“CAN we design away Homelessness? Hint… Finland’s doing it.”

Some of Queensland’s leading architects, designers and architectural students are sleeping rough all over Brisbane on 5 August to raise money to assist at-risk women and children.

The cold winter night on the ground is not just a fundraiser but has sharpened their resolve to be part of solving one of Queensland’s most challenging issues – female Homelessness, says architect and the Sleepout for Homelessness cofounder Michael Dickson.

How does sleep out make a difference?

“The Sleep Out prompts discussions within the architectural firms about Homelessness and housing solutions. This year – the biggest yet – the lead-up has included panel discussions with various architects including the State Architect Leah Lang.”

Dickson and colleague Kelly Greenop of UQ Architecture started the Sleepout for Homelessness in 2014 to encourage the architecture community to bring its ideas, creativity and problem-solving to the thorny issue.

Mr Dickson said that more than 10,000 vulnerable Queensland women sleep in doorways, drainpipes, verandahs, bushland, bus shelters and unsafe accommodation every night. Services find women with their children living in their cars and washing in public toilets when they open. Thousands more stay in insecure and dangerous housing – often with violent perpetrators – to keep a roof over their heads.

“Family and domestic violence is the number one cause of female homelessness in Australia today,” says Dickson. “There’s no getting away from that ugly truth.”

“We must address the chronic lack of public and affordable housing so women have somewhere to go. We need a large and sustained injection of affordable and tenure secure housing stock by government, community housing providers, and the private sector. It is doable. We can’t call ourselves a world-class city if we don’t.”

Mr Dickson says all aspects of the sector need to work together to find solutions, from the design of programs, the design of neighbourhoods, and the design of clever living options suitable to the diversity of household situations.

Good design is central to addressing Homelessness, says Dickson.

“We’ve seen that in Finland. I want some of Queensland’s best creative minds to tackle how we build a great city, that the basic human right – a home – is available to all, not just the wealthy.”

“Good design improves the human condition. It can break intergenerational poverty. Good design can address social isolation and work in sympathy with our changing climate to create resilience in the face of frequent disasters. Good design is vital to counter Homelessness and build community.”

Architectural firms are planning to include major construction companies and engineering firms in the next year’s sleepout, discussions and solutions.

“Everybody needs a seat at the table for the discussion and solutions for homelessness, especially in this decade leading up to the Olympics,” Mr Dickson said,

Olympics and new developments

Asked about opportunities for new developments and the Olympics to include affordable housing options, Mr Dickson told The Westender:

“If the State and Federal Governments don’t take some meaningful, game-changing action on affordable housing in Southeast Queensland, the legacy of the Olympics will be shameful – with more inequality, more homelessness and a generation of children who don’t know the meaning of a stable home.”

Mr Dickson said that some affordable housing projects are taking place but are nowhere near enough.

“When the various towers at West End were approved, the council and government at the time had the opportunity to insist a certain quota were affordable housing. They could easily have done this. They did not.”

The latest State Government figures show that more than 50,000 Queenslanders are waiting on the social housing register.

“Any development going on at the moment is barely touching the surface.”

“We have seen various governments come and go. The present housing crisis – even before the floods and pandemic – has been a long time coming, a culmination of neglect to build. It has never been this bad.”

Second Chance

Second Chance president Kathleen Noonan says Brisbane has a unique opportunity, with planning and building for the Olympics over the next decade, to solve much Homelessness – but it will take will to act by government, plus good design.

“Imagine that as an extraordinary legacy after the Olympics.”

Since 2014 the annual sleepout has raised money for Second Chance projects.

Second Chance is a Brisbane-based non-profit committee that assists some of Queensland’s most vulnerable women into safe, stable long-term housing pathways. In other words, a home.

Second Chance, founded 20 years ago by businesswoman Marjorie Morton and feminist/educator Dale Spender, assists all kinds of women in all situations.

Women being supported include:

  • older women facing Homelessness;
  • younger women just out of State Care;
  • women with children fleeing violence;
  • vulnerable immigrant women left homeless;
  • young indigenous women sleeping rough;
  • teen mothers with babies and no support;
  • at-risk women coping with mental health challenges or addictions;
  • and women on parole.

How you can help

You can join or support Second Chance here – https://secondchance.org.au/ and Sleep out for Homelessness here https://secondchance.org.au/index.php/events/2022-sleep-out-for-homelessness-5-august/


Cover image: Brisbane architects prepare for the sleepout, from left, Michael Dickson, David Kelly, Charlotte Canning, Victoria Castro, Kae Martin, Katrina Robinson. (Image by Nikolas Strugar, Ravens At Odds)