Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Eve

For a belt, I cut the electrical cord off a clothing iron. The ends started to fray, so I re-cut them, burnt/fused them and dipped them in hot candle wax, which was rock hard after it cooled. I tie the ends together around my waste with a bowline knot.

Some things from the last 5 days:

- I preached on a microphone at Flinders St Station.

- A minister told me the motto for their buildings was 'People are more important than things.'

- Spent the night, house sitting a friends flat, watching Foxtel. So easy to be distracted from the 'real' world, I haven't slept there again, yet...

- Inspired another street person to start his own blog.

- Watched Borat, with friends.

- Handed out some gospel tracts, and people didn't throw them away?!

- Was put up in a backpackers hotel for a night by some concerned Christians, and had to convince them not to put me up for the whole week.

- Actually found a nice quiet spot to type in the State Library.

- An elderly lady stopped me in the street to ask why I had a cross on my top. When I told her what I was doing, she started crying, which made me cry. She said my parents must have raised me well. I agreed but when I mentioned that they couldn't understand why I am relying on the charity of others when I could support myself with a job, she responded they have it upside down, and you need to please God first.

- Made a baby smile.

- Had lunch with a mate who cooked the best meal I have tasted this year.

- Read some of my Biography of St.Francis book.

- Found a working bike rear lights module, blinking in the middle of the street.

- Spent the night sitting in Baptist Place alley, thinking about issues of drug use. I dozed off and when I woke up I found an empty syringe packet, so someone must have been there while I slept...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

I heard someone walking by mention that "call centers are the new factorys..." A very insightful comment.

Breakfast, watching the cricket, then afternoon tea in the city to celebrate my grandma's 92 birthday. Her goal is to live to watch the Olympics in Beijing, in two years time. I wonder if I make it to 92, what the Olympics would be like then? If I make it to 92 what would I be like then? I wonder if there are any 92 year olds in Africa? The irony of me snacking at a plush hotel cafe was not lost, but I was able to take some cake and muffin leftovers away with me (for others), in a container. Some farewells and then I was back on the streets, armed with delicious chocolate cake.

Later, I headed over to the corner of Gertrude and Brunswick Sts where a different food service called Food Not Bombs organized meals on the corner, and had a very good reputation. While I waited I watched a woman do Tai Chi in the park, then toss bread crumbs to about 2,000 hungry birds that surrounded her, each scrambling for a crumb, with some birds being the 'boss birds' dominating the others. There is some small correlation between this and the people at the food vans, but of course we are more calm and orderly. I wonder what dramatic change in circumstances to our city here might cause us to become like the birds? I have seen people behave in like this in images of food distribution relief in Somalia and other places. Just how far away culturally, and as individuals, are we from that kind of desperation? I gave another man, who was waiting, a piece of cake, and he commented on just how good it was. He asked if I was going to have a slice as well, but I said I was ok, it was for sharing. He said "Sharing is good, and the right thing to do, but you need to take care of yourself first, so save a slice for yourself later." But that didn't seem right to me. Why would I hold on to something if it can benefit someone now? I don't mind giving things away, as God always provides for my needs.

Another man came by and told us the Food Not Bombs people were on break until February. It was ok as we only had to walk one block down the hill to where others were waiting for the St.Vincents food van to arrive, outside the All Saints Church. As I leaned against the fence a young Asian man walked by and slowed down to look at the cake and muffins in the top of my bag. I offered him some and he eagerly took it. I asked him where he had gone for Christmas lunch? He said he hadn't eaten anything yesterday. I was surprised to learn he hadn't known about any of the free lunches for the homeless on Christmas day,and he was just as surprised to discover he had missed out. How could he not know? It's all people talked about in the last week, where they were going to eat next. He must be quite the loner, yet he was chatty enough with me. He told me that while he was living in an apartment now, that he had spent 6 months on the street, earlier on in the year. He said on the street you should never have/carry more than your sleeping bag, soap and a toothbrush, as you might need to drop your bag and run, at any time. Even at his lodgings he choose not to acquire any further possessions as you could be kicked out on to the street without warning, and if you cant take/carry something with you, then it is gone. So no point buying a tv or anything. He also said the biggest danger on the street was... poor footwear. If your shoes have a hole in the bottom then your feet keep wet and damp and they become a real health problem, and of course you need to be mobile to access services.

The van came by and announced that as it was Christmas week all the business that donated food were closed, and so all they had were a few hand made sandwiches (peanut butter, jam ect...) and we were limited to two each. So this was the flip side of Christmas. In the lead up there was virtually an unlimited spread food and places to eat, but on the other side, everyone was away and so things would be very scarce for a while. Do closed businesses and charitys just not care about the homeless after Christmas, was there no forward planing, or is that just how the cards are dealt? Can people cope for a coupe of weeks on reduced rations or will it cause them hardship? I think it will be ok, people are still getting 'something' to eat, and they mostly they some money to spend on food, if it becomes a priority. I handed out the rest of my cake and muffins.

Walking back through the city, I was wondering if I was really amongst the poorest and most marginalized of the city. Surely there was a deeper rabbit hole? I hadn't really talked (knowingly) to many criminals, prostitutes, and druggies. So I prayed to God about it, that if there was a deeper rabbit hole where I could talk to others about God then I would be interested in exploring it. A few minutes later two guys in a taxi called me over "Hey you with the cross, do you need a lift?" I shook their hand and said I was ok I was not going far. "You sure? We can take you where ever you like?" Very generous I thought, and noticed a beer in one guys hand. "I a good fu**" he said, and I realized they were trying to pick me up! "No, that's ok, see you later" I said and walked away thinking 'Not that kind of rabbit hole God!' While I don't mind talking to gay men, that whole scene was not one that I had considered I might be exposed to.

Back on the steps there was a couple of really really drunk men, beers in their hands, staggering about, swaying to music, and shouting out 'Warnieeee' celebrating his 700th wicket from earlier on in the day. I sat down with them. One said he had spent Christmas in 'lock up' and had a bet with some others as to how long it would be before the cops threw him back inside. Later as some cops approached they quickly put their wine bags in their backpacks and moved their beer cans behind some polls. The cops took the two cans they say, and threw them out, then moved on, and it was straight back to the celebration for the men.

As I stood there, another drunk man, Tony, came up and started talking to me, I could only understand about every third word, despite him keeping so close our chests kept bumping. His eyes were glazed over and I wondered just what intelligence and lucidity the man would display when he was sober, it was hard to imagine. I acted interested and tried to be a friend to him, as a reflection of Jesus, although I was slightly worried (for the first time) as I thought if I said the wrong thing his happiness could flip to anger, and possibly violence, in an instant. It felt like I was dancing with a Cobra.

Later he did get into a verbal fight with a much bigger angrier man, and they yelled into each other's faces a bit. When the bigger man pushed Tony, twice I had to put out my arm to stop him falling backwards down the steps, then they separated and the police came back and told us all to move along, they even told us to go and sit or sleep over at St.Pauls. I walked with Tony down the street a bit to Hungry Jacks where we met a girl Tony knew. She saw my top and said she used to be a Christian and we got into a long conversation about the existence of God. She no longer believed, saying "God, did nothing for me while I was a Christian, so I don't believe he exists..." and my argument just came down to "well I have met him, so I know he exists..." It was a good friendly chat and then she left, agreeing to disagree. About this time I noticed Tony had dropped his pants and was mooning everyone who walked by. So I decided it was a good time to make my exit.

Back over at SPC I went to sit down, when two security guards came over and told me to leave. I hadn't seen any Guards at St.Pauls before, and I told them the police had said to come over and sit here, but they were firm in their resolve that no one was allowed out the front of the building. I went back to the Arcade and slept. At one point I was woken up as some girls threw an empty milk crate at me, and then they ran away laughing.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day

At the Rosie's party yesterday there was a 'Santa' who was walking around merrily handing out... cigarettes. Yep, it was a different Christmas to what I was generally used to.

I got up and thanked my friends for letting me sleep over, "that was a great Christmas present!", and headed back into the city. The streets were mostly empty, a few people around, it might be the quietest day of the year, before the storm of Boxing Day bargain sales would burst and batter the pavements with hundreds of jostling feet, tripping over each other, to reach the pinnacle of the bargain shopping tree.

But not today. As I walked around I noticed many homeless and marginalized people. There was one on every street corner. I wondered if they had come into the CBD in greater numbers because it was Christmas day, or for some other reason? Or, if it was just that with the normal crowds and people away from the streets of the city the homeless were now more visible? As if all the coloured smarties had been removed from a packet, just leaving the blue ones behind, on their own. A woman in a red coat asked me for a couple of dollars to buy some food. I gave her a dollar and said that there was a free meal on at the CoH in an hour, "Really?" She seemed excited and interested, and I said to meet me at FSS in an hour and I would show her where it was. She never turned up.

The 1st Christmas:
Outside the Hungry Jacks, near the FSS, I found Goaty. He said he had slept in front of the store until it opened, and he was asked to move on. It had been a cold night, though he was pleased to report a passerby had given him a jacket to wear, which helped. I felt a little guilty that I had in a nice warm flat, while he had been out here dealing with the elements. He introduced me to Robbie, an indigenous man, who seemed well liquored up already, or perhaps just had the shakes and slur from a lifetime of alcohol abuse. He might be sober?! I was not sure. He told me that in 20 years he had never paid for a tram ticket, and was never bothered by the inspectors. A little ironic, the inspectors are paid to hassle fare avoiders, and yet there are those in the social system that even they choose to ignore.

