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Giant bed being built in Civic to help homeless

By Barcham 30 July 2013 20

Canberra has the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia.

To raise awareness of this upsetting statistic and create some discussion about it BIG hART are gonna build a giant bed in Civic square and put people in it.

It’s called the Winter Bed Vigil.

It sounds bizarre, but also really interesting.

On August 15th Big hART will set up an interactive multi media installation in the form of a large bed in Civic Square, Canberra. The bed will be occupied for four days and three nights by artists, politicians, activists, celebrities, housing advocates and members of the public to highlight the issue of homelessness and offer a space to engage in a dialogue about it.
In the weeks leading up to the Bed Vigil, a local filmmaker will be running basic skills workshops with the homeless community and capturing some local stories highlighting different experiences of homelessness.

These short films will be screened at the Bed Vigil alongside Big hART’s Knot@Home series; an 8 part tv series (SBS 2004) documenting experiences of young people across Australia exploring their stories of not being at home.

Big hART previously created a Bed Vigil in Melbourne in 2004 as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and the broader Knot@Home project (2002-2005). Whilst the Canberra Winter Bed Vigil is a short term project it builds on the previous work of the company and aims to provide a platform for advocacy for housing groups in Canberra by using the Big hART approach of using the arts as a vehicle for change.

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Giant bed being built in Civic to help homeless
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clj 9:31 pm 15 Aug 13

Thanks breda. You make some interesting points; I do agree that homelessness is much worse in the NT although those figures I quoted were also likely to have been inflated (not by 15 times though, of course!) by the Census method of counting homelessness. Although the ABS does work off that definition, the Census itself is of course a very blunt instrument for capturing accurate data on homelessness. I don’t have the figures in front of me but I suspect that a large proportion of persons considered homeless on Census night in the NT were in the ‘overcrowded’ category, which is defined as a household which would have needed… I think more than 4 extra bedrooms for it to be considered appropriate for the household living in it. Of course that definition is very culturally specific, and different cultural norms (and obligations) among families of other backgrounds particularly Indigenous backgrounds could mean that it’s quite likely that some households considered overcrowded by that definition do not consider themselves homeless or housing insecure. However of course various health issues etc are associated with very crowded households so it’s a bit complicated.

I don’t believe the Census had a question about whether people considered their housing to be secure or not, and I don’t know how they determined couch surfers from ordinary visitors – that’s notoriously difficult because of the stigma attached to ticking the ‘no usual address’ box. However I disagree that couch surfers, residents of emergency accommodation, and those living in boarding houses etc without a formal tenancy agreement should not be considered homeless. While most people are a few weeks away from homelessness, couch surfers and boarders are one person’s whim away from it – it’s a very vulnerable situation.

Meanwhile, in response to the person who quoted Census data saying only 30 of the ACT’s 1785 homeless people were rough sleepers – figures on rough sleepers are notoriously inaccurate, and depend entirely on local campaigns to actually find and conduct the survey with them. Homelessness services in Canberra put the figure much higher at 80-120 people sleeping rough per night. Anecdotally, a man I know who was sleeping rough around Census time had terrible trouble trying to get hold of a form; he spent his nights out of the way somewhere that the collectors wouldn’t have found him, but he really wanted to fill one in. It was getting to the point where he was asking staff if he could crash at their place that night just so he could be counted.

breda 5:55 pm 31 Jul 13

Thanks, clj. A couple of points on that.

Firstly, the ABS definition of homelessness for the purposes of that survey is not just sleeping rough or in your car or a shelter. Here it is:

“The ABS definition of homelessness is informed by an understanding of homelessness as ‘home’lessness, not rooflessness. It emphasises the core elements of ‘home’ in Anglo American and European interpretations of the meaning of home as identified in research evidence (Mallett, 2004). These elements include: a sense of security, stability, privacy, safety, and the ability to control living space. Homelessness is therefore a lack of one or more of the elements that represent ‘home’. “

In other words, if you feel insecure or unstable or unsafe in your house or flat, or lack privacy, you are put in the same category as someone who literally doesn’t have a roof over their head. This trendy definition greatly inflates the numbers, as well as requiring people to make subjective calls about how much security or privacy or whatever that they have where they are living.

