It is very common in our day and age to draw stereotypes about people or groups of people. Such stereotypes might relate to professions, or gender, or ethnic groups. It could also relate to the stereotype we draw in our own mind of the homeless person we pass as we walk the city streets, or indigenous Australians living in remote communities in outback Australia. Stereotypes we draw about what “they” are like, or why “they” are in those particular circumstances. Stereotypes are dangerous.
After attending the CEO Sleepout in Melbourne recently I am reminded of this. As an example, the circumstances or path into homelessness or “rough sleeping” are not necessarily what you and I might expect. We draw conclusions in our own mind about what someone must have done or decisions they must have made to lead them to their desperate state. In reality issues of relationship breakdown, mental illness and domestic violence are large contributors to those that end up homeless in our cities. And each person has a unique story. Sometimes a catastrophic event in their life that has after one turn or another led them to a place of severe disadvantage.
My reflection is that we mustn’t jump to a conclusion or generalisation so quickly. In fact, I reflect that with a different set of circumstances or the same catastrophic event, I may well have been in the very same circumstances.
SOS Health Foundation works with some of these disadvantaged individuals and communities within Australia.