Goaty and I went for a walk. He wanted to show me the alley where the McDonalds sometimes threw out their burgers, no longer fit for consumption by health regulations, but for Goaty a feast. We turned into the alley and it was piled high with rubbish. With over 40 bins and mounds of stuff everywhere, I thought perhaps the garbos had been on strike. We wandered in and down the back. A few McDonalds employees stood at their back exit, and Goaty standing near an overturned rubbish crate, said, "I didn't do it," and started picking up the rubbish and putting it back in the crate. The overturned crate and the employees were already there before we came along, so I wondered why Goaty immediately assumed he was seen as a guilty party, when no one had even accused him of anything? Perhaps that's the way he had been treated many times in the past? Homeless person = guilty for messy bins? I can probably never know. The supervisor came over and said it was cool, his staff would clean it up, and then told an employee to go and get us a burger each. "Merry Christmas" he said, and we thanked him, and took the burgers, as they pulled down their roller door.

We sat down in the corner and ate. Goaty pointed out a small hole in the wall nearby. It went through to a locked closet and he said to keep it in mind if I needed a place to sleep, as he had used it once in the past. He listened to some AC/DC on his headphones and then asked if I would talk to his mum on the phone for him. I said ok, and asked if he wanted to speak to her as well, but he just wanted me to say hello and Merry Christmas to her, on his behalf. We got up and went to a pay phone down the street. He dialed but there was no answer. He rang some other relatives and discovered she was away on holidays in Queensland and couldn't be reached. Then it started pouring down with rain, and then the hail stones. Goaty rummaged through a bin and got two cups, went over to where it was pouring down off a roof and put the cups under the falling water. He said there was nothing as good as rain water. I was skeptical about drinking it and was relieved when he changed his mind and decided that the water might contain aluminium from the roof, and it might poison and kill you after a few days. So he tipped the water back out. Then along came Mirror, and she asked us if we were coming to the CoH for Christmas lunch. I said I would be there shortly. Goaty wasn't interested in going and just wanted to wander around the city some more, and so I wished him a Merry Christmas and said goodbye.

The 2nd Christmas:
I headed up to the Church of Hope, where there were about 30 people meeting for the community lunch. It was organized by the Glen Waverley AOG Church, which was mainly Sri Lankan. I spoke with one of the pastors from there. She was interest in what I was doing but made the point that poverty in Melbourne was very different to 'real poverty' in developing countries, like Sri Lanka.

The food was really good, with the full Christmas spread, and plenty of it. They made a point of checking that we, the visitors, were satisfied, encouraging us to go get more, and when we were full they made up containers of leftovers for us to take and eat later. Everybody seemed happy and having a good time. A number of street people were there and everyone was talking, which was good as there are usually a few loners about. Mirror and another girl got up and sang some carols, which were very different sounding ones to what I was used to, which made it refreshing. When they finished everyone applauded. There was a real sense of community there.

The 3rd Christmas:
After lunch I trained back out to my parents place. When I got there everyone was opening presents. I was asked to hand some out, but I declined. I didn't feel like handing out what were largely unneeded material things, when I had just spent time with others that had nothing. Not to say that I think presents are bad, as there is the good will with them, just that I think they would be much better if they were gifts based on useful need, rather than flippant nicetys. And that's the hard part, but in my case I was pleased to receive a couple of 10 journey transport passes. They were useful to me and not an over waste of money, so I was thankful. Also it was nice that no-one said anything about there being no gifts from me this year. I wasn't giving any, as I hadn't any money to spend, and was also in solidarity with other poor people who can't afford to give gifts, and I was also not expecting any gifts, and that's the best way to receive; when you're not expecting anything.

The rest of the night was good. I did have an issue with someone that I initially wrote about here, as I thought it was very relevant to my story, but the person was not happy that I wrote about it publicly, and so I have since removed it.

Wrapping it up:
So I experienced Christmas at three different levels of the social spectrum, learning lessons and developing relationships at each one. The gift of Jesus is a gift given to everyone, needed by everyone, but not wanted by everyone. I hope I can share this gift with everyone I meet, and that they will accept it.

Merry Christmas Everyone ~!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sun 24th Dec 06 - Christmas Eve

If you're ever running from the police, don't think heading into Flinders St Station for a train will help you. A few times I have seen cars screech up and 20 to 30 cops run into the station; it's very organized and planned. They have every exit covered and the one time a perp got lucky and onto a departing train, the cops rushed back out into their cars and floored it to the max, up the street after the train. With such haste they would be well at the next station before the train will get there.

I started the day by attending the service at St. Johns Lutheran Church at Southbank. The Lutheran church is not much different to any other, except the priest likes to sing almost everything and the congregation usually sings a response. It was fairly enjoyable, except that I am 'over' organ music.

Then I trained home to visit as I planned to be in and out over the few Christmas days, and my Uncle, Aunt and Grandma were down from Sydney this year, so I wanted to maximise as much time with them as possible, and still do some FW stuff. A relaxed afternoon with some good chats, and a warm shower to heat up from the cold morning.

In the evening, they gave me a lift back into the city (as they were attending the SPC carol service) and I headed off through the drizzle to the Yarra boatsheds where Rosie's Oblate Youth Mission were holding a Christmas BBQ get together for homeless and street people. Word had gone around that it would be 'the big one' to attend, and there would be lots of people going, which there was. Gift bags were handed out, but I didn't take one as it didn't provide anything I would need, and everyone lined up for some food. I chatted with Rupert, quite an effort for him to get here considering he walks very slowly with a walking frame, and everyone was happy and cheery, despite the occasional rain.

Cathy came over and we had a good long talk about God, hope and purpose. She wasn't religious but was very interested in what I had to say. She said I should go on tv and talk to people there. I said I was interested in the street community and she just couldn't understand why I would be interested in "people on the bottom" of society. Her experience was that professional people have no interest or respect for street people; illustrated by the story of how the lawyer handling her mother's death had not even called to tell her of the incident until 3 weeks after her mother died, consequently she had missed the funeral, and was feeling guilty about not being there.

After the party I met Roger Dodger up at SPC and he was interested in how I was going. He strongly encouraged me to go on the welfare system despite my protests that I didn't want any Government handout. He said since the money was there I should take it and pass it on to another needy person, or I could support a whole village in Africa based on the Centrelink pension. I said I really didn't want any welfare money, even for others, I didn't want to be signed on to the government's system. He said ok, then insisted I accept $20 from him to help me on my journey. I agreed, as long as he didn't need it himself and took it. He smiled slyly, and said, "You know, I am on the pension, and so that $20 is from the welfare system..." Doh! I replied, "In a round about way, but you are offering it out of a generous heart and concern, and that is why I am accepting it." He also gave me his address if I ever needed a place to stay, and I promised to drop by sometime.

Lastly, I headed off to my home Church for our 11pm carol service. I have to sit up the front now, as without my glasses I can't read the words on the screen from very far. The talk was on Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, which was good as I had always wondered what that non-gold gift stuff was.

Afterwards it was cold, wet and it felt too late to make the effort to head back into the city, so I thought, "Any options, God?" I was just then talking with Harold about the possibility of sleeping in the hall, when some friends walked by and asked if I would like to stay at their place tonight. That was generous! We walked back to their place and talked a little about homelessness and Christmas time relative gatherings, then went to sleep.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sat 23th Dec 06

A few people have expressed a concern about the use of real names on this blog. So I have gone back and changed all names to pseudo-names. I will operate on the default of pseudo-names unless you tell me it is ok to use your real name, rather than the other way round.

The interaction of interest of the day was first thing in the morning. I sat on one of the benches outside SPC opposite McDonalds, letting the cool air wake me up. Along came a young teenage street girl, about 14, who asked me to move to one of the other two 'empty' benches, so she could sleep on the one I was sitting on. I agreed and she lay down. Then over came two of her friends, another young girl and an even younger young boy. I noticed they had been hanging out at the other benches nearby, where there were some rough street men all sitting and drinking beers loudly. I realized they were socially connected to that group, and wondered about what kind of future they had?

They introduced themselves and asked a question or two, like what was I planning to do today? I just shrugged my shoulders. They started talking among themselves. They didn't care that I was there listening. The kid asked one of the girls what she had done with the tape they had made of him having sex with another of the girls, she couldn't remember. Then he said to me, "Beer and girls, there is nothing better in life, is there?" I said back, "Actually God is better." A little more chat and they went back to the other group and let Kelly go back to sleep (they had been out all night). I had actually seen them around FSS before talking to a couple of 'regular/normal' looking girls. I visualized a connecting flowchart from regular kids to street kids to 'no hope' boozing street adults, and the connections were not flowing in a good direction. Sitting there a while longer, thinking about how you could possibly go about helping the kids in this situation, Kelly woke up and asked, "What are you still doing here!?" I said, "Just thinking," but then got up and walked away, across the road.

Again it was Friday night and I went out to Shawn's place for some tv and catch up with my friends. This time it didn't feel like the end of a camp, more just a visiting stop on the journey, but a welcome distraction. Also some welcomed cheezy pizza, before heading back to JJ's, where I was welcomed again to sleep on their couch for the night. zzzzzz.

Both my sandles had broken again and so JJ gave me a lift to Clifton Hill where I got out the gaffer tape and rebound them back into service. I then walked to FSS where I sat down and read my Bible for the afternoon, and later a walk along the Yarra.

