16. Is homelessness society’s fault?

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
John Heywood, 1546

1. Steve Maxwell had two guests today: 2SR radio star John August, and a bloke called Andrew, who spoke about blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Your scribe didn’t get to hear what any of the three men said because he happened to be in Mr B’s audience when Mr B spoke about Black’s Infinity Machine. Or a derivation of it. It was similar to last week’s talk about Thompson’s Lamp.

You have ten packs of playing cards, jokers excluded. (You can reuse the cards in this experiment.) When thirty seconds pass you place a red card face up on the table. After 15 seconds you place a black card on the table. After 7.5 seconds you place a red card on the table. And so on. The question is: when a minute has passed, will the last card be red or black?

Will you ever reach the minute, even though a minute will pass?  Time will always be divisible, so will you be placing an infinite number of cards on the table in infinitely short intervalsjust beforeyou get to the minute?

You might say that the last card cannot be red or black, because there can be no last card in an infinite series. Yet, a minute will pass and at that precise moment there has to be a card placed on the table. Will it be red or black?

What happens if you leave the jokers in?

2. A conundrum. You don’t need to know anything about sport. You just need a brain to solve this puzzle. It’s an easy puzzle, but only one grasshopper managed to work out the answer. The others’ prejudice against sport worked against them. Can you put aside your prejudice of sport and solve the puzzle?

Two football teams, Hawthorn and Melbourne, have played each other just seventeen times. A sports journalist points out to her readers that “Hawthorn has won 15 of their last 16 games against Melbourne.”

The question is: which team won the first game?

Mr B holding two of Hawthorn’s Premiership cups. 2014 & 2015

3. Don’t shoot the messenger.On last week’s Facebook version of this newsletter your gentle scribe was besieged by commenters. The previous day, at Speakers’ Corner, Mr B had said that the Dept of Family Services will provide you with a bed for the night provided you have the wherewithal to ask for it and make use of it. Your scribe not only dutifully stated what he said, he even went to the Dept itself on Monday morning to verify the claims. After all, as you know, this newsletter has a reputation for being 100% right, and it is your earnest scribe’s duty to protect that envied reputation.

After visiting the Department to ask questions, I put the staff member’s answers on our newsletter and on our Facebook page.

That’s when I got into trouble.

Of course, if anyone should get into trouble, it’s Mr B. But it was me, your poor blighted messenger, who was whacked around the head with objections.

It appears that readers want to believe that the Dept is doing a lousy job of providing beds for the homeless. I guess they see people sleeping in shop fronts and under bridges, and assume that it must be the uncaring government’s fault that the homeless don’t have a bed to sleep in. After all, it’s a common complaint the caring make. To believe that the Department is doing a good job just goes against the grain.

“One of the government’s functions is to act as scapegoat.”
Jon Jermey.

So, on Thursday, your harrangued scribe visited the Strawberry Hills branch to again ask questions.

By the way, on the Facebook page some correspendents confused ‘getting a bed for the night‘ with ‘getting a home to live in‘. That was a bit of a leap! Mr B’s claim last week was that if you visit the Dept you will be assured of getting a bed for the night. He said nothing about being housed permanently.

Scribe to staff member: “To be given a bed, the person has to have an income such as a regular Centrelink payment. What happens if the applicant doesn’t have an income?”
“We help them link to Centrelink. That’s the responsible thing to do.”(Yes, to simply give someone a bed to sleep in without helping them in other areas of their life would be irresponsible. Requiring certain conditions be met means other problems can be discovered and addressed. It’s not bureaucracy, it’s commonsense.)
“What if the person is not eligible for Centrelink or pension payments? What if they are a refugee, for example?”
“Some asylum seakers are ineligible because they don’t have permanent residency and have no government funding. In those rare instances we pass the case onto the manager who has the discretion to give them a bed for the night. We would also liase with an organisation like the Red Cross, who can  assist.”
“What about young children? They don’t have a Centrelink income.”
“Under-eighteens rarely, if ever, come here, but if they do, we have a policy to assist them, depending on their age. We might, for example, contact the Dept of Community Services to ensure they have a refuge to go to.”
“To link someone to Centrelink might take a few days. Where do they sleep meanwhile?”
“Again, we can pass the case onto the manager who has the discretion to assist. When people fall through the cracks we don’t just turn them away, we seek other avenues for them. For example, we might point them to other organisations that provide social housing.”
“Are those organisations part of this Department?”
“No, they are non-government organisations but we help fund them.”
“What about drug addict accomodation facilities? I believe there are places drug addicts can visit to get a bed, provided they stay off drugs?”
“That’s a demeaning term you’re using. We call such places ‘specialist homeless services’. Yes, they exist.”
“I was also told that to get a bed regularly a person has to show that they have been trying to find permanent accommodation. What proof of that search do you require?”
“A diary indicating the places they have approached.”(Again, this is the responsible thing to do. By requiring each applicant to search for permanent accommodation they are helping the applicant. To not have that condition would be irresponsible.)
“So, provided the person has an income and is actively searching for permanent accommodation, then feasibly they could get a bed every day of the year?”
“No, the maximum is 28 days.”
“What happens after 28 days?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it happen yet.”  (Presumably, a person requiring a bed every day would soon tire of having to front up to the Dept every day to get one, especially given that they might each day be given a different bed. So, before the 28 days were up, they would find permanent accommodation for themselves, even if it’s just in a boarding house somewhere. Such places providing permanent accommodation take a percentage of a person’s Centrelink payment. Further, this scribe has no doubt that if someone did exhaust their 28 days, the Dept would not simply turn them out. They would probably point the person to one of the other organisations, such as the Red Cross.)
“I guess you reject some people wanting a bed?”
“Occasionally, if they haven’t tried to meet the conditions.”
“What if someone can’t visit the Dept? What if they have a medical condition that prevents them from queuing?”
“People don’t have to visit. They can ring us and we will find a bed for them.” (Also, the applicants visiting don’t have to stand while they queue.They are given a number and they can sit on any of the comfortable couches and chairs provided. The place is air conditioned.)

