Wednesday, January 31, 2007
People without conventional accommodation. For example:
- Living on the streets.
- Sleeping in parks.
- Squatting in derelict buildings.
- Using cars or railway carriages as shelter.
2. Secondary homelessness
People who move from one form of temporary shelter to another. This can include:
- People using emergency accommodation such as hostels for the homeless or night shelters.
- Teenagers staying in youth refuges
- Women and children escaping domestic violence (in women's' refuges).
- People staying temporarily with other families and friends (because they have no accommodation of their own or cannot stay with their own family).
- People using boarding houses on an occasional or intermittent basis.
3. Tertiary homelessness
People who live in boarding houses on a medium to long-term basis.
Residents of private boarding houses often do not have:
- A separate bedroom or living room
- Kitchen and bathrooms of their own.
- Self-contained accommodation.
- The security of a lease.
(From: Homelessness, by Samara Pitt)
I had woken up in the night and thought, "Gee, my feet are smelly," and gone back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning light I realized the smell was not coming from my feet, but from another homeless person's feet, a hand span from my face, who must have come by in the night. In fact there were two of them, and the other was sitting nearby having a smoke. I told a friend and he said it was better than waking up to a knife pressed against your stomach. True, lol (laugh out loud).
I went and used my last $5 to buy a bag of Chicos (chocolate jelly babies), my favorite lolly, as a treat for the end of the month before I start some fasting in Feb. Then I headed over to Urban Seed and bought the Homelessness Resource book that Anita from St.Martins had given me the money for last Sunday.
As I was walking back to the Steps I saw Robbie and his crew (Dougy was not there) on the seats in front of SPC and he waved me over to shake my hand hello. Now I had been talking to someone earlier in the week about how I had been comfortable approaching Dougy and Robbie when they were alone together, but I probably wouldn't be accepted when they were with the rest of their gang (about 6 others, half of who were indigenous, a couple were females), and so I mostly walked by on the other side of the street when they were sitting as a group. After I shook Robbie's hand he offered me a can of beer, but I said I didn't drink, which caused him to choke on his drink in surprise, and splutter "bullshit" and everyone else laughed. He pointed to my cross and said, "Do you know who Jesus was?" I gave three answers, but each time he shook his head. So I asked him what his answer was, and he said, "An alcoholic; because of the wine he made." Then he said, "Do you know who made marijuana?" and I replied, "God, as it is a part of his creation." He said "That's right." Then I said, "God creates a lot of things and it's up to us as to whether we use them for good or for bad..." and he said "I'm gunna punch you in the head!" then straight away also said, "You're ok, you always say hello when you go by, you're fine." So I sat down with them all for the next hour and no one was bothered. I even pulled out my Homelessness Resource book and started to read it. A one-armed man with an Australian flag bandana was sitting next to me, and saw it. We started talking about homelessness issues, the biggest for him was that there was no subsidy for prescription glasses, and poor people like him would never be able to spend three to four hundred dollars on glasses, and so he didn't wear any. I was able to identify with him as I didn't have my glasses with me, while living on the streets.
After an hour I got up and went across to the Steps. Abbey was there, and said hello as I stood nearby. I sat down and she said "Don't worry, I won't get too close to you," and, "Those girls from last night are nice, but I think they were wanting to get away from me, as they didn't stay late." It seemed as though she had an expectation that people looked down on her and wouldn't want to be associated with her. So I decided to stay, until she left me, not the other way around. I offered her a Chico, and she cautiously took one only after she insisted on seeing me eat one first. Then as we talked she asked for more and kept taking them by the handful, until they were all gone. She talked about growing up as a ward of the state, and mentioned being a part of the drug and prostitution scene in St. Kilda (although it wasn't clear if she had been a prostitute, and I don't want to make that assumption). She said she was going back to the Rehab Centre tonight, not because she had a current addiction, but because they would be able to help her with some penicillin or medicine as she said she always gets a headache when she eats any food. She was really worried about that. After an hour she said she was leaving to go and meet her sister, thanked me for talking with her, and headed off.
I walked back out of the city, heading to my friend's house, as he was giving me a lift to Church home group, meeting at Isa Browns cafe, in Hawthorn. As I walked I was singing a few songs to God, and took left and right turns, towards Clifton Hill, without any forethought. Next thing I knew I was walking past a cafe and saw Anita, who waved, and I went inside for a quick hello. I showed her the Homelessness Resource book I had bought, with her funding, and thanked her again. We had a quick chat, but I was in a hurry, and so headed back out to Clifton Hill, and went to Small Group with Scotty. Our group had one of the best nights of discussion, talking about faith, expectations, and interacting with God.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Yesterday was quiet, I even sat at HJ's this morning until 2:30am, but no one came by. Then I went off to get some sleep, but my usual spot was taken, so I went to check out my backups. They were all used as well! I think I will have to revise up the number of people I perceive sleeping rough in the city. Finally I head to the back wall of St.Patrick's Cathedral and lie down. Then some drunk guy comes along and is singing/shouting a hymn, over and over, for half an hour. I wonder if God would prefer to listen to drunken praise or no praise?
I got up at 6:30am, after 3hrs sleep, and walked for 2hrs to a friend's house where I had a shower and gave my clothes a wash. Later I met the girls from St.Martins who were back doing their Steps ministry, after having a Christmas break. Again it was generally quiet, except for Dougy who came by, drunk, with a huge welt on his head from the other night, and a bunch of old flowers he had found in a bin. He tried to give them away to some ladies but they just didn't seem interested. Not long after he went off to get another casket, and didn't return. Abbey came by and talked to the girls. She was the girl I had met at the start of the month who was walking around in bare feet asking for cigarettes, but she was wearing shoes now. I said goodbye and headed to the Vic Markets for the late night food van.
While I was waiting I started chatting to two teenage boys about church. They really liked my idea for a Church being open 24hrs and said they would be in it if I ever got it up and running. One of them was a runaway from his home in Adelaide. He had got in a fight with his Pentecostal Church after they kicked him out for his drugs and alcohol. He said he had given up the vices and went back to the church but was told he was not welcome back. His mother was called, and then the cops, as he was so angry at being rejected after having changed. His mum was angry with him for being arrested at a church, so he ran away to Melbourne where he was staying with his mate here. His mate said he was a part of a youth ministry team out west, so I hope he is in good hands, as he said he was here to stay permanently.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Feet: On Monday morning the straps on my sandal broke again, and so I took them off. I spent the next two days walking around on bare feet. It was something I considered to do for my whole walk as Jesus said to do in a couple of verses when he sends out the disciples. But I had been concerned about broken glass on the pavement. Since I have been out, I have learned the city cleaners wash and sweep all the streets and sidewalks every night and I have hardly seen anything to worry about at all. So I wandered about, watching closely where I walked at first, but less so later on. Being on bare feet it was significantly slower traveling around, picking my way and being more sensitive over rough spiky ashfelt. After two days my feet were a bit swollen, even when I put my sandals back on, but I think it would be only a matter of a weeks adjustment period and then they would harden up and be fine. The only real area of concern to me was going to the toilets. At the worst ones there is a fair bit of urine and water on the floor and so I avoided them or picked my way very carefully.