In the evening I went to the Sat night dinner at CoH. After dinner I noticed some spilt cordial on the floor and went and asked if there was a mop I could use. David said if I had the time it would be really helpful if I could mop the whole floor. I could see it hadn't been done for a long time, so I said "Sure" and went to work. After an hour I felt really good working away. I also cleaned the tables for the coming Christmas lunch, surprised that there was no regular person/duty to clean up after the meals, and everything was just left as it was used. I guess I was used to too many school and church camps where the eaters are always tasked to cleanup. This church running on the bare minimum of volunteer assistance had no such system in place. I was happy to help; another way to serve God and others.

Back at FSS and Tom was setting up his microphone for the evening carols and outreach. As he had his back turned (adjusting the amp) two girls and a guy went over and moved around a bit while the guy picked up one of Tom's bags from behind his back, and then they all rushed off into the station. I said to Tom, "Those guys just took the bag from behind you, I'll go after them" but as I went around the station I was unable to find them. I went back and Tom told me the bag had contained lots of little wrapped toys that were going to be handed out to children passing by... People stealing Christmas toys from children, it makes you angry! An hour later, wandering around the station I found the bag in a bin and the empty wrapping paper, but no gifts. We still had a good night singing carols on the steps, with about 10 others, and some street people joined in as well. We also handed out some booklets about the 'real' meaning of Christmas to passersby, and Madison, from my home Church, came over to say hi as she was passing by. It was a joyful evening and we finished up at midnight, then I sat on the steps for another hour.

I met Cathy, as she was waiting for the last train. She was a middle aged homeless woman who had been on the streets for about 3 years. She was very surprised I was sleeping rough in the city, as she was very scared of staying in the CBD at night. She said she had been raped and beaten by another street person (who I have met) and it took 3 months for her ribs to heal. I asked if she had gone to the police, but she said there was not enough evidence to take her seriously. She said everyone lies. There is no-one she has met that is trustworthy. She was unable to find accommodation and so trained out of the city each night to a safer area. Again she asked me wasn't I scared? I said I hadn't personally had any bad experiences yet, so I felt ok about being here, and perhaps that I was a man probably helped. Then she left to catch the last train out, and I headed back into the city to sleep.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday 22nd Dec 06

After almost two weeks out and about, the only ones who dislike a poor person helping the church and asked me to leave 'their property', were the Anglicans at St. Pauls Cathedral. Which is ironic as I am an attending Anglican and they are supposed to help and love the poor, although I guess they think a poor person outside may be an embarrassment to the guests at their high society function... How surprising that I was treated better at a Robbie Williams concert!

I had breakfast at St. Peters Eastern Hill, which was perfect. Nothing fancy, just the basic cereals and toast with some 'important looking' church people quietly moving around checking that everything was alright, and everyone's needs were met. They weren't supervising, but serving our needs, and it felt great. The 15 or so homeless people/guests visiting for the breakfast genuinely seemed happy to be there. A good start to the day.

Then off to the library, and while waiting for a computer, I got distracted by the Transformers Xbox game, saving the Microns from the evil Decepticons, and two hours passed before I realized it. I reminded myself I was not here to play games, and checked the weather. Finally some warmer nights coming up. Great!

Off to visit my friends out at World Vision. I caught the train out to Camberwell and then got on the tram out to Burwood. I only had a Zone 1 pass and I thought that somewhere towards Burwood it would become a Zone 2 section. I probably should get off at the end of Zone1 and walk the rest of the way, and went to check the maps on the tram walls for where it changed. All four display maps on the tram were so old scratched and rubbed that the section I needed to examine was rubbed off and not visible on any of them. (It only occurs to me now that I could ask the driver...) So I sat down until my stop at Springvale Rd and felt a little guilty, wrestling with my perfectionism to always do the right thing. I don't think God meant us to be overly analytical of every little decision we make, so I let it go, and moved on to helping the tram driver try and work out what the metallic dragging noise was that had been coming from under the tram.

It was fantastically refreshing and encouraging to see all my friends there again. They were all interested in my journey and after 1/2 an hour of grilling me in a circle I felt great that I had been able to answer all the questions I didn't know a week ago, and that they were interested and learning as well. They say a big 'Hi' to all you readers of the blog! Then due to my lucky timing it was the WV Christmas party, so some more fun there to. Muffy gave me a lift back to St. Kilda in her car, which was a highlight, to have some really good conversation for a while, despite her oft late sharp braking methods ;)

I was near my brother's place and so thought I would drop by for a visit. As I walked up to the building entrance he walked out, on his way to the city, to meet his girlfriend, with two walkie talkies, to go and look for me. Ha! We went in and I showed them a spot where I slept and talked about homelessness. He wanted to try begging and sat down with a sign asking for $2 so he could do laundry. He got $3 after 1/2 an hour. I didn't feel good about the ethics of him pretending to be homeless with an Amex in his pocket, but also thought about my situation and wondered if others saw me as not so genuine in my position, on account that I could leave it and get a job at any time? We all walked around the city for the evening and they watched and waited from a distance while I went to the 10pm food van at Vic Markets. One young guy came up and asked me the time and then mentioned how late the van was running, and stood next to me. That was all that was said, but I felt it was a connection, an acceptance. It seemed very small but I felt it was important. A drunk guy came by and started yelling at everyone and a lot of people quickly moved away, before someone stood up to him and moved him off. The drunk guy smashed his bottle of beer on the road in anger as he left. The reality of the situation is that a lot of tough looking and tough talking street men, are really scared of getting involved in anything violent and run off as soon as it looks like a serious situation. I've seen the occasional chest-beating but no-one really wants any trouble, that's not why they are there. The real trouble makers are the louts passing by the food vans looking to slag off for no good reason.

Later Terry and Marcy headed off, and I wandered up north of the city. Rupert had told me there was a building where the security guards let some homeless people sleep, as long as they were out by morning. I didn't find it, other than I found the 50 Collins Place Plaza was open all night, with no security or anyone around for the hour that I sat there. Good to know if I need some shelter from a storm or something. I bumped into a homeless guy called Ethan. He was Jesus hyper and was fascinated with the cross on my top. We had a quick chat and he moved on. As I headed back down to my Arcade spot at 2am, about 30 skateboarders whizzed by down Collins St. Now you don't see that everyday.

Not much happened until the afternoon. I had wandered around Fitzroy a bit depressed as I had not had any decent evangelism/helping connection for a few days. As I walked back into the city I prayed to God about it, along the lines of 'well I'm here, so you can use me...' Two blocks later I was back in Bourke St Mall. There was Ethan having an angry conversation with an elderly man sitting on the bench. He saw me and came up and said the man had called him a poofter and he was yelling at the man not to judge people, Jesus didn't come to judge. I nodded and said I hadn't seen what had happened so I wouldn't get involved. He said ok and walked on. I nodded at the man on the bench. He asked if I knew Ethan and I said I had only met him for the first time last night. I sat down and we started chatting. He asked me about my religion, and I told him about God. He wasn't religious but was interested in my experiences of meeting God. His name was Perry and he lived in a nursing home and had nothing to do but just sit in the mall. His family did not care for him either. He asked me what you need to do to be a Christian and I said you just need to believe in the story of Jesus and have a heart attitude to doing the right things by God. I asked him what he was doing for Christmas Day, and he said nothing, so I invited him to the Church of Hope Christmas lunch, and he said he would think about it. I also asked him if there was anything he would like me to pray for, but he said he was ok. I shook his hand and moved on. It was great how quickly God had answered my prayer for a Christian encounter with someone, I just wondered if I had said the right things? He wasn't converted, but there was a lot of Godly value in our talk. I wondered if I had the right skills and info to help talk someone into conversion?

I headed over to CoH (Church of Hope) that was open for a couple of hours. When I got there, there were just two others. David the leader and another man called George. While we were talking, two teenage girls came in for a look. David immediately engaged them (in a very friendly way) and talked to them about God, as they were not Christians. Shortly he asked if they would like to pray to become Christians on the spot, one said no, but the other almost did but was pulled away and David gave them some reading tracts as they left. So it was pretty cool that just as I was thinking about the process of evangelism, the opportunity to watch and listen to an experienced person presented itself. It was encouraging. Another man also came by and warned me about street people pretending to be your friend on a long term basis, just to seek to ruin you because you are a Christian and to find out where you live so they can go and rob your place. He said the Cross on my top was a big target sign for bad elements in the city. I thanked him for his warning and said I had not had any problems thus far, but would be wary.

Sitting back at FSS (Flinder St Station) I met and chatted lightly with a few other people and street kids. Then I saw Eco Paul and shouted out hello! Eco Paul used to go to my Church and is a part of the street community (always collecting stuff and preaching about environmentalism, etc...). We had caught up a number of times in the months leading up to my FW but I had not yet told him about it. When I told him all that was going on he was ecstatic, he thought it was so counter-cultural that he couldn't believe someone from the rich eastern suburbs was following this path. Walt (another street person) came by drunk, and was also surprised by my story. Eco Paul later said a lot of people would know now as Walt had a very good tongue. He also told me that sleeping in the gardens at the AXA building on the corner of William and Collins St would be very good spiritually. I then helped him load all his stuff on the last tram out east (3 loads of stuff) and I heard him shout loudly "Hello Melbourne People!" to the tram riders as it pulled away from the stop. Hilarious.

I wandered down to the AXA Gardens but it was all to open for sleeping bag, perhaps when it was warmer I could lie there clothed (without a sleeping bag) and discover the spirituality of the spot? I think it was supposed to be about having nothing out in front of a building which represents the pinnacle of wealth and financial management. For now I headed back to the Arcade for the 2nd night in a row, happy I had a good day.

In the morning I spent a good amount of time sitting on the FSS as the day warmed up. One guy asked to take my photo. Then I went to the 12:15pm service at SPC (St. Pauls Cathedral) and sat down the front, but nothing happened. The sign board was out the front, but it was all quiet inside, after 1/2hr I left. Outside, I had a dollar coin I had found in the bottom of my sleeping bag that morning, and wondered how to spend it. What was the best value I could get? Since it was hot and I was thirsty, I though it would be pleasing to have a change from water. Not enough to buy a Slurpee (which everyone else in the city seemed to be holding) and all cold drinks are above a dollar. I headed off to QV Safeway, where the whole shop (underground) is like a big fridge. Scanning the shelves I said 'Yes!' as I found that Pepsi Max 1.25 litre bottles were on special at 99 cents. I handed over my dollar, no change, and went and sat down to enjoy my prize. Halfway through, a pat on the back, and Tim and Laura sat down! They saw me in passing and came for a chat and a pray. That really brightened things up. Meeting friends, prayer and Pepsi; it's all you need.

Later: I caught up with my mentor, visited CoH, talked with Rupert and sat more on FSS. Noticing a huge crowd out the front of SPC, I went over to see what was happening. It was a carol service with the Melbourne Philharmonica Orchestra. The ushers were all nicely in black with a red flower on their chests, and the crowd was all in their best clothing, a couple in black tie. After everyone was inside I was told you needed a ticket to get in, but there were still seats available. I went and sat on the knee high stone wall on the other side of the front courtyard hoping, as with the concert earlier in the week, that I might be able to hear something from outside. A man came up the ramp and a piece of paper fell out of his pocket before he went inside. I went over and picked it up. It was a voucher for a free copy of the evening's programme. I walked over to the door usher and gave it to him, saying that it had just been dropped and perhaps the man might come back looking for it. He thanked me. Soon the doors were shut, an usher on the outside, and there was no sound to be heard.

Over the road in Federation Square there was another carol and music concert on for the general public. So I decided to stay sitting where I was and listen to that music. Another man did the same not far away. I remembered Jesus' story of the Banquet. At first I felt a little angry that the Church had this 'Banquet' of music, there were empty seats and they had not gone out to ask the poor, crippled, or blind to come and fill the seats, like in Jesus' story. Then I also put myself in the shoes of those left outside after the doors are closed with "wailing and gnashing of teeth". I gnashed my teeth a bit to see how it felt, but didn't wail as I didn't want to draw any attention. Later another usher came out and went and got Hungry Jacks, brought it back to the other usher and they disappeared inside to eat. Some more guests arrived and, as the door was shut, thought they were locked out. I thought the ushers were like the bridesmaids who ran out of oil and weren't there when the groom arrived. I went over to the guests, welcomed them and said the door was not locked. I pushed open the door a little and let them inside, shut it and then went back to my seat. The other guy wanted to go over the road to Fed Square for a closer look and asked me to mind his stuff for 5 minutes. I said that would be fine.

I read my Bible a little, and then I got up and stretched my legs a bit, when 3 ushers came out. An older one I had not seen before came over and asked me if that was my bag by the wall. Yes, I said that it was. He asked me to move it as it was a security threat. 'No problem'. I said I would get it and keep it with me, and went and got it. Then he came up again and asked me to leave. I said that I was keeping an eye on the other guy's stuff for a few minutes. He said that the others guy's stuff would be thrown out too. I asked "Have I done something wrong?" Looking into the man's eyes I could see a heart that was completely hard. He said, "I am in charge of security and this is OUR property," and I said, "No, it is my Father's property," and walked away. I picked up the other guy's things and went to the far corner away from the doors and sat down. The other guy soon came back and thanked me for looking after his stuff and sat back down on the wall to listen to the 'people's' concert. So I then thought about the story of the vineyard tenants that threw the owner's visiting servant outside before killing the visiting son.

Intermission, and out came a number of people for a break. One older lady came over and sat next to me and mentioned the heat. I said I liked the heat and deserts, which led into a conversation about who I was and what I was doing in the city. Her name was Doherty and she was the wife of one of the choir members. Soon her friends were calling her to hurry up and come back inside, and she blessed me before hurrying off. Another good connection. Then up from the street came a young man giving out tracts (Biblical message pamphlets) and doing evangelism. He was Nicholas from Crossways Baptist out in Burwood. We had a good 1/2hr of conversation and fellowship before he moved on to other people. It was an interesting night, and after the concert finished and everyone left and the Fed Square concert finished, I headed back over to the FSS.

At 12:40 a Greek man came and sat next to me. He was Pontas and he had just missed the last train to Werribee by 4 mins. Thus he said as he was on welfare and had no money, he would just wander the city for 5 hours until the first train the next morning. In the meantime with nothing to do we also had a good talk for about an hour. He said he was a Christian, although I am beginning to wonder at all these people that 'call' themselves Christians but do not display any Christian traits... He talked about the problem of being stuck on 'that' poverty rung, where he paid for accommodation, a meal, and then the rest went on poker gambling and cigarettes. Which apparently are very expensive. For a 2 pack a day man it's about $24 or $160 a week. Out of his $400 pension and with rent that does not leave much left... He went for his walk and then out came the skateboarders again. I went to bed for the night; pulled out my sleeping bag, and lay down, right at the front of St. Paul's Cathedral. :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday 21st Dec 06

The real poverty trap zone is not on the bottom of the 'ladder', but one rung up. For the majority, welfare payments can cover the basic cost of food and accommodation (if little else). But to get a stable job and independent living arrangement is a step beyond the capabilities of most of those living on this rung, though there are charities trying to help. With not much else to do, people can turn to alcohol, drugs and other vices, which may then become a higher financial priority than accommodation. Thus is one path leading to a return to sleeping on the streets.

People need a drive (or purpose), and support; and these are not issues limited to the poor. I am sure there are a lot of wealthy people that have drive, but little family/community support. If real 'wealth' is in good relationships then who is rich and who is poor? If we find ourselves on the relationship poverty line, do we have the drive to build our relationships... or are we just waiting for a handout?

I woke up in the garden at St.Peters Eastern Hill. There was a nice little gap between the bushes and the church wall that provided some privacy, and so I had slept in until about 8:30am. I packed up my sleeping bag, which made all the difference, the cold was no longer a threat. Imagining that scene from Die Hard, I say to Satan "Ho Ho Ho, now I have a sleeping bag." Further down the street I pulled out my charity guide booklet and I noticed there was a free breakfast on at 7:30am at... St.Peters! I had slept through it, not 5 meters away. LOL.

I walked around some then spent a few hours updating this blog. I had a little trouble with the State Library guards as now I had a bag (with my sleeping bag and Bible inside) which they said was too big, and I needed to put it in a locker, which costs $1, which I didn't have. I didn't want my free internet option to disappear and luckily we compromised to me squashing it down as small as I can and holding it directly under my armpit, while I walk around the library. (I have had to have the same discussion with the other guards as well, during the week, but so far I haven't been denied, thanks God.

At midday I went down to the Docklands to check it out. It was pretty dead, it felt like a really empty place of emotion and feelings and life, not just people. I went into the ING Information shop about their Water Front City Development complex, which is building behind the Docklands. The attractive girl showed me the model of the complex pointing out the apartments, shops and entertainment complexes. I asked here if they planned for a Church? She looked at me funny and said people could tram up into the main city if they wanted that. She shut the door after I left. The next day I sent an email to the developer saying if they were interested in planning for a Church or wanted to donate some space, to let me know, as I knew some people who would be interested in setting on up. (Which is true). So far no response.. Well no homeless people down here... but wait, I found one! He was sitting watching the big video screens in the arena. They were tuned to Channel 9 and the 6pm news was on, a resourceful discovery, though quite a way to go for some tv, though if you're homeless you generally have plenty of time. After the news he headed back to the city, and hundreds of fashion models, whoops I mean wealthy people were pouring into the area for the restaurants and nightlife. Now I was really out of place. Not supposed to be any crazys from the city down here. I got some genuine long stares from people, compared to the main city where I am hardly noticed.

Heading back past the Telstra Dome, I noticed a lot of people heading towards it. It's not football season so I went and had a look... a Robbie Williams concert! I noticed there was really only one entrance/walkway to the Dome, and so I stood halfway looking at people passing by. Perhaps someone I knew might be going to the concert and they would see me and buy me some of these delicious looking sugar jam doughnuts, at the stall. I thought about who I knew who liked Robbie Williams, but I couldn't think of anyone. My picture was snapped by an Ericson's rep who said it would be up on their website later (along with thousands of others). that gave me an idea. I stood up front on to the streaming crowds passing by for about 3 hours. I call it a bit of 'Cross Promotion'. Good, now about 50,000 people had the cross of Jesus register in their brain that night, if only for half a second. As the concert started about 15 people and myself went to the entrance and, standing at the passout gate, were able to listen and watch the concert. Yep, that's right, the stage was setup directly opposite the gate with a clear view to the stage and video screens. Even without my glasses, which I had not taken on the Faith Walk, I was able to see everything going on, for free, no $100 ticket needed!

Not caring much for Robbie or his music, I left halfway through the performance and headed up to the Vic Markets for the 10pm food van meeting. I hadn't been here before and the crowd seemed a bit bigger and rougher than the Flinder St crew. Not more dangerous, but more younger men, that kept to themselves with a more haunted look in their eyes. I stayed off to the side and against the wall, not wanting to encroach on anyone's space. I noticed Annie, the pension lady that had her bag stolen the other night. I said hello and asked her if she had found it. "No", and then she told me the police were hoping to find the thief on the CC TV from the area. She also talked about how hard it was for a person in her position to get respect from the police and the trouble it took to replace all the things she lost. We walked over to 5 clothing bins on the other side of the road. There was a fair bit of clothing on the ground in front of them. She started picking threw it and found two white shirts in perfect condition and offered them to me. I thanked her but didn't need them, she threw them to the side and found herself some other stuff. Along came the van, (an hour late but that's just how it goes) and everyone dived in for the hot food: pies, sausagerolls, chicken rolls ect... I waited until everyone else had what they wanted and too my surprise found there was masses of stuff left, and this was the vans last stop. I got a pie and ate it, pretty good. The funny thing was all the food had the sale prices on the packets, so you could see you were eating something that sold for eg.$4.50 A few people took about 12 items and I wondered that they really couldn't eat it all in one day and the truck would be back the next night, so they either had other people to share with or didn't want to visit each night. Afterwards one bloke (I had not seen before) came up and asked me what was on the back of my top, he had seen me around but couldn't remember what it said. "24 Hour Church." My 2ndry vision for the Faith Walk, to be a Christian Church at all times and available to pray with anyone at any time. What surprised me was that I thought I was the one watching people, but it seems people have been watching/noticing me also. I realized that submerging into the community was not just about approaching and talking with people. My mere presence and distinctive look was having an effect. I hope it is positive, so far no issues of negative reaction to deal with, which is good.

People disbursed and I went off to the park behind Fed Square, near a long rising walkway and looked it over. I had noticed it a month earlier and thought about it as a sleeping spot. It was darker and quieter than in the CBD but it was a bit open. No one around at night, but in the morning there would be joggers and passerbys at first light. I decided to give it a go and put my sleeping bag down at an angle by a tree as to keep me out of sight of the road, in case any cops drove by, and decided to get up as soon as it was light. Though I had seen many homeless people in Sydney Hyde Park in their sleeping bags during the day, and they did not seem to care about being noticed, but I had not seen that same situation down here in Melbourne. The ground was softer than the usual concrete, so I slept well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday 20th Dec 06


Well it has been a much more difficult journey than I thought, though the people I have met and my amazing growth in cultural understanding have made it well worth while.

Last night my brother asked me what I've missed the most? Computer, TV or a bed? But what I've missed most is the social interaction and good conversation with friends. It's the relationships and making new friends that were the highlights of the week. Food is really just food, entertainment is fleeting, a bed is for when you're switched off, but real stimulation comes from interaction with others. There does seem to be a lot loneliness and solitude in the lives of the poor and homeless, and many just seek a little bit of attention and friendship. They are real and interesting and friendly people, that are tuned out of the minds of most that pass them by. They are not the wolves at the door, but more the friendly neighbor you have never bothered to go next door to meet. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

Sleeping on stone or a hard surface is really not that bad, it just takes a little bit of time to get used to; last night I think I only had to change position three times. Lack of sleep has had surprisingly little effect as well! I am sleeping only 5 to 6 hours a night (usually about 2am to 7am) and find it is plenty, a shock for someone like me who normally likes to sleep 8 to 10 hours. Sometimes a 1/2hr nap in the afternoon will boost me back to normal as well.
is no longer a mental decision. It is just the way I travel, and so when I need to go somewhere I just head off and rarely stop until I get there. My legs don't get tired, which I guess is a good benefit from cycling an hour a day for the last couple of years. I now wonder about the waste of money people spend on transport to travel relatively short distances, of course I have a lot of time to walk places as well.
Eating has become somewhat of a chore. With no pantry to raid at leisure, I need to plan ahead about where and when I am going to go for a meal. It is the center point of interacting with the community. A lot of the same people can be found from one place to the next, based on meals. Overall the food is very good, although I heard on person complain about Credo and the Hare Krishna Depot as they are vegetarian. This is the limitation of the poor. The limitation of personal choice. It is the same for drinks. In my situation I can't just go and get a Pepsi, I am pretty much limited to the many water drinking fountains around the city, which does the job, but the fact that water has no taste, does (over time) tend to leave a sour taste in your mouth.

Shops. There are so many! It's not that you can't just go and buy the food at the cafes and restaurants that bothers you. It's that without money there is no purpose in entering the shops, and if you're not going to buy something then it doesn't feel right to be there. So in a way it's like you are shut outside. You see all these people drifting in and out of shops, but I am now an 'outsider', not able to participate in this 'normal' social function of the living community.
Boredom is a huge issue. I have seen one guy in four different locations at regular times just sitting. During the day is not so bad when people are around and things are busy, it's early morning and late at night, when there is absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go. I don't have a TV to sit and watch, no internet, no music to listen to, and friends seem a long way off, out of reach. All the charities close in the afternoon, the city could do with some sort of 'drop in center' that operates late arvo and early evening, as a place where people can meet and chat.
Sleeping Location is a difficult nightly decision. It needs to be out of sight as much as possible, apart from avoiding the police, a bit of solitude and a break from the disapproving eyes of the public is welcome. Shelter out of the wind and possible rain is important, very difficult to find in the CBD. Ironically whenever I check the weather reports now, I am checking the nightly minimums, rather than the daily maximums. Walking around at night you notice all the big empty warm spaces in buildings and offices, just behind a locked door, it's like a tease. Also there is no sleeping in, as soon as it is light you need to be up and about, as the security of the darkness has dissipated.
Discussions within the community are always limited. What do we have to talk about? Not much else besides the weather and the charities. It takes time to get to know people and gain trust, and so shooting the breeze, if not just a hello, will have to suffice for the moment, until I step across cultures and then there is lots to discuss.

Churches are good to visit to take a break from the day, do some prayer and maybe catch a service. While there are a few churches open all day, they mainly only have their service once a day at midday, which is hard to catch as it is also the time to meet people at lunch. The different denominations around town all seem to have a particular strength, but there seems to be no 'complete' church. That may be more a reflection on me than the churches, but there's still more to check out, but as many are only open Sunday morning, it is a slow process. I wonder if anyone has done a guide to the churches, like they do for restaurants?
Helping people, and being helped by caring people, has been the highlight, that keeps me motivated onwards. Finding a lost sheep and pulling one out of a hole (Christian speak) is rewarding work. It's also an encouragement of God being active and working in peoples lives; a reflection of his love. It's the 2nd biggest message of Jesus. He says to first love God and then love others. Nearly all his other parables and teachings are based on these two themes, which are combined into one action on the cross. His death is a simultaneous action of loving God and loving us.
Understanding just what is poverty and homelessness in Melbourne has been a great revelation over the last week. To think I have lived here all my life and had no idea of what is going on shocks me.

What for the future? I am still not sure. I think I will be out here, on the streets, until the end of December, and then some other options are open for me to consider. Certainly long-term this is an area of life I will no longer be able to ignore. I hope I will be able to continue to find a way to share my heart, and God's, with others, as we meet on our respective journeys.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday 18th Dec 06

I woke up and headed to Melb Central and sat and watched a guy selling The Big Issue. This is a magazine that homeless/poor people sell as a way to generate income, in a respectable way rather than having to beg for change. They buy as many copies as they want for $2 and then sell them for $4. There is a great range of people selling the magazine, from some that just sit in a spot and silently hold up the magazine to passers-by, to others that make a great salesman's effort at the job. I had spoken to one quietish guy who said he sold 5 to 10 copies a day ($10 to $20), which is enough to cover basic accommodation costs. This guy I was watching was one of the friendliest, most enthusiastic people I had seen. I wondered why he didn't get a regular job as a salesperson in a store. He seemed very employable. Then I realized that over the hour he had probably sold about 20 magazines, that's about $40 per hour, a much better rate than an award income job! A friend rushed by and onto the tram nearby, he turned and saw me just as it was pulling away. Hi Shawn! He later told me the Big Issue guy is there almost every day and is very popular. It's good to see a service where people can help themselves into a better situation, rather than just receive a handout.

Next I went and visited Anglicare's Lazarus House, just behind St Paul's Cathedral. This is a small place that a few people gather to in the morning where food, showers, clothes and TV is provided for a couple of hours. I had some ham on toast, which was very satisfying, and read the paper. As I moved around to get a drink and things, I realized I was gripping my blanket tightly wherever I went. My first possession and I wasn't willing to let go of it. Carol, one of the ladies who worked there (and the friendliest and most caring one I had met yet), noticed my 'blanket situation' and offered me a bag to carry it in. Very helpful. A few of us watched an episode of Magnum PI on the DVD, which was nice to have a mental break from my situation. I think I had started to feel like a homeless person, more alone and unworthy of society. My thinking had slowed down, my movement had slowed down and my thoughts were goalless and floating on the moment. I snapped back to alertness and immediately my confidence and intelligence returned, like I had stepped out of a haze. Time to move on. As I left, I heard Carol mention that Anglicare had cut their budget and that's why they had moved to a smaller place. Outside there were big signs asking people to help donate towards the 20 million dollar restoration of the St. Pauls Cathedral building. I wondered about the imbalance of funding allocations, a building vs people...

Back through the city I got approached by a 'Friends of the Earth' supporter. He asked me for a donation, excitedly pointing out that any donation over $2 was tax free! I told him I was homeless and lived on the street. "No problem, you can donate as little as $1 if you want." What? I said, "Mate, this blanket is all I have. I don't even have a single dollar." He replied, quite happily, "Ok, perhaps you would like to take a brochure then?" I just shook my head in disbelief that he was still trying to market to me! At least he wished me good luck as I walked away.

