Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Big Issue

THEY are among the legions of Australia's less-visible poor: the 46,000 women who, on any given day, are homeless. Yet Sheynell Perry and Clarissa Hall have been more visible than most because they have worked as street vendors, selling The Big Issue.

About 85 per cent of the magazine's vendors - who must be homeless, vulnerable or marginalised to qualify for the job - are men. It is not a job that usually suits homeless women, most of whom have fled domestic violence. Many lack the confidence for such public displays; many consider standing on street corners too dangerous; others worry about the sex-worker connotations; and many have children in tow. Two-thirds of children seeking refuge in a homeless service last year were in the care of a woman escaping a violent partner.

Yesterday, Ms Perry and Ms Hall joined a ''round table'' discussion in a plush boardroom in Sydney where they were introduced as the real experts on homelessness. Here they met the federal Minister for Housing and the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, who acknowledged their bravery.

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