As I walked around I thought again about the connection between bare feet and holy ground. Why is it important? Yes God tells Moses to take off his sandals in God's presence, but that doesn't give me a logical reasoning behind the action. Perhaps it is about being connected physically to the earth which is 'creation'. Someone suggested that the Earth itself is God's house. That the older Judaism didn't see someones death as the time for going to Heaven, but as the time you lie in the 'house of the Lord', that is lie in the 'ground' until the time of resurrection for Judgement Day, before then being sent to Heaven. But then wearing sandals wasn't an issue for Jesus when he walked around. I think he may have asked his disciples not to wear them on their short journey more as a challenge to them. He likes to challenge people in thought and action, and as the disciples already had little possessions, perhaps it was one of the few added physical challenges he could give them...
Certainly I felt like more of a homeless person, without any footware. At one point a staff member from the Brotherhood of St.Lawrence came by and offered to get me a pair of shoes, but I declined. I went into a few shops to look at some sandals and see how much they cost to replace. The cheapest sandals at Myer were $90, an unobtainable fortune! Other stores had some around $30 (still beyond my means) and of course there were those colorful 'Crocs' (rubber cloggs) that seem to be everywhere I look now. As it turned out I went to have dinner with a friend on Thursday and he had bought me a new pair of sandals to wear! I had not mentioned the issue to him, it was just an idea he had, and followed through on. So timely! Woo Hoo :)
Tram: Fighting that tram riding temptation took a backward step this week. I had couple of rides left on my ticket but as I went out to World Vision I thought I would delay stamping it so that it would still be valid to return on within the two hours I thought I would need to get back. As I was reading my book I looked up to see the inspectors walking around checking everyone's tickets, except mine, and then they got off. Wow I had been overlooked and lucky as I didn't have any ID to prove my address for the fine, which would have meant the cops and then a nice little house of cards would have all collapsed. I stamped my ticket and considered myself warned...
Of course the very next day, as I went to a friends house, I thought I only had one journey left and maybe I should save it for when I really really needed it, and I had seen the inspectors yesterday so I probably wouldn't again for a while... nope they got on and I had one of those guilty moments where your heart suddenly lurches against your ribs in fright! I stamped my ticket as the inspector gave me a friendly warning, but let me off, and then proceeded to go and book another offender. Now I was really warned and beating myself up at my stupid risk for no real reason. At least I have no more tickets and so I haven't had the temptation, and I really promise I have learned my lesson.
Two escapes in two days. Did God help me from getting into trouble? or was it just luck?
Blog and Catch ups: I have been very surprised by the interest people have had in this Blog and had many good talks with people about it. Thanks for letting me know your responses, it has been an unexpected although welcome part of the journey. One person even prayed for the homeless and it was his first prayer to God since childhood, how good is that! At 1:30am on Sunday morning I even had the boyfriend of a girl I had spoken to earlier in the week, spot me at the city square, and he came over to pray briefly with me! On Sunday morning I went to St.Martins Church. It was the most casual Church I have been to, but that just made it feel very homely. You could get a cup of tea or coffee down the back at any time, the Pastor sat on a couch in the front row, there was an intermission half way through, and someone even bought along their pet bird, uncaged. I thought that was very cool! The sermon from John Smith ran longer than any of Mark Leachs [he has a reputation for long ones, wink], but it was just as good. He spoke about the Beatles perspective of love Vs Christ's love, at one point someone interrupted to correct him on a Beatles fact. I think that should be one of those laws: 'No matter what you think you know about the Beatles, someone close to you will always know more'. Everyone was really friendly and afterwards I was speaking to a girl about how it would be interesting to see the difference in my perceptions of homelessness and the official stats and info in a book like the Homelessness Resource Book from Urban Seed, and the next thing I know she is giving me the money to go and buy it. An act of generosity to match her smile. Thanks! And another person just emailed me for permission to pass the blog on to people at her country church...hey it's a public blog, enjoy:)
Australia Day: I went to the United Prayer Meeting at Festival Hall on Friday (Australia Day). It was pretty good and I was impressed with Pastor Danny Nalliah whom I had not heard speak before (from Catch The Fire Ministrys who organized the event and had recently been in court for the Islamic vilification case). While I was there I saw an odd looking guy kneeling at the front during the prayer. He looked like Fabio but with curly hair. I had also seen him at the SPC lunchtime service earlier on in the week (I finally worked out the service is on in a little section up the front right of the Cathedral, not in the main section). As I trammed back into the city (city circle free tram) he saw me and jumped on to say hello and introduce himself. He told me he was from Queensland and did work there with homeless street people too! Once in the city I found it way too crowded and I didn't see any street people I knew around, so I went out of the city to visit some friends. I wonder if other street people also felt a bit intimidated by the crowds?
Dougy Update: I came by the Steps, Saturday night, and Dougy was sitting there and drinking with a different indigenous man I had not spoken with. I stopped to chat with Darren, a few meters away, and a couple of minutes later a crowd and some police gathered behind me. Turning around I saw Dougy slumped on the steps, not moving and the other fellow was shouting out, while lying face down and handcuffed, a short distance away. There was a lot of red stuff on the ground next to Dougy but I was fairly sure it was just spilt Port from a bottle nearby. Someone said the other guy had hit Dougy over the head with the bottle. There was a big bloody gash on his head and I wondered if he might be dead? I hadn't thought about that possibility before. It was certainly something that could happen; I might come along one day and find someone I had met wouldn't be 'around' anymore. I watched for a bit and couldn't see any chest movement but he finally twitched and a cop crouched down, with blue latex gloves on, and checked his pulse. Next came the ambulance and the medics got him up and onto a stretcher. He was dazed and calling out for for his mate Robbie, who wasn't there. We looked at each other as they slid him into the ambulance, and then drove away, lights flashing.