Secondly, the figures you quote make it clear that my point about Alice Springs is correct – there are 15 times as many homeless people per capita in the NT (and I’d be very surprised if the figures for Darwin, with its transient indigenous population, are lower than Canberra’s, whatever the ABS says).

Thirdly, the rest of Australia, based on the very broad ABS definition, has a narrow range of homelessness. Converted to a percentage, the range is 0.32% to 0.5% of the population, which is not a statistically very significant difference given the loose criteria.

So the guilt-inducing statistic about the ACT is a crock, and if we are serious about homelessness we should stop pretending that bunking with relatives or friends is the same as sleeping on the street or in a river bed; and do some major lateral thinking about indigenous homelessness in the NT.

clj 5:21 pm 31 Jul 13

The statistic in question is from the 2011 census, where the ACT as a territory had the second highest rate of homeless people per 10,000 residents: 50 in 10,000 ACT residents counted were experiencing some form of homelessness. The NT had the highest, at 731 in 10,000 experiencing some form of homelessness. All states/territories apart from NT had rates between 32 in 10,000 (Tasmania) and 50 in 10,000 (ACT).
All figures from ABS 2049.0.

wildturkeycanoe 10:03 am 31 Jul 13

Ben_Dover said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

I wonder if the money spent on equipment [bed materials, camera gear, signage etc.], the relevant government fees such as permission to use the space, public liability insurance, advertising and not least the money business spends on paying for all these people to have time off work – would be better used in buying something that directly provides for the homeless?

But, but, but….

How then would the artists have a pretence to this being art?

How would the politicians and alleged celebrities self publicise?

How would the “activists” express their middle-class hand wringing guilt trips?

How would the housing advocates get funds for their office coffee?

Wherenever you see the words “raise awareness” read “lefties/hippies/hipsters having fun by playing at being concerned,” and “a waste of tume money and energy which could be better used.”

Oh, my mistake, it’s “raising awareness”, not “helping people”.
I wonder how many Canberrans aren’t aware that there are homeless people and if there could be a cheaper, more efficient way of making them aware.

Ben_Dover 9:01 am 31 Jul 13

wildturkeycanoe said :

I wonder if the money spent on equipment [bed materials, camera gear, signage etc.], the relevant government fees such as permission to use the space, public liability insurance, advertising and not least the money business spends on paying for all these people to have time off work – would be better used in buying something that directly provides for the homeless?

But, but, but….

How then would the artists have a pretence to this being art?

How would the politicians and alleged celebrities self publicise?

How would the “activists” express their middle-class hand wringing guilt trips?

How would the housing advocates get funds for their office coffee?

Wherenever you see the words “raise awareness” read “lefties/hippies/hipsters having fun by playing at being concerned,” and “a waste of tume money and energy which could be better used.”

wildturkeycanoe 6:53 am 31 Jul 13

I wonder if the money spent on equipment [bed materials, camera gear, signage etc.], the relevant government fees such as permission to use the space, public liability insurance, advertising and not least the money business spends on paying for all these people to have time off work – would be better used in buying something that directly provides for the homeless?
I am 100% certain, if we really tried hard and looked in various locales in the A.C.T, there could be found an unused warehouse, office space or similar that would provide better accommodation than underneath an off-ramp, in a dumpster or at the entry facade to a public building.
I’m all for helping these folks out, but it never ceases to amaze me when they do these feel good stunts that the warm fuzzy feeling of charity can cost so much money up front, but for what actual gain?
The Vinnies CEO sleepout raised nearly half a million dollars this year, The ACT Government has pledged $17 million into projects to house them this year. According to the most recent figures I could find – http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&ved=0CHgQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.actshelter.net.au%2F_literature_131739%2FHomelessness_in_the_ACT_2013&ei=hyT4UeuXGoPIlAXb24EI&usg=AFQjCNHzndIbwi7Y9SZXomEAVSO6SGhbWA&sig2=YwrNn4soA9XpsFKy01incg&bvm=bv.49967636,d.dGI
it seems that only 1.6%, or 30 people out of the 1785 “homeless” are actually sleeping out in the cold, the rest are in accommodation, such as it is. If the nearly $10,000 per person allocated by the government can’t house a person, how much money will it take? For $10k a nice caravan could be bought and these people could afford to pay rent at a caravan park. There is then the option of traveling to the coast, if that’s where they want to reside. If all they need is a roof over their heads, how does this not meet their needs?

