Several studies suggest that to tackle homelessness a holistic approach is needed – it’s not all about the money, or indeed the body.
The opening line of an evidence based policy paper by ‘Homelessness Australia’ states, “The link between homelessness and mental illness is well established.”
Family breakdowns and domestic violence are key problems. This can cause tremendous mental health issues, including mental illness.
Is there something missing in the equation for healing? Instead of crisis intervention, is there something more that individuals at risk can turn to themselves before a crisis?
A medical student writes about his interesting experience at Harvard, and mentions, “Over 47,000 scientific articles have been written on the subject of spirituality and health (PubMed search – June 2011)…”.
‘Homeless Persons Week’ is a reminder that we can’t ignore that over 100,000 people are homeless in Australia. One in 38 children aged four and under have spent time in a homeless service between 2009-10.
There are excellent programs giving food, clothing and warmth. And there are ongoing political and financial struggles for more affordable housing.
This begs the question whether the link between spirituality and mental health is being well researched in Australia – according to the MJA (Medical Journal of Australia) patients want spirituality incorporated in their treatment.
I’ve had rather insignificant experiences with homeless people whilst living in several countries, including right here in my leafy, well-off neighbourhood.
It’s a struggle leaving bed at 5.30am for my fitness class in the park. I signed up for the Ku-ring-gai Council initiative: Gym-without-Walls. It’s cold, dark and often damp, but a short time later we love being in the park, and go home to a hot shower, meal, and off to work.
Sometimes we warm up by running round and round the car park, using the feint light from the ablution block, until first light. That’s when I realised that the same car was there each week, with condensation running down the windows. A man appeared to be living in the car, in this wealthy suburb of the North Shore.
It’s heartening to read uplifting testimonies given by homeless people in local news, like The Big Issue.
Some say they just want to feel part of the community, even if it’s brief conversations with passersby.
A research paper on spirituality and health, published in the MJA states, “Australian patients want their clinicians to incorporate spirituality into their treatment. Australian researchers and clinicians could profitably pay more attention to spirituality – a neglected but important aspect of life that may have significant health consequences.”
Thank goodness for all the organisations and healthcare providers taking up the challenge of homelessness in our society. Perhaps they at least hope to see the homeless feel that “home is where the heart is” through their selfless service. That old calling - to do to others as you’d have them do to you – is a reminder of collective and personal responsibility.
Placing a homeless person into housing is a great achievement – as it can sometimes take years. Equipping the person with mental tools, to strengthen them overall, could be the ultimate solution.
I wonder if that’s what Benjamin Franklin’s “food and fire for the mind” could mean?
“Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God.” – written by a woman in the 1800’s who suffered homelessness and went on to be a renowned Christian Healer – Mary Baker Eddy.