The crowd around were happy, having enjoyed a good spectacle, they had no concern or empathy for the events just past. The cops took some more photos and then sealed off the area with their police tape. Then along came the choir and, backs to the tape, we started to sing.
Death: One of our choir members was killed in a car accident just over a week ago. Many other people, this week, have have also talked about the recent death of a friend or relative. Not really a theme you think seriously about until you are directly impacted by it. For some street people it had been the marking point of the start of an addiction.
Street Core: Well as usual, when I am thinking about an issue, God seems to answer it in an amazing way. This week I had been thinking about my passive approach (ie not approaching people I haven't spoken to before, and letting them decide whether to talk to me or not) and had mentioned to a few people that: if the core regular street people I had often seen around hadn't decided to come and talk to me by now, then they probably wouldn't. And I was thus debating at to whether I should approach them or just work with those I had already made contact with. Well... all the five main street people I hadn't yet had contact with came and chatted with me in the last two days. How's that!
At the Church of Hope dinner, one Guy called Sam came and sat near me, then got up two minutes later and sat near me on the other side, then got up and moved around a few more times before deciding to ask me if I knew one of the other street people that had mentioned me to him. Then we had a good chat about how big and awesome space and the universe was, and whether God had created other creatures on other planets. He thinks so, the possibilities are endless, he said.
Also at CoH another homeless man, nick named the Bishop, because of his big white beard and glasses, came up and introduced himself. He said he felt God telling him to go to Church with me tomorrow, and asked where I going. When I told him that in the morning I would be heading to St.Martins, he was very excited as he said he had just been talking about John Smith to someone else, but never been to his Church. I arranged to meet him in Smith Street in the morning, but he never turned up. I hope he is ok.
One of the girls was playing with one of those little rubber bouncy balls at the steps (and running straight into the intersection after it, without looking, whenever it got away from her, which was often) and then it got lost. Well I had new bright yellow replacement bouncy ball in my bag that I had kept from out of the 'bon bons' Goaty and I had opened a few weeks ago. She was very pleased, and then I went with one of her friends and sat and talked with him at the Night Rider bus stop for an hour while we waited for it, at the city square.
Sunday night after church I was dropped at the steps by a friend, and later I sat down in the station around the corner near the ticket window. Poker Jack (a friend of a friend I had met a couple of months ago) walked by and I said hello. He said hi, and walked straight on, I'm not sure he recognized me. I became concerned that being around the corner that no one would be able to see me from the street and I was limiting my opportunity to meet people. As I sat there I saw a young Fiji'an homeless girl that was often about. She came and sat next to me and asked what I had done today. I told her about the two Church services I had been to, and then asked about her day. Not much had happened, she said, she had got out of lock up and was wanting to go up to Shepperton but had to wait around for her court case to come up in a couple of weeks. She told me she had been caught stealing stuff. I asked why she slept rough, and she said she had gone and looked at a couple of women's shelters but didn't like them. She didn't expand why. soon she lay down to sleep where we were sitting, under the ticket window, and I lay down for a nap as well.
A bit later young Indian man cam along and woke me up, said "are you cold?" and asked "Do you want to come and stay at my place?" It was an interesting question from the point of view I had thought about asking that to a homeless person myself last year, when I was just thinking about these issues. Now in the reverse position, I thought 'not a chance, I don't know who you are and I would be concerned for my safety...' I just told him "Sorry I don't know you, thanks for the nice offer." He seemed to understand but I also thought 'why did you wake me up? Don't bother me, if you see someone sleeping just leave them alone...' Then he went over to the girl, crouched down over her, arm against the wall, and shook her until she woke up. Then he said to her "You know me, we talked the other day, do you want to come to stay at my place?" Her response was a friendly "Can you please take your arm off the wall, it's invading my space." He didn't move it and kept asking her if she wanted somewhere to stay. She just kept asking him to move his arm, which he wouldn't, and she became more and more distresses about it, and rightly so. Then she shouted at him to go away and he finally moved his arm, got up and started screaming insults at her, before walking off. Yes, definitely someone you don't want to go with, proving you just can't trust someone no matter how nice they might first seem. Safety in numbers, in visibility, and in familiar surroundings.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I met up with Eco on the Steps, and we headed off to have some dinner. We thought about going to the Hare Krishna restaurant (which I had avoided going to previously, on the basis of need, as it was an opposing religion, but I was not opposed to a visit on the basis of going to experience something of a different culture) but we would not have time to tonight as we only had an hour before needing to head off to MIF Church. We instead went to the Melbourne Bar Bistro opposite Myer, one of Lord Mayor John So's restaurants, where there was an all-you-can-eat buffet for only $8, excellent for stacking up an empty stomach with plenty of satisfaction. Eco is an non-stop encyclopedia of interesting information and discussion, and he can talk for hours, without ever repeating himself, so we had a good time.
Then we headed to MIF Church, which was very welcoming, and again it was very easy to lose yourself in the fantastic music. Darren was there and we caught up before Eco and I were last to leave, heading out the door at 11:30pm. We chatted with a couple of girls, also heading to the Steps, as they were very excited as one was going to be baptized the next day, down at Brighton Beach.
We hung around the steps until after midnight and then went over to catch the Night Rider bus down the peninsula towards Rosebud. I spoke to the driver about letting us off at Craigie Rd, near Mt. Martha, and he said it would be fine but we should remind him after we passed Mornington. We chatted with another passenger a bit, as we got under way, and then we both fell asleep on the back seat. Thankfully the driver didn't need a reminder and stopped the bus at the right spot and then came down and woke us up so we could get off. We thanked him and then walked down the road to the beach. We sat on the beach for a while just enjoying the quiet sound of the gentle waves lapping at the shore, and then lay down on the sand to get some sleep. At some point it started to drizzle a little rain, and we moved onto a boat shed porch, which had a small roof providing shelter from the wet, and we slept until morning.
As I got up I noticed Eco was shivering a bit as he only had shorts on, and while it was a relatively warm muggy night, the wind can still chill things down a bit. After he got up he asked if there was an Op Shop around, so he could get something a bit warmer, but I was sure there wasn't one, although I hadn't been here for a few years, so I wasn't sure. I suggested we head off for a walk along the local estuary boardwalk, as Eco is a nature lover and hadn't been to this one before. As we walked down a road we came across a Garage Sale, which had some very cheaply priced clothing. So Eco was able to get a good all-weather jacket, and some other items, and was all happy again.
After the walk through the estuary, and a stop at the shops to get some lunch supplies, we headed back to the estuary shelter-shed BBQ and fried up some buttered bread, and relaxed. My clothes were fairly soaked as it had been raining all morning and would do so for the rest of the day, but I didn't mind, as I wasn't cold.
