On behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, I present the 2018–2019 Social Justice Statement, A Place to Call Home: Making a home for everyone in our land.
The Statement reflects the deep concern of Australia’s Bishops at the growing problem of homelessness and insecure housing in Australian society. All over our nation, a ruthless housing market leaves people struggling to find secure and affordable housing, whether they live in cities or in regional areas.
That struggle has a corrosive effect on family life, on employment, on study and on our capacity to contribute to and benefit from our society. At its worst, the struggle leaves the vulnerable in our society homeless – sleeping on the street, in cars or in doorways, or hoping for a space on someone’s couch or floor. The last Census showed the number of homeless Australians had increased to more than 116,000 people.
The document begins with Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan – as challenging to us today as it was to his hearers. We are reminded that we have the same experience as the Samaritan: we see people in the street who are in need of help, wounded by violence, misfortune or poverty. We face the same choice: do we walk past or do we stop and help?
Behind the people on the streets is another legion – those who are battling to keep the roof over their heads, wondering if they can make the next rent or mortgage payment. Often, these are people who are employed but whose income is barely enough – or not enough – to keep themselves and their families housed and fed.
The Bishops emphasise that housing is a human right, asserted by documents like the UN Declaration of Human Rights and by the teachings of our Church. Housing, the Bishops say, is ‘an essential entitlement for all people to meet their basic needs, flourish in community and have their inherent human dignity affirmed and upheld by others’.
That human right and the call of the Church has been reinforced by the words and example of Pope Francis, who has made it a priority to reach out to the disadvantaged and marginalised of Rome, including homeless people.
We pray that Australia will hear the challenges that this Statement offers: to confront an economy that has allowed housing to become out of the reach of so many; to reach out, like the Samaritan, to the wounded and helpless; and to call on our governments to make hard decisions that will allow everyone in our communities to find secure accommodation. The Statement’s concluding sentence is a message for all of us: ‘Everyone deserves a place to call home’.
With every blessing,
Most Rev Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta
Chairman, Australian Catholic Social Justice Council