This scribe has to conclude that the infallible Mr B is right yet again: even if 1% of the people asking the Dept of Family Services for a bed for the night are unfairly rejected, that still doesn’t explain why there are so many people sleeping in shop fronts and under bridges. The vast majority of those sleepers would most likely find temporary accommodation too stressful or too isolating.

And, we can’t “kidnap” the homeless and force them into accommodation each night.

Some grasshoppers suggested that the government should supply each applicant with a free bed for the night, in their own room, whenever they want, without any conditions. Holy Moly. (And all supposedly paid for by the amount we would save by not paying for the Department’s bureacracy.)

In short, I’m with Mr B. Let’s not blame the government or society for the homeless people we see sleeping in the streets. Let’s, for a change, not make the government a scapegoat.

I also subscribe to Mr B’s demand that we double the Medicare levy from 2% to 4%, to improve the lives of ALL mentally ill people and their family carers. And for research into mental illness. He is a brilliant man, that Mr B.

4. It should be notedthat the Dept of Family Services also places people into permanent housing. Mr B tells me that when he was working in the Dept there was a ten year waiting list for applicants, but urgent cases (the mentally ill, the disabled, the vulnerable) could jump the queue and have a place in weeks when a place became available.

Many people are rejected for a variety of reasons. (Their income might be too high, for example, or they might have pets.) If it were too easy to get cheap, government subsidised accommodation, then many underserving people would apply and get it, and the taxpayer would suffer.

If the mentally ill have access to permanent public housing, why do some sleep in a shopfront? They do so because sometimes a person’s mental illness prevents them from staying in the home they have been given. They find it too stressful or too isolating, or too difficult.

A a small model of a room.

5. Mr B explained the difference between emotional beliefs, rational beliefs, and irrational beliefs. He said that most of us have beliefs that are so important to us that we will vehemently defend them, even though a disinterested onlooker would readily see the flaws in our beliefs. People who are otherwise sensible might believe in astrology, or that some peoples are inferior, or that we shouldn’t have sex before marriage, or that they themselves are worthless . . .  Their beliefs are so strong, nothing will change their mind.

We all have such beliefs, said Mr B, and it’s our job to become aware of them, because some of them are disabling us. We can keep the healthy emotional beliefs and ditch the disabling ones. When we become aware of our disabling emotional beliefs we can reduce their influence upon us.

He listed six questions we need to ask of each of our beliefs if we want to know if they are emotional beliefs.

Q1. What evidence would change your mind? (If you can’t think of anything that would change your mind, your belief is an emotional belief.)

Q2. If someone challenges your belief do you immediately try to prove that person wrong?

Q3. Do you become irritaated when your belief is challenged?

Q4. Do you tend to “misunderstand” the question by going off at a tangent? Do you start to argue about another related matter that feels safer, or you’re more confident about?

Q5. Are you a victim of Confirmation Bias? Do you clasp tightly to evidence that supports your belief, and ignore evidence that contradicts it?

Q6. Do you “just know” that it’s true?

Have you discovered that your belief is an emotional belief? Is it disabling you in some way? Do you choose to keep that belief, or will you one day let it go, when you are ready? Will you let that belief influence you when it’s time to make a decision?

6. Mr B has informedme that this coming Sunday and the Sunday after, he won’t be appearing at Speakers’ Corner. He has chosen to have his wisdom teeth put back in. It’s an awkward operation and he will need time to recover.

7.  Other subjects discussed:
– The meaning of the term ‘cognitive dissonance’.

– Are you condoning live animal exports when you vote for Labor or the Liberals, given that neither party chooses to ban it? Even if you vote for the Greens, does our preferential system of counting votes mean that you’ll end up voting for Labor or Liberal anyway, which means you will still be condoning live animal exports?

– In the tiny town of Swifts Creek in Victoria. a 95 year old woman has had her licence taken from her. Now, to get to Bairnsdale she has to catch a bus. But the bus driver doesn’t pick her up at the bus stop. Instead, he drives to her door and picks her up from there! And, he drops her off at her door when she catches the bus home!
That’s what it can be like in the country.

– Robert Nozick posed the following thought experiment.
You have a choice:
a) to continue to live your life as you are doing now, or
b) you can be put into a deep sleep and dream a long and wonderful life. You dream that your family grow up happy and well. Every book you read is superb. Every film you watch enriches you. You do whatever you want anywhere in the world, and you enjoy it and succceed. You dream an amazing life, and it all seems real. You will have no idea that you are dreaming. You die at a very old age satisfied that you have lived a rich and loving and interesting life. It’s a bit like ‘The Matrix’, but much, much better.

Robert Nozick found that most people chose Option A. When Mr B asked his grasshoppers to choose, he got the same result. We discussed the reasons why most people choose to forgo the experience of living a wonderful life, and choose Option A instead.

8.  No one leavesa comment on this blog, so if you want to read irate comments go to our Facebook page.

Nix and Gerber create these extraordinary models.