We took another nap and then headed back to the beach. I said it was time for me to head back up the beach to the boat sheds, as that was why I had come, as I had felt it was the right time and place but I had no idea who might be there. In fact I really doubted anyone would be there due to the constant rain, and the beach was pretty empty of life. Eco said he wouldn't come but would meet me back at the shelter-shed later. It was about a twenty minute walk along the beach and as I got close I saw some children playing by the water's edge and then someone waved hello from a boat shed entrance. As I got closer I saw it was Charles, an old family friend I had only seen once in the last 10 years. We were happy to see each other and catch up. To my surprise he told me he was currently Chairing the board of Street Smart Australia. It is an organization that raises donations for other charities that deal with homeless people by asking for a $2 extra donation on your bill at certain restaurants. So not only was he interested in what I was doing, he was also able to talk and discuss the issues of street life from a very informed and experienced position, and I was just as keen to hear his thoughts and ideas! Thank God, for it was a very good meeting.
Afterwards I walked back to the shelter and met up with Eco. He said he had a feeling someone would be there and that's why he had stayed behind. We hung around for another couple of hours and then decided as it was getting a bit cold, to see if there was a local bus to Frankston so we could train back a bit earlier than waiting until after midnight for the returning Night Rider Bus. Also I was hoping to be back in time for the Saturday night Steps choir. The guy at the supermarket said the local bus had finished, but if we walked back along the board walk through to the other side we would come out at the Nepean Hwy and there might be a bus from Portsea coming by. We strolled back through the estuary and walked up the highway to the bus stop, but the time table said the last bus had been at 4:30pm and it was now 9:30pm. We sat down expecting to have to wait for 3 or 4 hours for the Night Rider to come along, and I said to Eco, let's pray, and we said a prayer that a bus would stop when it came by and for everything to work out for us travelling home. Then, less than five minutes later, along came bus and, to our surprise, it stopped. The driver said he was the last bus from Portsea that night, and his destination was the Frankston Station. When we got there the train was waiting and left as soon as we climbed on board. An hour later we reached Flinders St and the Choir was still going. Eco was dead tired on his feet and I helped him get on a tram and said goodbye, before going back to the Steps to sing praises to God, and then catch up with some friends.
I slept all day.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I walked around the city until about 1am and then, as I was very dehydrated from the day's heat, I went to HJs to buy a drink, where I could sit and keep topping it up all night, as I sat and read my book. I sat down near a homeless guy I had seen around a lot but had never spoken to. A bit later he asked me what I was reading? I showed him it was the story of St. Francis. I was just at an interesting bit where St. Francis marked his top with a big letter T, which represented the Greek letter 'tau' and the Hebrew letter 'taw'. Historically it was the Jewish symbol that represented service to the poor, the fulfillment of the word of the prophets, and the symbol put on God's people's foreheads as mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation. Early Christians had used the symbol of the T until it evolved into the small letter t as that way it included the imagery of the cross of Jesus. This was a major symbolic connection between Judaisim and Christianity that I had never heard of before, and immediately added impact to the feelings I had about wearing the t / cross on my top.
Shortly, in came Dougy, and he sat down and asked if I could refill my drink and give it to him. Then he started talking to another fellow who saw how drunk he was, with his blood red eyes, and got up to sing a rap, to which Dougy got up and did a dance too, that had the whole store in hysterics. A bit later a young thin kid (Jason, 13 years old) came in and joined us. He said he was Dougy's son, although I am sure it was more a term of endearment rather than a fact. We all watched some of the replay of Hewitt's tennis match, which Dougy was very excited about, and also said Hewitt was his brother. Then Dougy went outside to ask some people for some change, so he could buy a wine casket, and came back a few minutes later shocked that a stranger had given him $18. His pleasure at the score would be his topic of conversation for the rest of the day.
At 4am HJs closed up for a couple of hours and we all went and sat outside. Two of Dougy's other drinking buddies, Robbie (the flag-caped indigenous man) and Merrick (whom I had not met before) sat down and they all started to drink from the casket. Robbie was very upset as during the day he had put his flag/cape on the seat next to him and had woken up to find it stolen. Even worse, he said, was that he knew it was "one of his own people" and he would "kill 'em" if he found out who. Again, difficult to determine the resolve behind the words. I offered to go across the road and have a look around for the flag, in case it had been dumped somewhere close by, and Jason came along with me. Together we had a hunt around, to no avail, but it got me a chance to break the ice and talk with Jason.
An hour or so later the men were all slumped down and Jason and I were sitting against the wall nearby. Merrick asked Robbie for a cigarette, which started an argument that Robbie said to "go and find his own" and that "this was his area so piss off". Merrick said he was staying and Robbie was too drunk to do anything about it, but Dougy backed Robbie up and entered the argument. Then he got up and punched Merrick in the head! Merrick was too wasted to realise for a bit what had happened and then after the second punch he got up and stumbled across the path, too sloshed to defend himself. Now I had a non-interference policy with street violence, but it hadn't been tested until now. As Dougy went across and kicked Merrick in the head I wondered if I could just stand by and watch a guy get beaten up? As I was praying and considering what to do, Jason ran across and told Dougy to stop it and tried to hold him back. Well, that changed things and I didn't want Jason to get hurt so I went across and held Merrick back and shouted at Dougy to cool down and that I would take Merrick away. Dougy just stared dead straight at Merrick with angry fuming eyes, and lurched towards us as Jason struggled to hold him. Again I said, "We need peace," and Dougy said, "Well piss him off then!" and he stood still while I dragged Merrick in the other direction, down the street.
As I helped him stagger away, he asked me what the problem was and I just kept telling him the other guys were upset with him and didn't want him there for now. A couple of blocks later he said he needed to go to the toilet and I guided him to one and said I would wait and sit and chat with him when he came out. But he got upset and asked me to leave him alone a few times, and so I did and walked back to the others. They had settled down again, but were grumbling about Merrick, and Jason seemed ok. I sat down and was staring into the distance distracted with my thoughts when suddenly Jason called out to me as Merrick had come back! Everyone was on their feet again and I was able to grab Merrick and guide him away again before anything violent happened again. Jason said this time to take him at least four blocks away, so he wouldn't come back. After a couple of blocks Merrick pulled away from me and headed off to look for a cigarette, and I followed him for a while to make sure he wasn't heading back again, which he didn't.
As the business city morning started many people walked by as they headed into town and gave us some disapproving looks. I was mucking around with Jason, pretending to be scared as he stood out in the rain then came back to shake his head at me like a shaggy dog, spraying water at my face, which I blocked with my arm. When the rain stopped he crouched down in the gutter and scooped water up onto his head, to keep the game going. Then along came the police and Dougy and Robbie got up and went to the car window to talk to them. The police gave them both an ultimatum to head in different directions and be gone within 3 minutes, or else they would be locked up, and then drove on. Robbie got upset with Dougy, thinking that it was Dougy's fault the police had come by, and told him to leave, which he did. Jason went to go with him but first gave me his stuff (a top, diary and 2 Coke cans) to mind as he said he would be back in a few minutes... I waited two hours before wandering over to the steps where I found Dougy again, but he didn't know where Jason had gone. Dougy took off his top and started wandering around shouting at people heading to the tennis, which drew the cops back again. They nodded to me as I stepped away and let them do their job, and they talked to Dougy for a bit and strongly suggested he go and drink down on the riverbank, before he agreed to go away, and headed off in the opposite direction.
It had been a long night but I wasn't really tired and so I went for a walk around the city. I spotted a few people I knew sitting on the street begging for change, so I didn't disturb them and I went to the library to do a bit of internet. I did get a bit tired in the early afternoon and went for a nap on a bench in the Flinders St underpass arcade for a couple of hours. I got up at 4:30pm and headed back to HJs and found Jason sitting there. He was happy I still had his stuf and apologised for not coming back, but he didn't say why. We talked a bit more and then he took me upstairs to show me the quieter upper dining area where he was able to lie down on a padded seat and go to sleep.
As I thought about whether to go down the coast tomorrow, I had checked the forecast on the net and it had said rain all day, and so I thought it was unlikely that anyone would be down on the beach in the rain. As I thought about it I got a spiritual feeling that it was ok to go. I had prayed to God a couple of weeks ago, when I had no money, that a factor of when to go would be that I wouldn't go until I had the funding for the trip, and someone had given me some money earlier in the week. Also when I thought about visiting St. Kilda I felt like I was pressing against a wall, and took that as a spiritual road block and so I had not headed over there. Now as I thought about heading down the coast I had a feeling of stumbling through an open doorway and falling down through an empty space, like off a cliff. Like leaning against a wall and suddenly it is taken away, so I concluded God was saying it was ok to go tomorrow. And it was 10 minutes before 6pm, so I got up and headed to the steps to meet Eco there, as we had arranged the night before.
This has given me a new appreciation for the woman who kissed and then washed Jesus' feet with her tears and her hair! Jesus, as anyone walking around the deserts and towns of that time, would also have had just as stinky feet and sandals. That meant she would have got the gag inducing smell on her lips and all through her hair, and would she would have had no respite from it until she could wash at a later time. I'm not sure I can think of anyone I would do that for as a dare, let alone as an unprompted voluntary act of love...
Outside the Town Hall I sat on a bench next to the Foot Patrol. This is a couple of people who walk around and give out free clean kits (new needle and syringes) to drug addicts as a service to help reduce the risk and spread of infection from the sharing of used equipment. The people that met them were not obvious users by appearance and, as with any addiction or illness, could be any person you pass on the street, or might even know. Although I had meet one street girl on the Steps who was the skinniest girl I had ever seen, which prompted me to look down her arms where I did see some evidence of injecting. Not to say that skinny means drug user, but I have met addicts over time and I have noticed a number of tell tale signs to look for. In some people I can sometimes see that something is physically wrong, from a spiritual perspective.
Over the past week I had been concerned that I had not seen Rick (the guy who gets drunk for two days and then sleeps rough for two weeks until his next payment) since our chat at the start of the year. So I was pleased as he came up and sat down next to me at the Steps, and asked if I would head up to the Vic Markets with him to get some food. Along the way he told me how yesterday he had been rolled (mugged) by a guy at Southbank for all his money. He said he had even voluntarily given the guy his good basketball top. He said his plan was that he hoped the mugger would wear the top and then Rick would be easily able to spot him at a later time, so he could go and kill him. There is a lot of threatening talk from street people when they have been wronged, and I am often not sure just how much follow through with action some people would back their words with. Although Rick is a pretty fit tough character, and so I was surprised he was mugged. I can only assume he was drunk at the time or else muggers are pretty confident in their actions, and my feelings of being safer in the city because I am a male just dropped a little.
On the way to the food van Rick stopped at a bottle shop to buy a beer. He came up 50 cents short and asked me if I had any change. This is an issue I have grappled with from the start, and my position on giving out change has fluxed quite a bit. Before the FW I had a no-give-cash policy but offered to buy stuff on people's behalf. As I started the FW I changed to a share everything I received as a no questions asked act of non-judgmental love. Right now I am somewhere in between. I think I should give some of the money away without judgment to those who ask, but I also am struggling with giving money to those who I know for sure are using it to directly support an addiction, which is most of those asking for change around the city, but not all. The problem this has now led to is what to say when I don't want to give change. A few times I have said, "I don't have any" which is a lie, and I am not comfortable with that! It is so much easier when I don't have any money and I can say truthfully that I don't have any. At this time I did have some and I decided to give it to Rick, even though I knew for sure it was for a beer. In this instance I saw it as helping out a mate with some money, in the same way I would lend a friend from work 50 cents if we were down at the pub and he was short. Even so, I am still not sure of the right approach to these situations.
Up at the food van I did get a chance to talk to Rick a bit about God as he was shocked to learn I don't like to drink alcohol very much, as it "disrupts my communication with God." The more time you spend focused on life's distractions is less time to think about God. He said the whole point of drinking was to 'disrupt your communication' which was what he needed to take a break from thinking about how bad life was. He said death would bring him peace and he had been so drunk a number of times (past 0.5%) that he had died for short moments before ending up in hospital. Though he said he was not an alcoholic as the difference is that an alcoholic can't help himself and must drink, and when he does he barely feels any effect (which is a good description of Dougy who can easily hold a conversation with you no matter how much he has drunk, and actually talks completely normal to the cops they approach, and seems sober until they are gone), where as with Rick, he chooses when to drink and, as it is only every couple of weeks, it still 'does it for him'. He asked me what 'does it' for me? I said, "a Margherita pizza with anchovies" :)
After the van left I talked with Eco Paul. I mentioned to him I was thinking of heading down the coast this Saturday, and he asked if he could come along. I said that it would be fine, but that I had just not made up my mind as to whether this Saturday was the right time or not. You see, sometimes I get a leading from God that I should go and meet and talk to someone, but not all the information comes in at once. The three parts to a meeting are a location, a person and a time. In this instance I had the location in mind, but not the time or person. Over the past few weeks the feeling/push to head there was getting stronger and stronger, but not enough to commit yet to the decision to go. Eco asked me for a decision so he could plan for it but I was unable to do so and instead I told him I would let him know tomorrow. So we agreed to meet at the steps at 6pm tomorrow (Friday) and I would let him know the answer and then we would also go and have dinner and visit MIF Church. It was sorted, for now, and we headed back to the Steps where I said goodbye as he caught a tram home then sat down to pray for clarity about the situation. It was midnight.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
* (I changed his psudoname from Doug to Dave as I realized I had also used 'Dougy' for another person and didn't want the two confused.)
