Anti-Poverty Week will be held between 11 and 17 October and this year’s central themes are Everybody’s Home and Raise the Rate.
Anti-Poverty Week builds on the momentum of National Homelessness Week and the Raise the Rate campaign, making it more than an awareness week. Instead, it is another timely reminder of the hardships many people are facing, particularly this year with the bushfires and now the coronavirus pandemic.
Anti-Poverty Week is an opportunity for community, government and corporate organisations to reflect further on poverty and the part they play in supporting those experiencing it.
Last week, more than 20,000 people in Canberra lost part of their coronavirus government payments. Many people receiving this supplement used the extra money to get them through the current pandemic and stay out of financial hardship. For vulnerable people, such as those with children or a disability, this cut could push them into real poverty and homelessness. These additional funds have ensured people can pay for essential items like food, clothing, rent, petrol and utilities. Imagine the anxiety for many with the fear of real poverty re-emerging, knowing the hardship they will be facing again.
With higher than average living costs, Canberra is an expensive city to live in. For low-income earners, it is a daily struggle navigating how they can afford to survive. Housing is often the biggest cost for people and can be the main driver into homelessness. Almost 1,600 people are homeless in Canberra, with a shortfall of 3,000 social housing dwellings. Here in Canberra, we live in a bubble, where poverty and homelessness are mostly hidden. We have to open our eyes to what is around us before we can change things.
As part of my role in Anti-Poverty Week, I have the privilege of co-chairing the Anti-Poverty Week committee in the ACT alongside Barnie Van Wyk, the CEO of St Vincent de Paul. Like Barnie, every day in our work at Woden Community Service (WCS) we see poverty, financial housing stress and homelessness among many of our service users. Our Sustaining Tenancies Support Service, delivered in partnership with the YWCA and CRCS, assists people to sustain their tenancies. This vital support helps people when eviction may be their only outcome.
Along with other community agencies, our emergency and food relief programs are a lifeline for many. These vital services collect and distribute food to people who are struggling. People accessing our services are unable to feed themselves and their family. These programs are a lifeline for many.
This Anti-Poverty Week, I invite you to reflect on what you know about poverty and homelessness, and challenge yourself to learn and do more. Educate yourself, join this year’s Anti-Poverty Week events and show your support in ending poverty and homelessness in our community. We can end this, but it will take each and everyone one of us every day of the year.
The Committee has organised online and events for the Canberra community to get involved in, including Reducing Poverty & Homelessness in the ACT, on Wednesday 14 October. For more information, visit the Anti-Poverty Week.