Facing a life limiting illness is difficult enough for anyone, but even more so for the homeless.
Once upon a time , not so long ago, we had institutions. They were not perfect, but they were home to many. Some were good and some were of a very poor standard. There was a lot of care but too much control. Now we have less control but very little care.
However institutions were expensive. It was said that people would be better off in the community. It was argued that the money would be better spent on providing community support so that these people could maintain their health in the community. However the level of community support has fallen short.
Every large city in Australia has homeless people, many of whom suffer from a mental illness. Homelessness makes it hard to keep in contact with the necessary services. The homeless get sick, they get cancer. I doubt they are seen as important by our resource pressured public hospitals. They get cancer and continue to live on the streets or in shelters while attending cancer treatment programs.
How is it that we as a society accept that people should be homeless because they suffer from a mental illness and are unable to care for themselves in a world that is harsh and uncaring ?
A successful society would provide care to those who need care. Anyone can become homeless through illness or misfortune. Even courageous soldiers can be wounded at war and become homeless. No one is immune from life’s misfortunes. We are all vulnerable but yet we overlook our fellow-man.
“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. “
~Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey
It’s not because we can’t afford to care for the sick, it’s because we don’t want to. We tend to see the sick as weak or unworthy, we are told that health spending is out of control but this is not true.
“Those who claim that health expenditure is growing out of control, and the health system is unsustainable need to look very carefully, because the data’s not showing that,” said health economist at Grattan Institute Dr Stephen Duckett.
The western world likes to blame the victim for homelessness. Mental Illness greatly increases one’s chance of becoming homeless. Many go without treatment. In Australia, anyone who goes to their GP with a headache can get 6 free sessions with a psychologist but those who have severe mental illness often go without any treatment. Once homeless, this affects general health. There needs to be better easier ways for the sick and the homeless to access treatment.
The homeless, like the dying and the handicapped are just as important as anyone else, yet our conscious allows us to be blind to their needs.
So long as we allow sick people to be homeless, Australia cannot be proud of itself as a nation.