Monday, January 15, 2007
I had just visited some friends, had a pray, and was deciding whether to go to sleep or head back into the city. I decided to head back in, mainly because I like the Sat night activities on the steps from 10 to 12, and if I headed back in I might catch the last half hour.
As I crossed the street to the Steps, Dougy was standing out in front of the choir, saw me approaching and called out to me to come over, and shook my hand. We had a chat about how he had got sunburnt again. Then I saw a good friend standing on the Steps, whom I had not seen since I started the FW. Before I could go and say hello, the evangelist from Frankston (Darren), who had suggested I carry a Bible, from a few weeks ago, came up to say hello. He enthusiastically asked me if I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and I asked him to qualify how he would define that. Whoops; then came a ten minute talk and reading from the Bible as to what it was all about. While I didn't have a specific moment of spiritual Baptism to recount, he agreed I had been Baptized as I said I had experienced speaking in tongues.
We, the choir and some others, all gathered around in a huddle and said a few prayers, then everyone headed off home. I went to talk to my friend Scott and learned he had decided to come in with the hope to find me, so I was really glad I also made the decision to come back in tonight. This seems to be happening a lot, meetings with people looking to find me, or meetings with new people that have an interesting connection or interest in the area I am dealing/living in. We walked around a bit and had a good catch up over a couple of hours. He said after this experience, I would never be the same again. I wonder just how much as a person I have or will change? As we went back to his car and said goodbye, I mentioned that I thought I would now head off and get some sleep myself...
Walking back past HJs I bumped into Cathy, and started talking. This time she told me reason of why she was living on the streets, and it was due to a Pokie Machine addiction. Although she was a little smarter about it than others, as after she got her pension, she paid any bills she had, bought any food or items she would need for the week, and then spent the rest down at the casino. I asked her how often she won money on the pokies and she said not very often, less than once a month, and agreeing that the odds were so very low she said she might try blackjack instead next time...
I had just seen some youths try to wind up Dougy by saying a guy in McDonalds had been badmouthing him. Dougy went inside. I stood directly opposite outside, leaning with my back to a tree, watching, ready to go in and talk to Dougy in case he took the lie seriously. The youths, also watching, noticed me and one came over and started hassling me for being a Christian, and was waving his hands in front of my face in a teasing manner. This was about the most hastled I had been but I just stood there and smiled. Then he stopped and shook my hand saying he really respected me for being a Christian and wearing a cross around the city! Dougy was fine, as he was too drunk to remember what the youths had said 30 seconds after he had walked in, and I had never seen him act in a violent manner, although I did hear Goaty say he had been kicked in the head by Dougy once.
As I was leaning against the tree a guy came out of McDonalds and said hello, and asked about my cross. I chatted with him and he was really interested and then told me how God had called him to study to be a youth pastor this year at the Harvest Bible College in Dandenong. Nathan then told me his sister went to a Planet Shakers Church in Victoria St, which was ironic as I had arranged to meet a friend at the service there that afternoon. Then his friends came over and they headed off to catch the Night Rider Bus service home, which is free, by the way, for all of January, if you're out late in the city this month.
I sat with Dougy in front of the Commonwealth ATMs. It was a busy night on Swanston St. I was told things were back to normal after a quiet post Christmas / New Year period, and the cops didn't seem to be around much, but Dougy always spotted them before I could, accompanied with a sour remark. Some guys came up to Dougy and had a good go at him about being an alcoholic. He responded in a friendly manner about how he couldn't help it, it's just the way he was, and I was glad to see he was approachable on the subject without getting upset, a fact I would keep in mind for a later time.
As we sat there along came a tall thin youth with his head constantly crooked at an angle, and he stopped to talk to Dougy. He said how he had taken 16 bickys (estacy tablets), ice, and some crack. I said I was surprised he had taken so many, thinking you would normally take only one or two, but he said he had taken 64 bickys once. As we talked he noticed an older guy just down the street talking to a young girl. He got up and went over to confront the guy about leaving the girl alone. Although the guy said they were friends the 'bicky kid' tried to pick a fight with the guy (to protect the girl, whom he didn't know), but the other fellow didn't want one and defended himself verbally for a couple of minutes before walking away. Then the drugged up guy kept strolling around yelling at people looking for a fight, but no one took him on. It was interesting as although he was completely drugged up and acting violent, he still needed justification in his mind, for a fight. So while he was completely high, there still seemed to be some level of reasoning going on with his thinking. Then he came over and started talking threateningly to me about not messing with his friends, and so I decided it was time to leave.
I went to sleep.
I got up to go to the morning service at my home Church, but was too tired and went back to sleep.
I went to the Dallas Brooks Hall for the Planet Shakers Church service. I though there may be a couple of hundred people attending, but there was thousands. I stood in the entrance hoping to meet my friend Antony, from World Vision, but I was unable to see him. As I was standing there another man, Rex, came over to say hello. He had reserved some seats and asked me to join him and his friends. I still couldn't see Anthony and the music had started, so I agreed and went in.
After some more bouncy bouncy, and a good talk about handing over your 'stuff' to Jesus, the service ended and I got to chat further with Rex. Now this was interesting (remember these 'chance' meetings), Rex had a nephew that had lived on the streets and been involved in drugs and with a lot of support he had just helped his nephew get out of his situation and back on the road to recovery, just a week ago. It was good to hear a success story from the issues of despair I had seen about the streets. Rex was also interested in getting the support of the church and some financial backing to help other kids the way he had been able to help his nephew. But he didn't have much knowledge of the streets and so asked if I might be able to help, once he got things up and running. I said I had only been here a month but if I came by for another service at some point I would see how we were both progressing. Only a moment after we finished talking and he left, Anthony saw me and came up to talk.
