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Crisis Help Network: Melbourne Homeless Services

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The Insider Point of View

It's amazing what we tend to leave behind or discard because it's too big to fit into the ever decreasing size of the bags that we carry. There are memories attached to photographs and other personal possessions that we leave with other people with the intention of collecting one day: but never do. In addition, clothes and food are not important — there are services with reams of vouches at our disposal and supported accommodation as winter sets in; but charities and soup kitchens do not provide the real self-respect and dignity that comes from within. We have a social apparatus that will feed and clothe you and provide housing; kill you with self confidence, but it will eventually leave you stranded.

This is the welfare trap. It is a slow and insidious acclimatisation process that works in tandem with other social forces. It does not address marginalisation — it perpetuates it. The paradox here is that it can be an empowering situation to be within, to observe as well as begin to claw your way out of when you have the autonomy to see it for what it really is. Collective institutions will give you a little sandpit to play in, all the bridges that you want to burn, numerous revolving doors and treadmills and pocket money. It will advocate that it is a social change model (the translation is social control); it will warehouse, and indelibly stamp you in its stratification without your permission. In addition, it will refer you to services that it considers appropriate and then have the audacity to tell that you have a choice.

Author Ian Archibald

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