Reprobate 10:33 pm 30 Jul 13

So a big bed will be filled by artists, activists, politicians, celebrities etc for a token 3 days. And wIll they be allowing the homeless to sleep in this bed or their own beds at home those nights? Thought not.

What an absolute wank.

wrigbe 10:14 pm 30 Jul 13

I am too lazy to go to the effort of checking but educated guess would suggest that the first line should read:

“Canberra has the second highest rate of homelessness OF ALL CAPITAL CITIES in Australia.”
That would be a plausible statistic.

Androyd 9:50 pm 30 Jul 13

Where’s John Lennon when we need him 🙂

bundah 6:16 pm 30 Jul 13

poetix said :

Sleeping with a politician. Who is up for that?

Only if Kate Ellis is available..

Jethro 6:07 pm 30 Jul 13

Will Yoko Ono be making an appearance?

Masquara 5:18 pm 30 Jul 13

Thumper said :

KPIs? Check

Big bed? Check

Well, that’s it folks. Canberra has solved homelessness once again.

Take a bow.

KPI: profile-raising for Simon Sheikh. Tick!

Thumper 3:50 pm 30 Jul 13

KPIs? Check

Big bed? Check

Well, that’s it folks. Canberra has solved homelessness once again.

Take a bow.

Masquara 3:29 pm 30 Jul 13

Masquara said :

She should have been given a different gong – one perhaps for a “lengthy contribution to the art of cabaret” – but best performance? The old chook has 60-year-old, much over-exercised vocal chords. She simply doesn’t have it any more.

sorry posted in wrong thread …

Postalgeek 3:11 pm 30 Jul 13

Sorry Barcham, typos in general blurb can be overlooked, but headers need to be fixed: ‘built’ rather than ‘build’, but I would’ve also accepted ‘builded’ because I’m in that sort of mood. Or did you mean the bed was being ‘billed’ for services rendered?

Masquara 3:07 pm 30 Jul 13

She should have been given a different gong – one perhaps for a “lengthy contribution to the art of cabaret” – but best performance? The old chook has 60-year-old, much over-exercised vocal chords. She simply doesn’t have it any more.

breda 2:54 pm 30 Jul 13

Could we please have a source for this remarkable (and frankly unbelievable) statistic?

Statistics from lobby groups don’t count.

Are they seriously saying that somewhere like Alice Springs (pop, 25,000), where hundreds of people sleep in the Todd River bed, has a lower rate of homelessness than Canberra?

I don’t for a moment deny that it is a problem here, but dodgy statistics and stunts like the Big Bed do nothing to give this worthy cause credibility.

poetix 2:38 pm 30 Jul 13

Sleeping with a politician. Who is up for that?

Good cause. Horrible possibilities.

Barcham 2:02 pm 30 Jul 13

Matt_Watts said :

“Canberra has the second highest rate of homelessness in Canberra.
To raise awareness of this upsetting statistic…”

Is that meant to be the highest rate in Australia?

No!

I mean…

…yes.

Oops.

Matt_Watts 1:50 pm 30 Jul 13

“Canberra has the second highest rate of homelessness in Canberra.
To raise awareness of this upsetting statistic…”

Is that meant to be the highest rate in Australia?

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