The invisible visibles: Stereotyping the homeless

Post 1 By Alice Stollery

homeless-youth-poster.jpg
PHOTO: A campaign aimed at raising awareness of the homeless population, that more often than not, go unnoticed or ignored (Wang 2016)

Homelessness and social exclusion have been framed in the mainstream media according to a number of different agendas, many of which appear opinion based with little or no reference to factual sources of information. However, they do raise a number of issues and positions that I am very interested in investigating further.


Corporate Agendas

‘CEO Sleepout: Big End of Town Learns the Cold Facts of Homelessness’  is an article published in The Australian newspaper in June 2016, written by Simone Fox Koob & Jennine Khalik, both young journalists employed by the corporation.

The article is reporting on an event that aims to raise money for the homeless, however it offers little information on the issue. The reader is left questioning just how wealthy CEO’s sleeping under the roof of carriageworks in polar fleece jackets, with access to their iPhones, has any relevance to those truly affected by homelessness.For me, this article exposes corporate agendas, as CEO’s attempt to paint the corporate sector in a positive light, using homelessness as the tool to do so. These journalists have little knowledge of the issue, evident in their lack of reference to any kind of statistics or credible research. This article is editorial and the author’s approach does not sit well with me. It offers little value, raising awareness of the good deeds of large corporations rather than the plight of the homeless or their experiences. When compared to articles written by not-for-profits, or those more invested in the issue, it’s easy to see that there’s not a lot to take away from this piece of writing.­


The Not-for-profit Approach

Father Chris Riley, an Australian Roman Catholic Priest and CEO of ‘Youth Off The Streets’ recently wrote an article for the Blue Mountains Gazette titled ‘Think of the Homeless this week’. This article aims to raise awareness for those doing it tough on the streets and was published on the 1st August to coincide with the beginning of ‘Homelessness Week’. The author belongs to a not-for-profit organisation and is motivated by his desire to help those in need, as he has worked with disadvantaged youth for more than 25 years. Due to his extensive experience, I would say that Chris Riley has a very good understanding of the issue, however it is hard for me to say that this article is completely factual, as it provides statistics without stating where they have come from. Father Riley highlights the need for increased access to vital emergency services for homeless youth, as one in five homeless people are turned away when seeking emergency accommodation. The article seems factual and I agree with this authors position as I believe this article has a strong focus on the issue and has been written by an author that has a clear understanding of what is required to help those in need. This is contrasted to the Australian article, which was written by a young journalist and focused more on the experience of the CEO’s without raising awareness of the experiences of those affected by homelessness.


Homelessness on the rise, are escalating property prices to blame?

An article published in March 2016 on news.com.au titled ‘Homelessness at record high in Sydney’ focuses on the rising issue of homelessness in a local context due to increased property prices. The particular author of this article has not been published and I can only assume they belong to the AAP. This article seems to be written from the perspective of Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor of Sydney. The author has interviewed Ms. Moore and attributes the rise in homelessness to escalating rents and property prices forcing people onto the streets. Ms. Moore claims that the housing crisis in Sydney is putting pressure on  families, as they struggle to pay rising rents and mortgages. This position is opinion based and the article is not factual. Ms. Moore claims that the number of homeless people in Sydney would decrease if state and federal governments provided social and affordable housing with support services. I agree that this is definitely part of the issue, however, this article does not offer a comprehensive view of the issues surrounding homelessness or housing in Sydney. Without knowing whom the author is, it is difficult to ascertain how much they really know about the issue. The article is not well researched and offers an over simplified view of the issue with an unsupported view of how to solve it.


Elitist views and homeless stereotyping

In February 2016, the Daily Telegraph published an article titled ‘Locals concerned about homeless Shireen camping in ritzy Paddington but there’s no plan to move her on’. The article was written by Nick Hansen, a journalist for the Wentworth Courier and reveals the elitist view that many Sydney siders have of the homeless. Reading the first half of the title, readers may be excused for thinking that Paddington residents are concerned for the homeless woman’s welfare, however, continuing on, it becomes clear that they are more concerned about maintaining the clean appearance of their multi-million dollar suburb. However, the article does highlight the lack of appropriate services provided for women in her situation. The author is not considered an expert on the issue and has not written about homelessness before, so I would say that the article is editorial in nature. Having being written by an Eastern Suburbs resident, the views expressed in this article and the framing of the issue is slightly biased. Although I disagree with the author’s position, I do think the article raises some interesting points that I would like to investigate further, such as the services currently being offered for homeless women and the perceptions and stereotypes hindering the general public from helping people in Shireen’s position.