I caught up with some friends who were gathering for the soon arrival of the food van. A 10 year old kid came up and said 'Weren't you just at the Planet Shakers thing?'. 'I was' I replied and he said 'Cool!' just as his dad came and pulled him away. As I was talking on the Steps to Goaty, we were approached by two guys who introduced themselves as the original leaders of the KK Gang. I had heard of this gang from a few other street kids talking. There was a few suggestions as to the meaning of the 'KK' but these guys said it meant 'Kambo Klowns'. They were very friendly and were asking me to take good care of the street people that live around the steps. They asked if they gave me a backpack would I fill it with food from the van and then distribute it later to people on the Steps, as there were some that didn't like going to the van and still needed food. I said I wouldn't use a backpack but would do my best to look after the people, as that was a part of why I was already there. They were happy and said if I ever needed anything then let them know and they would hook me up with any drug I wanted. They even said they were willing to spend the time to teach me how to take the drugs properly, no one else would do that, but if I took care of their friends, then they would take care of me. I let them know I don't take drugs but would still look out for the people around the area. They said that was cool and then they headed of to catch a train.
After the food van (where I got to chat with someone new) I sat and chatted further with Goaty. He was a bit repetitive and so I wanted to head off elsewhere, but it conflicted with the feeling that listening as a friend, even if it was repetitive, was a part of why I was there. So I kept thinking it was a good exercise in patience. Later we went for a walk, and I stopped to make a call on a public phone to a cousin on her birthday. There was no answer which Goaty said was good and told me to hurry along down the street. As we moved away from the area he told me just next to the phone was a well known gang of youths a few meters away, who hate Christians. He said if we had been there any longer then they would have attacked me because of the cross on my top, and beat me unconscious. He said he would have been attacked for just being with me, and as there were too many he would not have been able to do anything about it. He said not to go back near there for the rest of the night. Shortly later we found a six pack of VB stubbies broken on the ground, but two were still intact, so Goaty saw it as good Karma and picked them up and then looked for a spot to drink. I said it was time for me to head off, and separated and I re-assured him I was not heading back to the bad area.
I was walking east, up Little Flinders St, when I walked past a shop entrance area, and saw two people having sex, right there, in a very publicly visible place, only half a metre to my right. That was a surprise, I hadn't seen that sort of 'activity' on the street before. The guy looked at me as I passed. It was the 'bicky kid'.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I had a couple of long nights sitting with Dougy, until daylight. He is a real tough person to work out how to help, if it's possible, requiring endless amounts of patience. A big issue I discovered is the amount of people that know him and are constantly stopping by to shake his hand, and to encourage him to keep drinking and keep fighting the cops. Often some people will sit down and drink with him for an hour or two before heading on. This week the cops tried a new tactic of keeping him and his main drinking buddy, Robby (an indigenous man, always drunk or stoned and who wears an indigenous flag tied around his neck as a cape), separated by locking them up at alternate times, and then dropping them at the edge of town so they have to walk for a while to get back to the Steps.
Thanks to God: this week as I passed one month of Faith Walking on the streets of Melbourne. So specifically I want to thank him for: safety, guidance, learning experiences, the interest and support of friends, family and others, opportunities to talk to people and represent him here, and the faith to continue on.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Right, first let me withdraw my 'walk everywhere' comment!. My legs were killing me from over 5hrs walking places yesterday. After church, and later chatting at the pub, I had ended up only 15mins walk from my friends flat (that I 'm looking after) and it was late, so I decided to spend the night there.
This morning I got up and found it was not only my legs that were stuffed, so was my motivation. I felt different, disconnected, like the Earth was still turning but I was standing still. I thought about going back into the city, but I couldn't feel bothered. I thought about the people I had met and the relationships I had made, and I felt no loyalty to them. In fact I thought about getting a job again and forgetting about the city, and I didn't feel any reason to go back. Yesterday Angela had said she had noticed how much I had changed from looking grim, from my first week on the streets, to being happy and bright as I walked by then, and I wondered about how quickly things had changed again. I sat down and vegged out for a while.
The key thing was 'I felt...' and that's not the way I like to operate. There are three levels of governence in my mind as to how I like to make decisions. At the bottom is Emotion. It can be fun to do things that make you happy, but it's not always in your best interest, and so at times I need to overrule my emotions with Logic. Logic, or common sense, is how most people operate, and when it makes us happy, then great. But sometimes I need to overrule my emotion and logic by making a Spiritual decision. This is the top box I want ticked in my decision-making process. It is also the hardest to decide on sometimes. When it goes against logic and emotion it usually means a big risk, but it's great when all three are in alignment. In this case I felt like giving up, and logically it didn't seem to matter either way. I had experienced a lot and could change directions, but there were also still things I wanted to check out. Spiritually, though, it didn't feel right to abandon the relationships I had developed, and so I decided to ignore my feelings and continue on. I headed back into the city.
Last week at the food van a couple of older mature gents, Bradly (a happy chatty businessman type) and Tony (a wise cracking blind man with a hat and cane), had invited me to join them for dinner at the Sister's of Mercy (Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity organization) house. It provided dinner and accommodation for the homeless and was re-opening after some time shut for a break. In fact most charities had been closed for a break after Christmas, and food and services had been very scarce, leading to shortages, but just enough had remained open for people to survive. I was surprised to learn the Sisters offered free accommodation for up to two weeks for those in need. I didn't think free accommodation was offered anywhere, and Bradly was wanting to talk to the Sisters about arranging for me to stay there a while, but I declined and talked him out of it. I had alternatives to the street if I wanted them, for now.
I was greeted by a Sister at the door, and was welcomed as she asked me my name. Lining up I was soon passed a plate of chicken, ham, vegetables and salad, then also a bowl of fruit salad and ice cream, before I sat down with Bradly and Tony. There were about 50 people there, and I was impressed with the food. At the other charities the diet was very unbalanced and I always wondered where you could get vegetables; well this was one place that covered every base, the advantage of the food being cooked on the premises. There was a fair bit of Catholic decorations and messages on the walls, but that was fair enough as we might as well have been eating in a Convent. Soon I was in a discussion about Orthodox Christianity of the Ethiopians when a knowledgeable Russian gentleman joined in. I am always amazed at what interesting and varied things people in this community know, and are able to discuss in greater detail than what I have experienced before.
After dinner I spent some time wandering around reading the messages and information on the walls. A Sister came up and asked me, by name, if I needed help with anything. I replied that I was fine and just reading some of their material. As I later left she waved goodbye through the screen door and said, "You're welcome back anytime, John." Just outside another street man, Angus, noted the '24hr Church' motto on the back of my top and told me how there was a group of people in Launceston that were starting a permanent 24hr prayer vigil in a lighthouse tower on the coast. It was good to know other people shared similar visions.
