Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Street people. Taken with my Windows Phone. Julie Clarke
On the way to have my hair trimmed and have lunch with Leonie Osowski in North Melbourne this morning I couldn't help but notice the homeless people who had set up sleeping arrangements at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Street. The large sign behind them announcing that something was coming soon appeared paradoxical since something has already occurred; and that is that more and more people are having to take refuge and sleep anywhere they can.
Every morning I see at least four homeless people on or around Richmond Town Hall and each have constructed sleeping arrangements to protect them from the cold. We constantly hear in the media that we are the lucky country and that we are a wealthy country. I can't for the life of me understand why, if this is the case, that we have people sleeping on the streets. Who do we blame? A government that seems hell bent on helping only those who can help themselves and neglecting to adequately provide affordable accommodation for those who have mental illness, disabilities or who are unemployed or the working poor. Should we instead blame individuals in our society that benefit from charging high prices for rental properties? How can these people live with the fact that they will retire comfortably based solely on the fact that those with less money are paying off a mortgage on a property they have purchased. How many people are benefitting from the suffering and struggle of those less well off? I hope that my photograph shows at least two things. Firstly, that the well dressed man walking past and those not in the photo who have also passed by without looking appear unaffected, perhaps because the homeless have become commonplace in our cities. Secondly, the homeless are making a statement of their situation. They are in our face and wish to confront us with their dire situation.
Leonie are I were talking about identity politics; both of us have been reading the Summer edition of Artforum International, which addresses identity politics, particularly in relation to neo liberalism (the urge to reduce welfare payments, deny protection to children, youth, women, the planet; elimiating the concept of the 'public good', cutting public expenses and free enterprise) and people's reactions and lack of reactions in certain situations when faced with things or people that we perceive as different and undesirable to 'us'. She gave as an example that people didn't appear to know how to react to street performers. I'm wondering whether this inability to know how to react to the homeless is something we all suffer from. Do we offer them money, food? Whatever we offer is not going to help them in the long term and so we are confronted with confusion.
I don't have any answers, I wish I did. I only know that every day we are confronted with people who take desperate measures to show us that they have been ignored and left behind.

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