Can you say: ‘Appalling Behaviour’?

Posted: July 18, 2010 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Money, Politics, Stupidity

Over the last six months or so, I’ve read a number of news articles from all across the U.S. about elementary, high-school and even college students and their organized "Sleep Out for the Homeless" events.

The purpose of these "sleep outs" is theoretically twofold: To raise public awareness about homelessness in their respective communities; and, to give the attendees a small "taste" of what it’s like to be homeless. In a number of instances, these sleep outs have also served as fund raising events – with the proceeds going to local homeless support services groups.  

Most of the time, when the students have been interviewed afterwards, they speak about the discomfort they experienced; how they can’t imagine what it would be like to have to sleep out of doors day in and day out; or how they more appreciate what they have at home.

It’s a good lesson learned, I guess. Still, sleeping out for a night or two under controlled conditions is a far cry from actually experiencing homelessness.

For example, missing from the equation is the tedium that a homeless person has to deal with day after day. Not to mention the feelings of being ostracized by the rest of the community; the glaring looks; the verbal abuse; and, in some cases, the risk of becoming a victim of violence.

The reality is this: only those who are actually homeless (or who have experienced homelessness) can know what it’s really like.

Apparently, in the city of Adelaide in South Australia, officials of Housing SA and Arts SA don’t think that the homeless know what it’s like to be homeless.

Yes, you read that correctly.

According to a news article on the Adelaide Now website, Housing SA and Arts SA are spending a combined total of $18,000 to put on Appalling Behaviour – a one-man stage show "… about the plight of the homeless."

And guess who Housing SA wants to take to see the show as part of its "funding sponsorship?"

Yep, you guessed it: the homeless.

Regarding the idiocy of Housing SA spending the funds for the show and then having the homeless attend the performances, Opposition Housing Spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said:

"We’ve got freezing temperatures and 800 people sleeping rough each week, and they spend $18,000 on a play to show homeless people what it is like to be homeless. It is a total joke."

I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Chapman’s assessment of the situation.

In many ways, the title of the show, Appalling Behaviour, is particularly applicable to Housing SA and Arts SA’s spending of those funds – especially when you consider what one person insightfully said:

"I’d rather they spend the money educating homeless people into how to get off the streets."

What makes those sixteen words all the more ironic is that they were spoken by Brian Jenner; one of Adelaide’s homeless.

How is it that Mr. Jenner has enough insight to recognize that those funds could have been used in a more productive manner, yet the so-called experts at Housing SA don’t seem to have a clue?

What it comes down to is this: the only appalling behavior going on in Adelaide is that of Housing SA and Arts SA.

And as a result, they have earned the SLO Homeless Stuck On Stupid Award.

  1. Rev. Cynthia says:

    I do agree that a lot of fundraisers for homeless service providers are misguided. For example, I stopped by our local park one day to attend a “Homelessness Awareness Day” being sponsored by our university students. As I approached the park, I noticed that the animal shelter had a booth there & initially my thought was, “How unfortunate that the animal shelter is holding an event on the same day.” Then, much to my horror, I discovered that it was intentional to raise funds for both homeless people and homeless animals at the same time – WHAT?! For some reason nobody thought that was a bad idea. Never mind that the funds spent on pets in the U.S. far surpasses funding for people, who are homeless.

    My organization is in the process of trying to raise $395 to rent a park for “World Homeless Day 10/10/10.” Initially, I approached the city about donating the space for two reasons:

    1. My organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit functioning with an all volunteer staff (including me, as the volunteer executive director) and $600. a year in operating expenses;

    2. the event is a platform for trying to make some changes related to homeless issues (llike decriminalizing homelessness) and for people, who are homeless or who have been homeless in the past (like myself) to share their stories. Those facts did not get the fee waived.

    I do, however, question the wisdom in spending $395 to rent a park instead of donating those funds for homeless services. On the other hand, that amount of money doesn’t seem like enough to make much of a difference. For example, if we wanted to actually give that money to the 3,800+ people, who are homeless in SLO county, it comes out to about 10 cents a person.

    Perhaps, in the end, regardless of how misguided our attempts may be, it seems like many of us are trying to do what we can to make a positive difference. Michael, the fact that you are willing to speak from your heart about what you feel does and does not help the situation is extremely beneficial. Thanks!

    • michael says:

      I do, however, question the wisdom in spending $395 to rent a park instead of donating those funds for homeless services. On the other hand, that amount of money doesn’t seem like enough to make much of a difference. For example, if we wanted to actually give that money to the 3,800+ people, who are homeless in SLO county, it comes out to about 10 cents a person.


      Regarding the “$395” –

      You are facing that same conundrum that most of society faces when it thinks in terms of trying to help the homeless: quantity vs. quality.

      It would seem to me that one possible outlet for the $395 might be to use it, in its totality, to help an individual or family from becoming homeless in the first place. To me that would be a qualitative, rather than quantitative, use of the funds.

  2. Rev. Cynthia says:

    Thanks for addressing this, Michael. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of mentorship. I’m not sure what percentage of the population is homeless, but if everyone, who is housed, agreed to pool their time/talent/resources (lets say 5-10 housed families per 1 unhoused family) to help folks from either losing their housing or to regain it, wouldn’t that help? By helping, I mean brainstorming for solutions, coming up w/ concrete steps that can be taken, & being emotionally supportive. Obviously, affordable housing and support services need to be available.

    Part of the problem seems to be how disengaged extended families have become. A lot of folks, who are homeless, actually have families, who feel like they can’t or simply won’t help. And sometimes, due to the stigma of being homeless or not wanting to disrupt the lives of their extended family members, people do not let their families know about their homeless status. In some other cultures/countries, familes and communities seem to take care of each other in a more personal way. Perhaps we could use them as a model.

  3. S Barringer says:

    I was just reading about a particular Indian tribe, and they had/have no homeless people. There is no such thing in their community. They take care of each other, recognizing that some are not able to do totally for themselves, so they share everything. Those who have much give to those who have little. No one lives in poverty either. And, this tribe, has always been considered “primitive”.

    If Americans had their hearts in the right places, they would open their hearts and their homes to the homeless, whether related or not. We used to do this. Yes, a long time ago, we took care of each other too. Unfortunately, Americans are going to relearn to value each other the hard way. That day is coming. Nemesis is marching in the land and justice is coming. When the crash comes, and everyone has lost everything, they will once again look at each other and realize that we need each other or we’re not going to survive.

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