I headed on over to St. Mark's Community Center in Fitzroy, one of the few support services open in the afternoon. They mainly offered food parcels, bags of food items you could take away and use later in the week. There I met one of the most interesting, street characters out there. His name was Francesco, on account he had spent some time as a Franciscan monk in Italy. He also had been a policeman, a janitor (impersonating a dead janitor for the accommodation and wages), a soldier in the Vietnam war and a geophysicist. He had been napalmed, shot 38 times and had a junkie strike him in the head with an axe! He now collects cans and saves time crushing them by getting Safeway truck drivers to roll over his sacks of cans with their trucks. And he had many schemes to make money, though he doesn't believe in possessions, but wants to hold on to 'his' dream of one day buying and living in an abbey with naked women running around. Surprisingly he seemed quite sane! It was very refreshing to have a good fun chat with someone.

It was almost 4pm (I sometimes ask people the time, but I have begun to notice just how many people are not wearing watches. I can only guess people are relying more on mobile phone clocks for the time) and I headed over to HomeGround Accomodation Services, to see what they had to offer. Birdy from Flagstaff had given me a map there, last night when I got the blanket. I had a chat with the consultant and discovered that if you were registered with Centrelink and had a Healthcare Card, then they could help you find accommodation straight away for that night. Registering with Centrelink could also be done same day. So in effect, if someone were to find themselves homeless and knew where to go for help, there is no reason for anyone to sleep rough on the street for more than one night. Unless they prioritized their payments on other 'stuff' before accommodation, or if they are unable to register with Centrelink for a particular reason, like me. I am out here by choice and so I am not going to draw on the welfare system for funding. I have had some charity food, but more as to fit in as part of the community, to understand better what services and people are 'out there'. I explained to the consultant my situation, and she offered me a sleeping bag. They offer one to anyone sleeping on the street. At first I refused, but as she said it was returnable, and would be cleaned and it could reused, I agreed. Great, the blanked had not helped much, so this was a valuable item.

Back in the city, I met Shawn at the Station, as I had been invited to his house tonight for some TV and catch up with friends. He bought me a ticket, such a small amount of money, but so large and seemingly unobtainable, when you have nothing. Cruising out north on the train, things whizzed past so fast, with no money I had walked, walked, walked all week, with little thought to distance, time or rest. If I had to go somewhere I just started walking, there was no other choice. I refused to jump on a tram, because I couldn't afford a ticket, and free riding was wrong. I had a shower at Steve's and it felt great! Another meal, TV, chit chat, and I almost forgot I was still living on the streets. It was like I had come back from a week away camping in the bush. It was a big relief from the mental pressure of the week, just to forget about things for a while... At the end of the night I changed back into my wonderfully washed and cleaned clothes, and drove back with JJ and Kath to their place in Camberwell, and slept on the couch (oh so soft) for the night.

We got up at 11am. My money pouch jingled? There was only supposed to be my stone (with the word FAITH engraved on it) in there. I checked it and I had $12.50! Where had that come from? It must have been my friends slipping it in after my stuff was washed?? Thanks! Now I have to worry about how to best use it? I walked back towards the city to return the blanket to Flagstaff, now that I didn't need it as I had a sleeping bag.

Walking through Richmond I noticed all the couples walking along holding hands. I wondered what chances of finding love/companionship a homeless person had. Another of those driving forces of our culture, wealth creation and now family building also denied to those on the bottom rung? I realized I had not seen any females living on the street. Did they get better welfare and support? Was it less of an option for them due to danger of attack? Were they out there, but in other locations than where I had seen?

At some lights a 'tin' lady was collecting donations for the disabled. I dropped in $2.50 as a tithe from the money I had received. I got to Flagstaff and they were thankful for the return of the blanket, then I headed back east towards Collingwood to go to the St. Matrins (the God Squad Church) community Christmas party, the Steps Ministry girls had invited me to a couple of days earlier. I was running late, so I stood on the side of Victoria Parade for 10 mins with my thumb out to see if someone would give me a lift up the road. No one stopped, so I walked. After my walking journey, which started four hours earlier, I finally got there and sat down with a good lunch. It was very busy with a couple of hundred people there. Susan and Amy said hello, and I chatted to a couple of others. At the end we all gathered in the church and presents were handed out to each child, and then to my surprise, to each adult as well! I didn't want/need a present and so decided to take it up to the Hub and give it to Ali, whom I had helped find the key with earlier on in the week.

Up at the Hub, Ali was not there, and so I was writing a note wishing him a Merry Christmas to leave with the present, at reception. Just then up came Dave, one of the other five guys I had met drinking in the park. He was dressed in just his tracksuit pants and had a bag full of clothes. He talked to the guy at the reception in distress. He had lost his key...! He had searched the room twice and had not been far outside when he realized he had lost it. He asked the reception guy to search his room, but he said it was not his job to look for keys. So... I said "I'll help you look for it" and "Let's do the same thing we did for Ali, let's pray to Jesus to help us find the key." So we prayed to Jesus to help us find the key. We went outside and searched through all his clothes and washing (I was careful about needles) but it was not there. I said let's go back to your room and check there, and though he insisted he had searched there twice, we went and I said we are searching with Jesus now. We went into the dorm and he said he did not mind me looking through his stuff. He went to pull his bedsheets apart and I looked in the plastc bag on the stool, and there next to his (*Ahem) pipe, was the key! He was ecstatic and started hugging me. We went back to reception and returned the spare key, and outside I said goodbye (another hug) and Dave went off to the laundry very happy. Thanks Jesus!

Next, to the Church of Hope for dinner. This is a church started 2 years ago on faith by Conrad Fenton after sitting on the steps of Flinders St Station with nothing! It's just one block from there in Hosier Lane, and provides a meal and service for homeless people on Saturday nights, and they also do a bit of street preaching around the city. There were a few familiar faces there (I am seeing some regular characters turn up at these different charities) and the dinner was provided by the Richmond AOG (Assembly of God Church). There was some good preaching and worship singing, overall a very enjoyable relaxing few hours, with some others getting some real effective prayer at the end as well. A wonderful place, they invited me to come for lunch on Christmas Day, and I think I will :)

About 9pm I was out with the crowd down at Flinders St. waiting for the St. Vincent De Paul Soup Van to arrive. (If you haven't guessed by now, there is absolutely no shortage of food available in the city for those that need it.) One older lady, Alice, had her bag stolen, and went into great distress, yelling and screaming up and down the road. Some thought she never had it (perhaps she left somewhere else) and others talked about what sort of person would steal from a homeless person. The van came later than expected. While we waited one drunk woman came up to me shouting "No, no, no, no..." and tried to tear the cross off my top, but stopped when she realized it was stuck on, and walked away.

After the soup van left, I went up and sat on the steps of Flinders St. Some evangelists from Frankston handing out tracts came by and started talking with me. They were pretty intense and funny, as even though I said I was a Christian, they kept probing and probing, looking for a crack or mistake in my beliefs that they could then re-confirm to me their correct understanding... I told them my story, and they were very concerned that I didn't have a Bible with me. I explained how I had wanted to start my Faith Walk with absolutely nothing, and also went into my Heaven story, and now they were sitting listening. They said they had felt earlier it was time to go home but saw me though and God wanted them to talk to me. So I took on board their message, that I should have a Bible, (now that I had a bag to carry things and it would also give me something to read/do at nights when it was quiet) and resolved to pick mine up from my parents' place the next day.

As they left, the dirtiest, scruffiest homeless guy I had seen came and sat down beside me. His name was Shawn. His street name was 'Goaty'. He started talking and I mainly listened. He showed me the scars on his wrists from police cuffs from when he used to be an armed robber. He loved his Harmonica, and started crying at one point, as he said I was the only one in the city that was willing to talk to him. He felt useless and trapped in life, although he had become a Christian (he likes playing the piano up at St. Patrick's) he saw no future in life for himself. He said he was just a bad man that had to keep fighting temptations to do wrong things. I told him Jesus's story of the 'Rich Man and Lazarus' and confirmed that as a Christian he would get to Heaven and be looked after there, while many rich men would suffer more than he has, in hell, for ignoring the homeless people like him. I think he liked that story. He asked me where I was sleeping that night, and I said I might head up to Fitzroy Gardens (where I had slept earlier in the week). He said "the Skitzoid Gardens? Don't sleep there, it's too dangerous! Try behind St. Pauls." So I decided that if an armed robber said Fitzroy Gardens was too dangerous, I better not go back there again, and thanked him as we hugged goodbye.

Tom, a street evangelist from Richmond AOG, came by. He preaches every Sat night on the steps at 11pm and some others sing songs with some homeless regulars who turn up to listen. He told me about his Faith Walk across Africa with his wife many years ago, sleeping with lions visible in the distance. Good bloke :)

After 12:30am the steps cleared out (as the last train out had left) and it was quiet. I went for a look behind St. Pauls but it was all open car park area, and nothing secluded, and so I moved on. On the other side of the city I spotted a nice tanbark niche behind some concrete steps and went for a closer look. There was a mattress and sleeping bag there and so I decided it was someone else's spot. I was pretty tired and headed up the steps, there was a nice flat space in front to the building entrance doors, but out of sight of the street. As it was the weekend I gambled no-one would be coming into work early Sunday morning and bedded down.

I got up early and went to a service at Melbourne International Fellowship, in Russell St. I like this church as they have the best worship music. The only drawback is due to their location in a secure office building, you usually need a mobile phone to call and let them buzz you in. Fortunately for me the mobile phone number sign was missing this week and they had a guy standing at the door to the building, who let me in. It was a good service and teaching about how your mission field is the place you work (I didn't mention that I had left mine to explore another ;) After church I used $2:50 of my money and trained back out to my parents' place to catch up after a week on the street. I had a nice relaxed afternoon (and picked up my Bible) before I was dropped back at my home church. Christ Church Hawthorn. It was a good carol service, re-mixed up in a new creative way (I like it when they do new creative stuff) and was very excited to hear of the engagement of some friends, Tim and Laura! After church I had a good chat with a few people about my week and woofed down some bbq sausages.

