Homeless man Andrew Freeman in Cordelia St, South Brisbane.
Homeless man Andrew Freeman in Cordelia St, South Brisbane. Photo: Tony Moore

This week, Brisbane will be trying its hardest to schmooze
the G20 leaders, with wall-to-wall pampering, and the best that money
can buy.  

To be honest, I'm appalled. I'd rather we spent the money
helping the homeless than spend a single cent on the likes of Vladimir
Putin or some of our other visitors.

However, this week the homeless are not welcome in Brisbane.  

The G20 organisers have even gone so far as to offer them money and GoCards to go somewhere else.  

As early as last week, the homeless were being moved on by
police from places like West End and New Farm Park, and told they would
be arrested if they were there this week.

Apparently, we don't want such people cluttering the streets and parks.  

To me that is offensive, and unworthy of a country like ours.

I am certainly not foolish enough to think that solving homelessness is easy.  

There are many reasons why people find themselves on the
streets, but the one thing I do know is that most people who end up
there didn't intend to do so.

People can become homeless because they lose their job, or get divorced, and just don't have the money to rent a house.  

Some people have mental health problems. Some are just kids who ran away from home, and can't find a way back.

The homeless deserve our attention because they are people
just like us, they are our fellow Australians, and because they are in

The irony is that where G20 is happening is ground zero for Brisbane's homeless problem.

Roby Curtis of Blind Eye Ministries cares for the homeless in the area.  

He says there are "at least a couple of hundred in the West
End area, but you have to also consider the whole of Spring Hill,
Fortitude Valley and CBD."

Sadly, the G20 organisers think that we need to pretend to
the world we are some fantasy nation where problems like this don't
exist. How absurd. 

Hiding our homeless, or locking them up, is the sort of thing that happens in places like North Korea, or Mr Putin's Russia.

I fail to understand how heaping more misfortune upon the unfortunate can make anyone think we are a good country.

The true measure of what sort of a country we are is not how
well we suck up to the rich and powerful, but how well we look after our
own citizens who have fallen on hard times.  

Roby Curtis agrees: "Part of our Australian culture is how we
care for our fellow brothers and sisters. You don't have to be
Christian to have that heart. It's an Australian thing to do," he says.

With all the money being spent on G20, we could have set
aside just a tiny fraction to give our homeless some decent
accommodation, a clean set of clothes and some wholesome food.  

Instead we've given them GoCards.

Every host nation for the G20 gets to set the agenda.  

We have chosen to make the priorities things like tax evasion and international investment.  

While they are important issues, we have missed the opportunity to show the world how a truly decent nation behaves.

If it had been left to me, instead of gift bags, visiting
dignitaries would have received a simple letter saying a donation had
been made in their name to help the poor and homeless.  

Now that would be a G20 message they'd never forget.