did not receive money from the gov­ern­ment, you indi­rectly took advan­tage of the increased eco­nomic activ­ity and thus got your free ****.

    That’s quite a stretch there. By that stan­dard you’re a geno­ci­dal maniac because you ben­e­fit from cheap gas secured by a mil­i­tary empire.

    (Bold is mine).

    The thread is worth con­sid­er­a­tion…

    Change of topic…(but the pat­tern is the same)…

    In the UK var­i­ous pub­lic sec­tor groups includ­ing teach­ers are going on strike because of changes to their pen­sion arrange­ments.

    I wish some­body would explain that “gov­ern­ment” pays them their wages and the pub­lic sec­tor pay their taxes back to the gov­ern­ment.

    The ques­tion is..

    1) Do the pub­lic sec­tor really pay taxes ? 😉


    2) Where do gov­er­ment get their money to pay the pub­lic sec­tor ? 😉

    My part­ner works for a com­pany where a mem­ber of staff warned the boss that she was going to leave if a con­di­tion was not met. The answer was ‘no prob­lem — there are 20 peo­ple ready to take your job’.

    Forces at play”

  • sir­ius

    I for­got to say that my point would be best summed up as “utter igno­rance”.

  • yre­brac

    Good luck in your voy­age through the cos­mos.

  • I place this extract here from LE CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN: which just about sums up what is required of a man:


    Con­duct­ing our­selves hon­or­ably and stand­ing for the truth, uphold­ing our oaths if you will, is a call­ing how­ever, a high aspi­ra­tion which we all receive, but which not all take up. And as with all wor­thy things it is never easy or acci­den­tal, and there are always fail­ures as we learn, so we should not be too dis­cour­aged when we stum­ble and fall, or when we are fear­ful or con­fused. This is the human con­di­tion of us all. 

    But courage is mov­ing for­ward, not when we are cer­tain of every step to vic­tory, but rather, when we are cer­tain that this is the right thing to do, and are deter­mined to do it as well as we can, come what may.

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stum­bles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them bet­ter. The credit belongs to the man who is actu­ally in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort with­out error and short­com­ing; but who does actu­ally strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthu­si­asms, the great devo­tions; who spends him­self in a wor­thy cause; who at the best knows in the end the tri­umph of high achieve­ment, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while dar­ing greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who nei­ther know vic­tory nor defeat.” 

    Theodore Roo­sevelt, Sor­bonne, 23 April 1910


  • From the back of Plato’s Cave amongst the Nean­derthal:

    The priests of pseudo-acad­e­mia pro­tect­ing the walls of their mantra, dogma and tenure: noth­ing worse that alter­na­tive dis­cus­sions; damn, the World may end! Sta­tism and sta­tus quo at any cost: Soon these admin­is­ters of igno­rance and total­i­tar­i­an­ism will be demanded that he be deported.

    if ya don’t love it mate, leave it” the cry of the Bogan


    More than 50 Aus­tralian aca­d­e­mics have signed a let­ter urg­ing West­ern Australia’s Notre Dame Uni­ver­sity to can­cel a speech by British cli­mate change scep­tic Lord Christo­pher Mon­ck­ton.

    He is due to deliver the Lang Han­cock Lec­ture at the uni­ver­sity in Fre­man­tle on Thurs­day night, an event named for the late min­ing mag­nate and spon­sored by his daugh­ter Gina Rine­hart.

    But a let­ter signed by more than 50 aca­d­e­mics has called on the uni­ver­sity to bar the con­tro­ver­sial speaker, say­ing ‘he stands for the kind of igno­rance and super­sti­tion that uni­ver­si­ties have a duty to counter’.


    My posi­tion is that these fear filled pseudo aca­d­e­mics that ‘stand for this kind of igno­rance and super­sti­tion that we have a duty to counter’.

  • sir­ius

    More than 50 Aus­tralian aca­d­e­mics have signed a let­ter urg­ing West­ern Australia’s Notre Dame Uni­ver­sity to can­cel a speech by British cli­mate change scep­tic Lord Christo­pher Mon­ck­ton”

    On that theme I would men­tion that France has closed a power sta­tion

    France’s newest nuclear power plant at Civaux in Vienne could be affected by the excep­tion­ally dry weather, with offi­cials con­sid­er­ing the options if the flow of water drops below min­i­mum lev­els
    So far, 2011 has been the dri­est year since 1952, and water restric­tions are in place for 28 depart­ments across France.

    (I believe they have now closed it and France is con­sid­er­ing clos­ing 2 more)

    Back­ground read­ing…
    Nuclear Power can’t stand the heat

    Whereas Ger­many closed 8 nuclear power sta­tions after Fukushima and says she will close all by 2021, France is build­ing more (and if mem­ory serves me the UK as well).

  • sir­ius

    I will leave this thread with the fol­low­ing words from Kun­stler…

    The les­son, if I may be ten­den­tious for moment, is that the human race is wel­come at any time to begin liv­ing dif­fer­ently, at a smaller scale, much more locally, with fewer auto­matic machines doing all the work for us, and more time spent on use­ful and nec­es­sary activ­i­ties than on tele­vi­sion fan­tasies. Got a prob­lem with oil? Don’t imag­ine that you’re going to run Wal­Mart — or, for that mat­ter, Gold­man Sachs — on wheat-straw dis­til­lates. Some­thing is in the air this week and it is mak­ing a lot of peo­ple very ner­vous. If you loaded up the old invest­ment port­fo­lio with shale gas stocks, I feel espe­cially sorry for you.”

  • Now “they” are throw­ing the Future Fund into the Hous­ing scam:


    The Future Fund has gone into part­ner­ship with a land devel­oper to buy and develop green­field sites on the out­skirts of the major cities.

    West Aus­tralian-based prop­erty devel­oper Peet Lim­ited yes­ter­day announced a part­ner­ship to buy land in areas of pro­jected pop­u­la­tion growth and develop mas­ter-planned com­mu­ni­ties.

    The arrange­ment is expected to be worth more than $300 mil­lion over 10 years.


    $300m/10 years — sure … and I just hap­pen to have abridge for sale…

    The Game is now Hous­ing or bust — at ALL costs! 

    As I have already said: it is the “Recur­sive Pol­icy” by the cap­tured stra­tum of mon­keys (politi­cians) by the Organ Grinders aka Bankers.

  • mahaish

    well said steve,

    big pic­ture stuff is fine,

    but surely we can take a few baby steps along the way, and this idea is a no brainer in my view.

    its a national dis­grace to have so may peo­ple in this sit­u­a­tion and some­thing needed to be done yes­ter­day,

    which isnt just about the pro­vi­sion of shel­ter, but as you say , deal­ing with the prob­lem of men­tal ill­ness and drug and alco­hol addic­tion.

    defend the realm, make sure every­one has a job, and take care of those who arent capa­ble of tak­ing care of them­sleves, or atleast give them a help­ing hand along the path to greater free­dom and dig­nity

    i mean

    whats a gov­ern­ment with a sov­er­eign cur­rency for , after all, if its not to sort this stuff out.

  • Philip

    Yes, there will always be home­less peo­ple despite the best efforts that can be made but this should not stop us from doing bet­ter.

    It it out­ra­geous that the gov­ern­ment is sub­si­diz­ing prop­erty own­ers about five times the amount that it spends on pub­lic hous­ing and rent assis­tance, while allow­ing prop­erty own­ers to pri­va­tize unearned cap­i­tal gains far in excess of any improve­ments they make.

    The 2006 ABS Cen­sus recorded that there were approx­i­mately 830,000 vacant pri­vate dwellings on cen­sus night. How­ever, we don’t know how many are hol­i­day homes, peo­ple away on the night, under­go­ing ren­o­va­tion, await­ing sale or held off the mar­ket as a spec­u­la­tive vacancy.

    Aus­tralia has no short­age of hous­ing at all. Accord­ing to the analy­ses con­ducted by Earth­shar­ing Aus­tralia, there are around 61,000 vacant pri­vate dwellings in Mel­bourne alone, enough to house every­one who needs it.

    The gov­ern­ment tax pro­grams and poli­cies to encour­age greater afford­abil­ity — FHOG, NG, CGT cuts — have done the exact oppo­site by inflat­ing house prices. The gov­ern­ment may say that it has some sort of com­mit­ment to the home­less but the rhetoric is in stark con­trast to the actual poli­cies.

    Once the debt-defla­tion gath­ers pace, a lot more peo­ple are going to be out on the street as homes are fore­closed on, while the num­ber of vacant dwellings increase.

  • ned

    Jesus’s words indeed, Steve the really dis­grace­full thing is that our gov­ern­ment is pump­ing over 220 mil­lion dol­lars into a pro­gram to bring Chris­t­ian Chap­lins into our pub­lic schools (and are being pres­sured by chris­t­ian lobby groups to do so) in spite of arti­cle 116 of the Aus­tralian con­sti­t­u­a­tion. And the really sad thing is that if a mere 1% were cut from that pro­gram to fund these swags for home­less Aus­tralians we’d see these chris­tain groups up in arms that their fund­ing (which is ille­gal under the con­sti­it­u­a­tion) was reduced, even if it was some­thing that Jesus would have endorsed.

  • Philip

    What’s even more dis­grace­ful is that the gov­ern­ment sub­si­dizes and pro­tects prop­erty own­ers to the degree of $50 bil­lion per year in Aus­tralia! That com­prises a com­bi­na­tion of direct and indi­rect sub­sides with tax exemp­tions, approx­i­mately 1/7th of tax rev­enue.

    This means that the major­ity of tax­pay­ers (in the mid­dle and work­ing classes) are fork­ing out $50 bil­lion in pork per year to the rich so that prop­erty own­ers can pri­va­tize unearned rents, approx­i­mately $2 tril­lion over the last 11 years (from 2000 onwards).

    The com­bined total of cap­i­tal gains tax arrange­ments, land tax exemp­tion and neg­a­tive gear­ing arrange­ments is esti­mated to be in the order of $50 bil­lion per year. That reflects against the $1½ bil­lion in the Commonwealth–State Hous­ing Agree­ment and the $1 bil­lion spread over four to five years pro­posed for the new National Rental Afford­abil­ity Scheme and the Hous­ing Afford­abil­ity Fund. These tax con­ces­sions also mean that the over­all sup­port to wealthy home­own­ers is greater than that to low income renters.” p. 60

    The 2008 Sen­ate inquiry into the res­i­den­tial prop­erty mar­ket enti­tled “A good house is hard to find: Hous­ing afford­abil­ity in Aus­tralia” pp. 60–61 has the fig­ures.