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So how should we respond to the Chris?
Although it is often undertaken with the best of intentions, the answer does not lie alone in increased charitable donations to people experiencing homelessness. The immediate response of individuals, religious organisations and other groups is often to provide large donations of goods (such as food, clothing and sanitary items) or to deliver services through food vans or mobile washing facilities. These responses have the best of intentions but do little to impact the crisis — as one rough sleeper once told me, you are more likely to die of obesity than hunger living on the streets at Sydney. At worst, as researcher Cameron Parsell has argued, such responses inadvertently normalise homelessness and divert attention away from the achievable goal of ending it.
If we are truly to make a difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness, we must support initiatives that work towards preventing and ending it. This includes shifting our current service system response from a crisis/emergency accommodation model to a ‘housing-first’ model that rapidly re-houses people once they experience homelessness.