After I left church, I walked to the local 7-Eleven and bought myself a large orange slurpee..hmm yum... but got only just over halfway through it when my body began to shake and shiver from the cold ice of the slurpee I had sucked down. So I threw the rest in the bin and marched back off towards the city.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday 15th Dec 06

I have been wondering why my lips have been sore all week, and it just hit me. Sleeping in the sun on Monday with my nose upwards covered by my hood and my beard covering the rest of my face, except my lips!

Thursday morning I first visited the Brotherhood of St Laurence Coolibah Centre. They thought I was a priest and were only too happy to show me around and tell me about what they do. They are a 30 million dollar organization that mainly works with aged care, in and out of their nursing home. It seemed well run, but a quiet, slow place. After that I went further down Brunswick St to St. Mary's House of Welcome. I sat there with about twenty others most of the morning, just watching people interact. It is mainly a drop-in center with most people suffering from a slight form of mental disability. They had a pool table and TV room, but most just hung out in the hallway until the cheap lunch meal arrived. They also had a bread bin that had about 90 loaves in it for anyone to take, though I only saw about 5 get taken while I was there, so I am not sure what they do with such an overflow of abundance of bread! The place was opposite the public housing high rises, and I guess that's where the people are coming from.

In the afternoon, I walked around some more, and checking the weather I saw it was nowhere as hot a day as it was forecast, and thus my expectations of an easy warm night were also evaporating. I decided that to help against the cold (after speaking to another homeless person) I would get a blanket from the soup van at Flinders St Station at 9pm. I got there a couple of hours early and started talking to Rupert (a poor man who comes into the city for the food vans). He told me the van did not come on Thursday night, despite what my help booklet said. He had just come in to get a pile of the free MX papers that stacked up for commuters. He likes to hand them out to passers-by (after the main piles run out) as something friendly to do. Just then, along came Mindy from church! She was elated as she had prayed the previous night that she would see me on Thursday, and there I was!! She took me to dinner and we had a great time catching up. Thanks Mindy :)

After dinner it was almost 9pm, and so I hung around the station for a while, just in case Rupert was mistaken and the van did turn up, but it didn't. Just as I was about to leave some girls called out, "Hey you with the cross on your shirt, what are you on about?" I went over and talked to them and discovered they were the 'Steps Ministry Team' set up by John Smith of the God Squad! They just talk to people on the steps and make friends with them. They like what I was doing and I sat with them for a few hours. Ian, from a corporate Christmas party, dropped off a huge box of salad rolls for us to hand out, and the Goth girl who called me 'evil' on Sunday night came by and apologized as she said she was really drunk at the time! The Steps girls invited me to a big Christmas party their church 'St. Martins' was having this Saturday for about 200 homeless people. Great.

Still thinking about a blanket, as it was cooling down fast, and with a light drizzle, I headed off at 11pm to the Flagstaff Crisis Accommodation Center on King St, west of the city. When I got there a really great guy called Birdy got me a blanket (although it was pink...) and told me about other accommodation options. It seems all places are about $100 a week including meals, which takes most of people's welfare payments but provides the necessities. Those on the streets are most likely not getting the welfare (like me) or spending the money on other 'vices' that they prioritize higher than accommodation. I headed back up to the east of the city to the Shelter I had stayed at on the Sunday night, to avoid the rain. When I got there at 1am I shared a cookie with someone else sitting there and then enacted my 'foot plan'. To stop the cold wind on my feet I scrunched sheets of newspaper around my feet, tucked under my pants. It worked well! and I lay down under the blanket, but it was only 1/2 sized and came up to my chest. Dang that wind was cold... nope I couldn't sleep, so I headed back in towards the city again, looking for somewhere out of the wind.

I walked into St. Patrick's Cathedral and looked at the statue of St. Francis of Assisi. I found a corner against the church and sat down with the blanket around me tee-pee style. It was a lot warmer, though I knew my crossed legs would get pins and needles soon. Suddenly a young guy jumped down beside me! He said he had been around and over the whole place twice and was unable to find a way inside. I asked why he wanted to 'break in'? And he stayed silent. Then he asked about me and I chatted with him a bit about searching for spirituality. He was not religious, but said what I had to say was very interesting, before heading back home to Hawthorn. Still too cold, I headed back to Swanston St and the Capital Arcade with the steps from the Tuesday night. No wind there, and thus felt much warmer also. I slept soundly until daybreak.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday 14th Dec 06

Well despite having my first meal at church home group last night, I just want to talk about the 'important' things that happened yesterday...

I was heading off to church home group, and while I estimated it would be a couple of hours walk to Preston from the city, I allowed 4hrs, so as not to rush. I was walking through the Exhibition Building gardens towards Gertrude St, and passed by four guys drinking beer at a bench. They seemed like homeless guys and the beer can pile was up to about 50 cans. One of them noticed the cross on my top and asked if I was a priest? I said, "No, just a lay person." They asked me what I was doing, and so I sat down on the ground and told them. They were quite interested, and didn't seem drunk at all, despite the number of cans there. We talked about homelessness, and one guy seemed positive about my interest in the subject and another was negative about me. He said unless I was addicted and diseased like them then I could never understand, and thus I should just go home. I stressed I was just trying to get a 'better' personal understanding of their issues and that seemed ok. One guy said he had Hepatitis and asked if I would drink from his beer can. I said if it was a soft drink, then I probably would, but as it was alcohol then I could not. They were staying in a boarding house across the road, and after 1/2 an hour three of them left to get some more beer. The guy with the twisted nose asked me if I had any ID and I said no, which he then wondered what the police would say? I said I hadn't spoken to any of them. The other guy, Ali, was quite slow and soft in his speak and got up to go back to the Hub (the boarding house) which was in my direction, so I offered to walk there with him.

As we walked he searched himself and realized he had lost his swipe pass and room key. He became very upset and we went back to the bench, but it was not there. We went off to the milkbar where he thought he had left it. He was worried someone would use it to steal his stuff and perhaps that was why the other 3 guys had left earlier? As we were walking to the milkbar he said to cross our fingers that the key was there. I said no, let's pray to Jesus to help us find it. He agreed and we stopped and said a prayer. We walked on and he said he hoped Jese would help in this situation. I was thinking 'Right Jesus, my first little mission out here, I really, REALLY need you to come through on this one, please!' We got to the milk bar, but the lady said it was not there. We then went to the Drug Rehabilitation Center where he had been earlier on in the day. We walked in and he introduced me as his friend, and the staff all had a look but it was not there, so we went back to the Hub. When we got there he was so worried he was sweating. We talked to the manager, Kate, and she gave him a spare key, but said he would need to pay $35 replacement for the pass, out of his next welfare check. He was really upset as he could not afford it, another prayer to Jesus, and we went up to his room. He opened the door and we went inside. The whole room was no bigger than about 30cm wider than the single bed. He sat down and I saw the pass and key on the bedside table. He was ecstatic! He went into full Joy mode, praising Jesus. He kept saying, "thank you, Jesus," over and over! We went down to reception and returned the spare key to Kate and he told her how good Jesus was and how Jesus and his friend John had helped find the key. She smiled and also said, "Isn't Jesus good." Outside we shook hands and I said goodbye, then walked down the road, praising God.

I only got 10 meters when I saw a woman sitting on the ground in a phone box, crying and yelling, "I'm insane! I need to be locked up!" I stood nearby and started praying for her. She glanced up and saw me and then went back to the call. She just kept saying she needed to be locked up. Shortly, she looked at me again and said, "What do you want?" I just said I wanted to make sure she was alright. Again back to the call, more tears, and then she screamed and threw the phone at the wall, and just sat there sobbing. I sat down in the gutter beside her, and she started to tell me she thinks people are drugging her, that she can't live in the world, and she was too scared to come out of the phone box; she felt safer in the box as it was like a cage. I listened and asked some gentle questions, like, "Do you live nearby? Is there someone who cares for you?" etc... She said she didn't feel safe at home and no-one cared. I told her God cares about her. She said she believes in God and that he cares about her, but no-one else does. Then she started crying again, "I'm scared, I'm scared." I asked her what her name was? Sofie. I asked if I could pray for her and she said ok. I prayed for God to help her and to take away the fear. Afterwards she said thanks and we continued to sit and talk for the next hour. I told her it was good she had a room to go to, as I was homeless and didn't have one. She said she was going to be homeless and I could have her room, but I said no. We talked more about how God cares for her, which she believed, and then decided God wanted her to go to him right now, and that she needed to kill herself, to escape this world and go to him! I said he wouldn't want that, but she was intent on suicide. We talked for another hour as she was debating whether to run in front of a truck or not, and then she got the idea to overdose on pills which she had at home. She got up out of the booth and headed for home (which was good) to get the pills (which was bad). I followed along behind her, through some back alleys and into a boarding house, up the stairs, through the hallway and she went into her room. I stood outside in the hallway. I didn't think it was appropriate to go inside or try and stop her, but I wanted to be close. If she did try to harm herself then I could go and get some help and an ambulance. She fumbled around, but couldn't find any pills, and came out into the hallway and sat down crying. Then she decided to cut herself with a knife, debating that she needed to die, but didn't like cutting. She went back in and started rummaging about. Due to the commotion a man and another woman came out of their rooms and I talked to them about what was happening. The woman went into Sofie's room and talked to her (quite sternly by the sound of it) and the other man told me she had been going downhill the last couple of months, but not as bad as this. The lady came out and thanked me for helping and said Sofie would be alright and she would look after her now. I said goodbye, and continued on my way down the street. I felt it was positive that she was out of the box and back in her room being cared for. I thanked God and journeyed on, for the first time feeling proud to be wearing the white cross on my top.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday 13th Dec

