The founder of a clothing drive has accused Anthony Albanese of turning his back on the homelessness crisis and forgetting his roots in social housing.
Pass It On Clothing founder Chris Vagg said “if ever there was an Australian Prime Minister to tackle the homelessness problem” it should be Mr Albanese.
The Prime Minister describes himself on his website as “a working class boy from council estate” and frequently talks about being raised by a single mother.
“He grew up in social housing, he understands the struggle. But he seems to have turned his back on the people he grew up with,” Mr Vagg told Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Vagg launched his homeless service provider with his partner Olga Puga in 2016, with the organization distributing clothing to the needy.
The homelessness crisis was highlighted last month after Sydneysiders were seen queuing for clothes at Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD.
Demand for Pass It On’s services increased during Australia’s cost of living crisis. Long queues of individuals and families wait for clothes to be distributed at Martin Place in Sydney on Tuesday.
Chris Vagg launched the social enterprise Pass it On Clothing with his partner Olga Puga in 2016.
Similar scenes have since occurred, prompting Mr Vagg to lash out at Mr Albanese and demand he stop dragging his feet on the issue.
Mr Vagg even offered a suggestion on how to tackle the crisis, saying more public space was needed to train the unemployed for work.
Mr Vagg, whose company has so far donated more than 250,000 new or nearly new clothes to Sydney’s homeless and plans to expand the services it provides, told Daily Mail Australia that Mr. Albanese had been a disappointment as prime minister.
“If he was serious, he would try to give people opportunities. Instead, it looks like he left them behind,” he said.
“If there was one issue he should have sought to defend himself on, this was it.”
“But he chose to take photos on trips abroad so that his photo album would be presented at a slide event in Marrickville.”
Mr Vagg says not enough is being done to prepare the homeless and those struggling in social housing for work.
“Every day we do nothing. People suffer and every day the community pays for it,” he said.
Demand for Pass It On’s services increased during Australia’s cost of living crisis and there are now long queues of individuals and families for clothing distributed at Martin Place every Tuesday evening.
Mr Vagg says much of Australia’s homelessness crisis could be solved by motivating the homeless and those living in public housing by showing them how their lives will change by “learning skills and having a purpose every day.”
“There are a lot of people living in housing who are able to work but are not encouraged or inspired to get up and get started,” he said.
Anthony Albanese was raised in public housing in Sydney by a single mother. Pictured: Albanese and her mother Maryanne Therese Albanese
Pass It On Clothing has donated more than 250,000 new clothes to the homeless since 2016. Pictured: Co-founder Olga Puga gives new underwear to a homeless person.
The company plans to take groups of 10 people on a 100-day program that would prepare people for work.
The latest figures show 539,700 Australians are unemployed and there are 1.3 million “potential workers” interested in working, but not actively looking.
In May, the Business Council of Australia said there was something “very wrong” with the employment services system as 40,000 long-term unemployed remained on JobSeeker benefits for 10 years.
“It is not the work that governments should sell, but the result,” Mr Vagg said.
He cited the example of a homeless man who walked into the Pass It On store in central Sydney.
“He came to discuss how he wanted to get out of where he was in life,” Mr Vagg said.
“I said to him, ‘Wouldn’t you rather be able to buy a schooner and a chick every afternoon instead of relying on the food suppliers and what they give you?’
“He said ‘yes,’ so I suggested he call his old construction boss. He did it and he got his old job back and he’s been working for two and a half years so he can eat chicken parmesan whenever he wants.
“Of course it’s not always that simple, but people need to be sold results and ideas without being threatened by job agencies.
“Governments don’t seem to know how to sell work to someone who has lost hope and doesn’t know how to get back there. They don’t know how to get people to stand up and take action on their own.
“You have to know what people really want so that they get up and do it for themselves.”
Mr Vagg and Ms Puga plan to launch the Pass It On Academy in 2024 to prepare groups of unemployed homeless people for work so they can afford private rentals.
As Sydney and other cities grapple with a housing crisis centered on a lack of affordable housing, signs of progress are emerging.
The NSW government is accelerating a plan to build 19,000 homes across three major housing projects.
The academy would host groups of homeless people, ages 25 to 45 and unemployed for at least six months, for 100-day programs.
They would be trained in daily living skills and complete internships each afternoon with businesses in the hospitality, retail and horticulture sectors.
“Once they graduate, they move into private accommodation and work with a mentor. » said Mr. Vagg.
“Graduates become taxpayers and a source of inspiration for those still living in public housing.
“This plan also means that we are starting to solve the human resource problems of companies with locals instead of importing labor from abroad.”
Mr Vagg (left) and Ms Puga (second right) with volunteers and homeless Sydneysiders
Mr Vagg said the Pass It On Academy is a model that could be replicated “in every local government area” and beyond Sydney.
“I just need a 1,000 square meter building. We can do it within a year, probably six months.
“We should have Pass It On academies in Sydney, Parramatta and Liverpool. Each LGA could have one.
Mr Vagg urged businesses running office spaces with reduced employee footfall since Covid to donate space for his project.