Challenging stereotypes to work towards a solution

‘Joseph Wales ‘igloo’ shelter in Point Piper has neighbours worried, but he’s not moving.’ This was the title of an article published by Robbie Patterson in the Daily Telegraph in August 2015 covering the same issue as above, from a slightly different angle. Robbie Patterson is a journalist for The Daily Telegraph and would not be considered an expert, having never reported on the issue before. The motivation behind writing this article was the attitudes of the Point Piper residents and again, as we saw with Shireen,  the supposed risk the homeless man posed to the community. However, the author has framed this issue of the elitist views of these residents by interviewing the homeless man in question, rather than the residents concerned for the area. Clearly demonstrating what little danger he poses to the community. I share this author’s position on the issue, as he has subtly highlighted the elitist views of the eastern suburbs residents and their stereotypical views of the homeless stating that ‘being homeless is not an offence’. Joseph Wales and Shireen’s stories have really struck a chord with me. Millions of people walk straight passed the homeless each day, we choose to look the other way or justify not helping them with stereotypes such as ‘they’re all criminals’ or ‘they’re lazy’ or ‘they just waste the money on drugs’. Perhaps challenging these stereotypes could bring us closer to a solution. I would like to look further into whether studies have been done in this area.


Critical positions on the issue

From my initial research of online secondary sources published in the media, I have discovered a number of different stakeholders and their approaches to the issue. From what I can see, the corporate approach seems to over simplify the issue, focusing largely on money and tailoring the issue to their agendas. I would like to look further into corporate framing of the issue. From my research I have uncovered a number of other positions that I believe are worth investigating further.I would like to investigate what appropriate services are offered for homeless women as one of the articles claimed that the city lacked services in this area. I would also like to investigate “The invisible visibles” and public perception of the homeless in Sydney and how stereotyping the homeless is creating a blockade in our ability to help them. I was shocked to read about the elitist attitude towards homeless people in the Eastern Suburbs and would like to look further into cases such as these and research on the topic.


References

AAP, 2016, ‘Homelessness at Record High in Sydney’, News.com.au, viewed 1 August 2016 <http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/homelessness-on-the-rise-in-sydney/news-story/015a07087448d05882ceff80f424d355>

Hansen, N., 2016, ‘Locals concerned about homeless Shireen camping in ritzy Paddington but there’s no plan to move her on’, The Daily Telegraph, viewed 1 August 2016 <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/city-east/locals-concerned-about-homeless-shireen-camping-in-ritzy-paddington-but-theres-no-plan-to-move-her-on/news-story/8c4a540cae904b7aa43e0bc5e99f1f59>

Khalik, J. & Koob, S. 2016, ‘Big end of town learns the cold facts of homelessness’, The Australian, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/big-end-of-town-learns-the-cold-facts-of-homelessness/news-story/ea070919cd3c52909ae6aac7fbc04c00>

Patterson, R. 2015, ‘Joseph Wales ‘igloo’ shelter in Point Piper has neighbours worried, but he’s not moving’, The Daily Telegraph, viewed 1 August 2016 <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/city-east/joseph-wales-igloo-shelter-in-point-piper-has-neighbours-worried-but-hes-not-moving/news-story/4c102a48a566f7af7a1b9f0c73aa0fac>

Riley, C. 2016, ‘Think of the Homeless this Week’ , The Blue Mountains Gazette, viewed 1 August 2016 <http://www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au/story/4067322/think-of-the-homeless-this-week/>

Wang, Y. 2016, Designed in Distrust: Peering Over the Invisible Wall of Homelessness, AHBE Lab WordPress, viewed 12 August 2016,<https://ahbelab.com/2016/05/25/designed-in-distrust-peering-over-the-invisible-wall-of-homelessness/>.

 

Advertisement
%d bloggers like this: