Welcome Speech [Excerpt] – Katie Liew (Founder)
“What do you do when you see a homeless person on the street? Do you ignore them thinking they’re too lazy to find work? Their life dictated by drugs and alcohol? Do you walk past quickly trying to read their signs with stealth in case they catch your eye resulting in guilt for not doing more? I’m ashamed to say I was one of these people. I’m ashamed that I thought they were a menace to society, without even giving a second thought past this – selfish to not try to understand, or at least empathise.
Now imagine for a second that’s you on the streets holding the sign, where people not only walk past you, but don’t even make eye contact. You are dehumanised and faceless. I think it’s very easy to underestimate the powers of social inclusion, or social exclusion depending on how you want to look at it. There is an absence of connectedness with family, friends and society.
This extends to include lack of basic human rights that are attached to it – rights to vote, adequate standard of living, privacy, rights to health, personal safety, education, employment. I spoke to someone who told me about 2 seniors who had to share their dentures just to eat as they weren’t able to access dental care. Rights to freedom – something I feel passionately about, and one we so take for granted.
Our overarching theme this evening is ‘A Nod to Home’. Tonight we will have the freedom to go to not only a house, but a place to call home. To me, there is a distinct disconnect between being homeless, and being houseless. A house can be merely a roof over a head, while a home can be one’s car. But the difference is the one that provides peace, comfort, security and safety.
I have a vision which sees enabling our wider community to empower those that just need a hand up. I find people have an incredibly good heart, but they don’t always have the time, nor know how to help, short of donating money. This would allow them to be a part of something bigger, with the ability to own something tangible, but most of all, witness first hand the impact their making.
Employment and homelessness is a relationship so often overlooked but so incredibly important. I feel so passionately that there is a lot within our power that can be done to not just stick on a waterproof bandaid, but really address and solve our social issues. I may not have the answer, but I see collaboration as one of the most powerful tools for success. But we need to remove egos, and work together to create sustainable and impactful change.”
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