One Year Later May 2016 to May 2017
Sunday night I attended at the Community Kitchen, Melbourne City Square in a more official capacity than usual. I had spent a few days before hanging around the edges, blending in and observing from a distance that which had been going on there.
The site of the Community Kitchen, has for many years now provided meals not just to the homeless but to all those that needed assistance. Young back packers that, running out of funds and unable to legally work, living on the edges until somehow families and friends could raise funds to bring them home to England, France and other places.
Confused men from South East Asia, speaking little English but attracted by the ‘Family Feeling ‘and the hot food. Then of course the ever growing number of homeless that fill the streets of Melbourne and try and find refuge and safety sleeping in the Shop Fronts under lights, Alleys and anywhere else. Some sleeping rough around the Rebecca Park Area and under the old Bridge and Arches, others sleeping in what is now remembered as the site where Wayne Mouse Perry was murdered. I remember Wayne , I remember speaking with his family after the Murder and above all , I remember the sense of loss they felt when he died and the growing anger as Wayne was portrayed as a no more than a ‘Homeless Person ‘ and legal argument took place over the sentence that would fit the crime . The much younger offender coming from a ‘Good Background ‘, drug affected. I have no doubt that both Wayne and his killer were in essence Victims of a failed system. There are many reasons why young people are driven to use Drugs; there are also many reasons for people to be driven into Homelessness.
There I was, Sunday Night, with the people that I have come to know over many years. There were new faces also, one young man from the United Kingdom who was here waiting to go home but had no money. His one practical solution was to sell his body for testing as a Volunteer in a Medical Experiment that would provide over 4000 Dollars and get him home. He did not want to break any laws; he wanted family and a loving hand.
One of the older members of the Community initially launched an attack against me, which Lisa Petersen quickly de-escalated. It turned out that he had forgotten who I was for the moment and thinking that I belonged to one of the Major Fund Raising Faith Groups operating in Melbourne, he went ballistic.
“You do not talk for me, how dare you! How dare you come here and quote the Lords words and the Bible at me. You and your lot should stop serving the Principalities of Men and start standing with your Brothers. You, Father, do you know what Matthew meant? Why do your lot and I mean the Council of Churches sit on its Hands and do nothing? I do not want my words hijacked by any one; I do not want political factions here selling their rubbish. You, Father, what you are going to do about the divisive way that our Lords Message is being spread. How many different Churches did Christ ask for …..?”And he quoted John and Matthew as if an inspired theological thinker .
Later he gave me a hug . We remain in touch and I know that his journey has changed . We spoke a few weeks ago , he now is back in touch with family . He gave me his address and welcomed me to visit him. An offer that I will accept when he is free ! He did not hate me , he hated that which he thought I represented and on recognizing me , the episode was left behind . He is my friend , he is my brother and a member of my family of the streets.
Its a transient family , but community and family nonetheless. There are alliances rather than friendships , because of the stress of being homeless and friends are highly valued and protected by all .
I sat there humbled by a Man that had fallen through the cracks for years, case managed at times in Supported Accommodation that was questionable and leaving him with little cash just to feel human. Seriously, who does not enjoy the ability to buy a cup of coffee? To buy a little something extra to eat.
Further up the Street a young man and his pregnant partner were bedding down for the Night. He recognized me and told me about his latest misfortune with one of the ‘Housing Providers’. He was in tears as he talked, he never asked me for a cent but wanted to vent his fears, anger and frustration. Those interested in social engineering might be fascinated with this young man’s life story and the litany of failures that occurred to get him here, to Swanston Street on a Sunday Night.
“Thank you Father, I know you understand! “As I continued on through the CBD. Thanks for the smoke bro. ! “Your lady is looking lovely tonight !” referring to my dog ‘Donna’ ! I get called many names , that does not trouble me. Names really do not matter , they too are transient . Street names , real names ; attributes and self sought titles . Much like the rest of society , names mean different things to different people.
I could go on for hours about the stories that make up the lives of the homeless surviving in the Melbourne CBD and the Suburbs, the hidden tragedies, the ones that will die. The updates concerning others, the references to young women turned prostitutes to pay for a nights roof.
Yesterday I picked up one of the major Melbourne News Papers that has been playing the agenda leading and homelessness debate for about a week now. There was nothing of interest regarding the events and stories taking place right next to the Melbourne Town Hall and even less about that which occurred anywhere else in Melbourne unless it could be milked for a sick headline.
Right in the Middle of the News Paper was an insert from a Major Faith Based Charity – You’re young. Alone. No Money .Nowhere to go. What would you do?
Help End Homelessness Now – 3 Ways you can help end Youth Homelessness and a list of what Donations are suggested.
“Change a life, before it becomes a life time. Help END homelessness now “
Yes, I cannot fault that at all. There is a lot of ‘truth’ in that glossy campaign leaflets.
To me it is time to get back to basics, time to re-build Communities and Community Spirit. It is time to invest real money into local Community Projects rather than funding some ‘Bums on Seats ‘Campaign off shore. Time for Churches to look to their own areas rather than abroad. Many times local Communities suffer in silence whilst Churches have no idea about the pain that is flowing through their own Community.
The Church could again be the corner stone of the Community, a place that welcomes one and all no matter what their background. Open to all and providing Community based programs that have a positive impact, not just pew numbers. Churches that are aware what issues are impacting on their Communities, to go Public and Advocate. Churches responsible and mature enough to stand up when facing inequality and Churches willing to Change Social wrongs in Consultation with their Communities!
Isaiah 1:37 Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the Widow’s cause.
There are so many more examples for those that claim to be inspired by their Bible Readings, but a Bible is just a book unless it is infused with the spirit that connects us all
Romans 12:15-18 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in Harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
There is little I can add, those interested should speak with the experts in the field . Later that night is hid in a coffee shop for a quick cuppa and a break. A young man was busking on the pavement and he sang the now well-known version of Hallelujah ( https://youtu.be/WIF4_Sm-rgQ )
I sat there in the dark and I cried like a Child, disgusted with the antics played for Money and Political Gains. AK