2020 has been a difficult year for many of us, experiencing fear, turmoil and anxiety as we learn to cope in the face of a pandemic.
We recently joined a zoom gathering of Mercy friends from around the world to share our experiences of the pandemic and its effects on displaced persons. We were reminded of the millions of people displaced from their homelands due to poverty, political conflict, crime, the push for economic advantage and climate change. The pandemic has pushed more people into poverty, placed more individuals and families at risk of homelessness and exposed more people to the risks of exploitation, trafficking and slavery.
How do we respond?
‘Stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it,’ (Jeremiah 6:16)
We continue to follow in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy who responded to the needs of her times with courage and justice. The same path travelled by own Sisters of Mercy North Sydney for 155 years. By listening to the voices of people affected by unjust policies and practices, by working in collaboration and supporting organisations that are working to combat poverty, we continue to pursue our mission to eliminate poverty and injustice and restore dignity to people’s lives.
Keeping people connected
This year, the focus of our Social Justice Small Grants Program was ‘Justice in the digital world’. We received many applications from organisations that were concerned about the isolation of the people they represent, especially during lockdown. Our policy is that 100% of donations are used for additional grants and our Home in a Box program. As a result, we doubled our budget for small grants and funded 13 projects across Australia. Your support enabled us to fund projects that provide marginalised groups with computer skills, access to digital devices and internet access. The projects enabled people to keep in touch with family and friends during the lockdown period and gave them the skills to use the internet for banking, accessing services and surfing the web. We also funded projects that provided young people with devices and internet access needed to do homework and learn from home during the lockdown period.
Ending homelessness for older women
We are currently accepting EOIs for our Grants to End Homelessness program. This year, we are prioritising projects that will prevent or address homelessness experienced by older women. It’s been a few weeks since the federal budget was announced, which offered little to help older women escape poverty through employment or any additional increase in social housing. Older women relying on the private rental market for accommodation and living on a fixed low income are at great risk of homelessness. A new report released earlier this year highlights the overwhelming number of women facing homelessness now and into the future. We have taken many calls about potential projects from organisations concerned about older women facing homelessness, many more than we could possibly fund.
Combatting modern slavery
Our next newsletter will highlight the projects we have funded in our efforts to address modern slavery in Australia. In times of mass unemployment, people living in poverty are at great risk of exploitation and slavery like practices. We are concerned that many more people are facing exploitation and slavery like conditions as a result of the economic impacts of Coronavirus, in Australia and across the world.
Grave outlook for people seeking asylum
The lack of support for people seeking asylum on temporary visas is making this group at great risk of exploitation. Due to loss of employment, many face destitution and are relying on charities to support their families. In the budget, the Federal Government slashed support for this vulnerable group, a heartless move in this difficult year. We continue to join advocacy efforts asking our Government to show some compassion and provide a special benefit payment to this group.
Thank you for your support and encouragement
Thank you for your continued support during this difficult year. We are determined to continue our efforts to end homelessness, end human trafficking and slavery and restore dignity to the lives of the most disadvantaged people in our community. If you would like to support our efforts financially, no matter how small, 100% of your donation will be allocated towards additional projects or Homes in Boxes.
Make your voice heard: