Waleed Aly Tackled Australia’s Shocking War On The Homeless On ‘The Project’ Last Night

In almost every Australian state, begging is a crime.

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At any given time, more than 100,000 people in Australia are homeless — a damning statistic in a country with one of the most consistently high quality of life rankings in the world. Unsurprisingly, people from marginalised groups are especially vulnerable to homelessness — 25 percent of Australia’s homeless population is Indigenous, 27 percent are children under the age of 18, and women who’ve experienced domestic violence are far more likely to wind up in homeless shelters or on the streets.

Under the current government, homelessness has fallen off the radar as a policy priority — in 2014, the Abbott government infamously announced $241 million in budgetary cuts to housing programs just days before Christmas, while other measures like the Homelessness Research Strategy, the National Housing Suppply Council and the First Home Saver Accounts scheme have been axed entirely. At a state level, anti-homeless hostile architecture measures like deterrent sprinkler systems, floor and wall studs and pay-to-use public toilets are becoming increasingly common. Most alarmingly, begging for money is illegal in every state and territory bar three — the ACT, NSW and Western Australia — with steadily accumulating fines and prison sentences further trapping vulnerable people in a neverending cycle of poverty, legal trouble and unemployability.

Compunding the problem, this sad picture rarely gets the political and media oxygen it deserves. There are no votes in fixing homelessness, and in an election year Tony Abbott on a surfboard is more likely to get a run than the slow-burn war Australia’s governments have been waging on the homeless. On the first Project of the new year last night, Waleed Aly brought these uncomfortable truths to light.