Yesterday, another afternoon walking around the city, and then a couple hours nap on the lawn outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Late afternoon I got a real hankering for an orange Slurpee. I stood outside a 7-Eleven for an hour, trying to work up the guts to ask someone if they could spare $2 change... but I couldn't do it; and I used to be a 'cold call' salesman! Ha. Back to the drinking fountains. Last evening didn't seem as cold (at first) and so long as I kept walking I was ok. At 10:30pm I went to Flinders St for the soup van, and to meet other homeless people, but there was no-one there, so I guess I got the timing wrong. I went back to the arcade I had been the night before, and there was no-one else there, so the top of the steps were free; upgrade! But after a short time the temperature dropped further and it was too cold to sleep - or I wasn't tired enough. Walking up to Melb Central I saw another homeless person sitting on a bench, I wondered where he might end up that night, and waited to see, but I got too cold standing still, and moved on. Around 1am I decided to head to my 'retreat spot'. My 'retreat spot' was back at the house in Clifton Hill I used to share. They had an old garden shed out the back where we had thrown my old mattress until hard rubbish night came up again. They said I was welcome to drop in and use it anytime. So I started the long walk out of the city, a little bit of activity in Brunswick St, and almost got there when the back strap of my sandal broke. Doh! I fumbled into the shed and went to sleep.

I got up this morning feeling better (thanks to the mattress), gaffer-taped up my sandal and headed back in. I walked by St. Mary's drop-in center, and stopped for a look. There were a few people there and I would have stayed but I wanted to get to the St. Vincents Hospital Mass at 12, and so moved on. I went to the mass and had a chat with the priest there about my situation. He had done some living on the street himself as a part of his priesthood, but he said it was much better (or should) to do it in pairs, so you can encourage each other along the way. So if anyone reading this wants to join me... :)

A friend emailed me about a booklet (Helping Out - from the Town Hall) listing all the city support services in and around the city, which I have now picked up, so I now know where to go to check things out. Thanks. And thanks to everyone else that has emailed me a message.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday 12th Dec

Well, I almost chucked it in...

I sat and watched a homeless person for 3hrs yesterday, but all he did was sit and watch others... so I guess I am getting the idea! Then I went around to different various locations until dark. I am not planning to eat for a couple of days and so I didn't have to worry about that yet. This big problem was the temperature. I don't mind sleeping rough, but I hate being cold, and as it got dark it got colder and windy. I went into Melb Central, which was heated, and sat down on the comfy baseball glove seats. I dozed off at one point and a security guy woke me up and said you could relax there but not sleep. Which was hard, and so I moved on. Boredom is a factor as well. I went down to the station area in at the bottom and sat on the floor against a wall for a few hours. I felt pretty low and wondered if this was as humble as I could get. Then I was asked to move on again, and had to go outside. It was cold and windy and I walked around looking for something.

While most arcades are shut where they meet the street, I spotted one that went further back from the road and had a homeless guy sleeping at the top of some stairs. I went in and round the back corner where there was a marble bench, just out of sight from the street. It was noisy and bright, but no wind. I lay down and tried to get a little sleep but it was too cool. I had to get up and rock back and forth to try and get warmer, and sometimes I just stood and did little exercise movements, but it didn't really help. A few times some people came by to get the lift to their appartments. I hoped they might ask if I need some help or a place to stay, but it was just a fantasy. I was yelling in my head, "Have you not read Jesus's story of the rich man and Lazarus"? And then turned my thoughts to the fact that I was 'the rich man' and I had never helped a homeless person caught in the cold... So I stood there all night. Time went ever so slowly, and dawn just never seemed to arrive. At one point the homeless guy got up and asked me the time, but I didn't have a watch. Later in the morning a girl ran in and, not seeing me right around the corner, sat down and peed on the floor before running off laughing with her friends. More leaning against the wall... tick toc, tick toc... I think I've learnt enough about being homeless...

As morning came, I walked around some more and when the temperature had risen just enough, I found a sunny spot in a park and went to sleep. A few hours later I have got up and come here to check the weather for tonight. Cold again, but warming up a bit as the week goes on. I'm not sure I can face another night like that again? For now I think I need to engage someone, speak to someone, about anything. A couple of people yesterday waved as they saw the cross on my top. One couple asked if I was the re-incarnation of St. Francis? I said I was on a similar journey, and that it was my first day on the street. They said they didn't think I was homeless, as I was too clean...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday 11th Dec 06

First Day :)

I enjoyed Church last night, and had some friends come and give me some prayer and support afterwards, which was great. One person gave me $5 to pass on to another needy person (still yet to do) and another gave me three custard tarts for the journey, thanks! It was just getting dark as I started my walk into the city. It took many hours as I stopped to say a prayer for the city every 10 steps. (I stopped and prayed [short ones] while crossing the roads, and made really quick steps either side of the prayer!) It was about 11pm when I got to Flinders St Station and I sat down on the steps. There were two people next to me: A 'Goth' girl who said I was evil as the cross on my top was the correct way up, (huh?) and a very drunk fellow who kept saying, "Bless you brother," and wouldn't stop shaking my hand. I offered a custard tart, but ended up having to eat them myself.

Walking around the city for an hour I was then tired and lay down on a bench next to a Church, but after 1/2hr it started to rain lightly and so I had to seek some shelter. I walked up to a park on the edge of the CBD that had a small building/shelter with benches undercover. I lay down and went to sleep, but kept waking up every so often as the bench was so hard and I had to change positions to stop my body from going numb. Actually my mind could not escape it as I had a dream in which I had been sleeping on the bench for a week and my whole body was so numb and dead from stiffness I was physically unable to move and get off the bench. In the dream three lawyers came along and bemoaned as to why no-one had removed this wasting body from the bench, but then a good lawyer came along and sent them away and put me on a softer bench and started massaging feeling back into my body to help me. (All kind of like the Good Samaritan story).

I woke up at first light, and noticed there were 3 other homeless people sleeping nearby at the other corner of the building. I didn't disturb them and went back into the city. Walking back in I felt quite strange, like I should be heading off to work or something! For the first time I didn't really have a specific goal to head towards. And I felt a bit silly wearing the big white cross on my top, walking by people. At Flinders Station again I stood and observed people for a few hours, and no-one paid me any attention. I just prayed for peace on people as they walked by. Then I went into St. Pauls and listened to the Choir for a while, and then wandered around the city a bit. I decided not to enter any shops for now so that I don't go looking for distractions. It's a bit cold and windy and I also visited St. Francis's Cathedrial for some prayer, before ending up here at the State Library, which has free internet (after a wait) to keep you all informed:)

I am a bit at a loss about what to do next, as to where the homeless and marginalized people hang during the day... but I will wander around some more and see what happens...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Update: 10 Dec 06

Well almost time to head off...
I gave away the last of my cash to a homeless guy in Bourke St Mall this morning, and the rest to St.Francis's Catholic Church. Unfortunately due to the heat and power surges I have not been able to use the computer until now, and so updating the blog with a lot of whats happened over the last 5 months will have to be done a bit later :)

See you out there !

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Update: 9 Dec 06

1 Day to Go ! (Though the journey started long ago...)

Everything I needed to do has been done except I just need to fix up this blog a little more before I group email it out tomorrow to those that have expressed interest in following my journey. I feel good, calm and relaxed with a bit of anticipation/edginess. I have a friends wedding to attend for the rest of this day, and lunch with the family tomorrow. Then I will go to Church tomorrow night and walk into Melbourne after that, about 8pm.

So far the weather is hot (which is good) but their is a possible storm forcast for tomorrow arvo/night, which could make things very interesting. I remind myself that homeless people would probably not get a choice of when they were outed on to the streets, and so I will accept the situation, as it comes. I have full confidence of God being with me.


MY NAME: For those that know me as Chris or CK, I am using a new name for the journey: JOHN CHRISTOPHER. I have made this change as I felt God lead me to it a couple of years ago, but it never felt like the right time. Now that I am starting the Faith Walk (which is like a new beginning or rebirth) and also as I looked up the meaning of John last month and discovered it means 'God Gives', I feel it is appropriate now, as God is 'giving' me to the city, in one sense. So please use the name 'John' when you contact or talk with me as to help me keep a sense of identity about who I am and what I am doing on this journey. Thanks :)

* Some people are not happy about calling me John, and others are. Hey, I am not going to force it on you, do what you like. I have discovered most people have a 'street' name and a real name. Many cultures have people with multiple names and often the meaning of names is important. Biblical characters have multiple names : Jacob-Israel, Daniel-Belteshazzar, Simon-Peter, and even Jesus (check Revelation). St.Francis was christened John before his dad changed it. The anonimity also provides my family members some protection from bad street elements who may want to 'investigate' me further. Besides the logic behind it, as I said before I felf it was a leading from God. So I am confortable with it on that basis alone.

DIARY UPDATES: Everything below this post relates to the 'vision' of what I felt led to do, and how it developed. Everything above this post will be updates posted when I am able, to keep people informed as to where and what I am doing. ie This blog will substitute for group emails.

CONTACT: There will only be this blog (so please bookmark it), and my email address