The O’Farrell state government has announced their plans for the eviction of Miller’s Point public housing residents. They say it’s to cut escalating maintenance cuts.
As with any announcement that involves public housing comes the claims that the residents are lazy slackos who’re rorting the system. Housos have been tainted with this same brush for donkey’s years, especially on talkback radio.
But here’s the thing: I was a Houso.
Mum and I moved into a small public housing unit when I was 13, five years after dad died and we lost our primary income earner. We were on the public housing waitlist for five years and we rented a unit for those five years where I had to share a bedroom with mum. Finally moving into public housing where I had my own bedroom was like winning the lottery. We finally had some security and knew that Mum would live there for many years to come. Mum felt so lucky to have a place to reduce the financial burden but was a very proud lady and didn’t like to let the cat out of the bag about our landlord. I didn’t understand for a few years about the stigma associated with living in public housing, but once I discovered it, it wasn’t easy to ignore. There were assumptions made about our need for public housing and the need of our neighbours for public housing. It was like being called a dole-bludger and it felt really really shit.
Yes, public housing areas can be unsafe. There were plenty of nights where I would call the cops because I saw someone outside my bedroom window with a knife or heard someone drunk and screaming until all hours of the night.
I moved out of home when I was 23 and for a long time was embarrassed to admit my Houso history. I learned to be proud and more outspoken about how desperately we needed an affordable place to live. Because without public housing, we would have been living on the street. It wasn’t an easy lifestyle to live next door to junkies, hoarders, drunkards and the odd calm person. But it’s assumed that it is.
This is the part that’s not being covered in the news this week about Miller’s Point. There are too many references to the so-called bludgers living it up right next to Sydney Harbour. As with any stereotype, there are only a small percentage ruining the reputation for the rest.
The majority of the people being affected by the O’Farrell government’s Big Plan have struggled financially through life for a multitude of reasons and are very lucky to have lived in a country where public housing exists. These Millers Point residents are going to be losing their home, their community and have to pack up their lives. Moving home is incredibly stressful and when you’re in your senior years it’s also a risk factor in bringing on dementia.
But the O’Farrell Government doesn’t give a damn about any of that.
What are your thoughts on public housing?