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.


Ian kentley said...

Dear John it is good to read about your feelings concerning what you have experienced so far and was wondering about your last entry where you mention that the journy may end at the end of this month and that there are other options available to you. Can you share more about this with us.

Looking forward you wrote that the Faith walk could be coming to an end soon. How difficult do you think it is going to be for you, to come back into the world that you put aside,and what have you learnt so far about society and more importantly your place in that socety.

go in peace John Christopher may this period where we celebrate the Birth of our Christ be a blessing to you.

Regards Ian

John Christopher said...

I don't think it will end. Just that I had some options to consider. I still want to continue the exploration over Januruary. The option I have is to house sit some friend's flat while they are away for Januruary. If I do, then I still plan to come into the city each day and continue the way I am, and use the flat as a rest place some or all the nights, rather than sleep on the street. I guess it may be in itself an experiment as to whether I can maintain the journey into the culture and connect with people from a place of accomodation. I am thinking long term perhaps I could get a job 2 days a week to pay for accomodation and then work/be in the community the rest of the time. Perhaps to rent a place in a boarding house at the bottom level to be living with them... But I have not made any firm decision yet.

I am concerned that if I am not sleeping on the street it may diminish my 'street cred' with people. they tend to respect my position/circumstances and also see there is nothing to 'get off me' other than relationship. So I am juggling those issues around in my mind.