"IN the dismal quality of life I'd already accepted … I'll be the lonely blind man possibly missing a foot."
If ever a sentence sums up why a community should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, it is that sentence by Hunter man Colin Marlow.
And by that reckoning, NSW should be judged harshly.
Mr Marlow's dreadful treatment by Housing NSW is evidence of what happens when support services for the vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalised is deemed a demand on the more privileged, rather than a right for others.
Mr Marlow is legally blind. He was put into temporary accommodation because the Housing NSW property he was referred to was infested with bed bugs from a previous tenant. He lived in the home for four months and repeatedly tried to obtain help from the department to deal with the issue.
It was not until a disability support worker reported the bed bugs on his behalf that a pest inspection was arranged. Mr Marlow has told the Newcastle Herald that the inspector said it was one of the worst infestations he had ever seen.
Mr Marlow was moved to temporary accommodation at a Mayfield West motel but injured himself trying to negotiate a set of stairs.
Seven weeks after leaving the bug-infested Housing NSW property, Mr Marlow is still covered in bites. He has been hospitalised, moved to different temporary accommodation, and next week will give evidence at a NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The public hearing will consider the adequacy of Housing NSW's services to Mr Marlow, after he applied for compensation.
Over the past few decades we have heard a lot from governments about the obligations of people to the state - to "earn" the limited support they receive by doing community work and accommodating onerous bureaucratic accountability demands.
We've had politicians tell us that "the age of entitlement is over", and that it's time for people to decide if they are "lifters or leaners". We've also noticed that too many politicians have abused their entitlement to put their snouts in the public trough.
Colin Marlow has a vision impairment, but that in no way diminishes his right to dignity and fair treatment. The one sign of hope in this sad situation is that some services have belatedly responded.