The Rev’d Dr Hugh Kempster is an Anglican Vicar, whose city parish with Anglicare Victoria, serves breakfast to between 60 and 80 homeless people, seven days of the week, and has done so for the last twenty years. Over recent months he has noticed a growing number of women presenting at the breakfast program and sleeping rough in the city of Melbourne.
‘One woman came to church on Sunday, asking for help with accommodation; she is in her early twenties’ he said, ‘that’s only a few years older than my daughter.’ Dr Kempster was told that an argument with her boyfriend had became violent, and forced her to flee their home. ‘It’s a story that is all too common’ he said.
I asked about finding solutions to this problem; how can we stop young women winding up homeless? ‘It has to start with a change in our culture; a change in men’s attitudes towards women’ Dr Kempster insists. ‘The American Presidential debate has brought up the issue of a so-called ‘locker-room’ culture. It is not OK to talk or act as if women were mere objects for male gratification. Respect in our relationships is the glue that helps everyone feel valued, positive and safe. When this is missing women and children, in particular, are vulnerable to abuse; and far too many of these find themselves homeless.’
‘Non-violent men should be pro-active’ Dr Kempster adds. ‘We should not stand by and watch, but take responsibility by actively interrupting the harmful and abusive behaviour exercised by our friends, work colleagues, and even total strangers. It’s just the Golden Rule really: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’