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.