As I walked back to towards the city I thought about how I had felt disconnected from things all day. Then I thought about the kindness of the Sisters and suddenly I was overcome with emotion and started to tear up, and shortly had to sit down. It was the simplicity of the Sisters that hit me. They were the living representation of Kindness, Generosity and Love, and nothing else. In my lead up to this walk, I had tried to empty out the things of my life and of the world that were not of God but I hadn't achieved it completely. I still am interested in certain TV shows, movies, foods, comforts and have negative attitudes to some things that I am trying to overcome. But here were these ladies that seemed to have none of that, just a simple love for me, for us. A love that seemed like a small selfless offering in an outstretched hand, but was also greater than the tallest mountain. A mountain of love that I now felt the weight of pressing against my very soul. I continued to sit, and breathe, for a while.
Back down Flinders St, near Elizabeth St, feeling re-motivated, I came across Goaty. I had not seen him since Christmas Day. He waved as I approached and I saw his face was scarred and swollen and there were big chunks missing from his lips. He told me he had been bashed up by three drunk guys in North Balwyn yesterday. They had mistaken him for someone else. I sat and listened and he kept saying, "You've got to go through Hell to get to Heaven, and this is Hell." We talked a bit about God and then he started crying. He said that there had been no-one to talk to today and that being able to talk to me about the situation had made him feel better. We had a hug and again I started to tear up a bit myself. He said he hoped we would see each other in Heaven and he would keep trying to be a good person, even though it was so hard. We sat and talked as he gathered a few dumpers to make a rollie. I thought about how I had just been moved by the gift of Christian love and care shown by another, and now someone else had just received and been moved by that same gift from me. After the way I started the day, I was convinced God was acting and revealing something of himself.
Later, Goaty said he wanted to show me his Bible, and took out a book called 'The Sword of the Lord', a 1909 publication by Joseph Hocking, and he asked me to read from it. Opening it up I saw that it was written in old English, like a King James version of the Bible. I began to read and discovered the story discussed many big theological issues such as the nature of conversion and grace. I translated the text into modern English as I read it out loud. As I read a paragraph, Goaty amazingly was able to gather the nature of the point in discussion and then would say something like, "Oh yes that's the bit where..." and directly correlate the discussion to the relevant bit of the 'real' Bible where the same topic was discussed. And he had a good understanding of the issues. I didn't have the heart to tell him the book was not a Bible, and so I kept reading and we kept discussing Christian theology as we went along. We ended up sitting and talking all evening. Goaty repeated himself a fair bit, but I didn't mind as my only goal was to sit patiently and be his friend, and it was good to talk about Christianity, even if it was a bit repetitive.
Just after midnight Goaty wanted me to join him hunting through bins. I had seen others looking in bins over the last few weeks, and thought, "That's one thing I won't be doing..." and yet off we went. Now my eye sight isn't the best in the dark, on account of my not bringing my glasses on the FW, and so I was content for Goaty to peer into them and pick up a few dumpers from the edge. I wondered just what people hoped to find in the bins? There was no need to anyone to be desperate enough to eat thrown out food scraps, as they might be in other countries without the support services we had here, so I was interested to see what Goaty was excited about when he pulled out a garbage bag from one bin. He open the bag up and inside pulled out three bottles of pineapple juice. He gave me two and kept one for himself. I checked the seal and it was unbroken, and I checked the use-by date and saw that it had expired a week ago. Ok. So it seems there are some shops that throw out expired packaged food and drink. I can see the value of that for a street person, but although with a wash there would be no health issue drinking the juice, I was unable to overcome the psychological rejection of the juice because of where it had come from, and so I threw them into another bin later in the night when Goaty was not looking.
Down another alley we hit the big dumpster bins. Most of these were padlocked, probably to stop people like us pilfering through them, and tossing stuff on the ground. In one open bin we found a packet of unused bon-bons. There was another dumpster I found where the padlock had not been closed, jackpot. First up I got a good tennis ball, and then we found the rest of the bin was filled with new luggage that had tags on them saying 'faulty'. And just to make sure no-one could use them, all the bags had been slashed with gaping holes in them. I guess that was so no-one could take a bag from the tip and claim/scam it was faulty and exchange it for a brand new one at the shop later. Anyway we found one good bag that was not slashed and had wheels and and extension handle. Goaty was pleased he had been carrying round two heavy bags on his shoulder and now transferred his stuff to the wheel bag, and was able to pull it along, which he said made a big difference to him. Then we went and sat down in the street and pulled the bon-bons, and to his perplexion I won all six tugs and got a nice little assortment of things, a pen and a rubber ball, while I read out the included jokes, like, 'Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants? In case he got a hole in one...'
On our way back to the Steps, we met another man who asked us for some change. I didn't have any and Goaty said he wouldn't have given him any even if he had some, as he knew the guy was a heroin addict, but he was very friendly to him anyway. When we got to FSS I saw the time was 2am and Kathy was standing there. She had missed the last train out of the city (a lot of people seem to do that) so we stopped to talk. She was too afraid to go into the city and so we all went into the station and headed down the back where it was bright and empty, except for two other guys sleeping against the wall nearby. We all sat down and chatted as I got out the tennis ball and we proceeded to bounce it around between each other in a big triangle. At one time it bounced into Goaty's broken face, which he was quite unhappy about, and so I made sure I bounced it away on an angle after that.
Around 4am Kathy fell asleep, so I lay down to sleep as well, but kept one eye open. Thinking we were both asleep Goaty got up and moved over to the other two sleeping men and peered down at them, then he crouched down and shook them saying, "Are you guys alright?" to which they didn't respond so he walked away out of the station. It was a little strange and I felt I didn't quite trust him, so I stayed awake a while longer. Kathy stopped snoring and got up and said, "Is he gone? I wasn't asleep, he is a bit two faced you know..." and then she left the area as well. I think there might be a little bit different side to some of these people when they are not under the watchful eye of others. It's probably a true statement for all of us. Ten minutes later I got up and headed off to my arcade spot. I saw Kathy walking back the other way towards the station again, but she didn't acknowledge me when I smiled at her and so I kept walking. I wondered if she might have just gone to the toilet and was heading back to the light safer area, and whether I should have gone back with her for the 'safety in numbers thing' for her. But she hadn't said anything and I guess that sort of situation is what she and others must have to deal with all the time, so I let her be, and went and had a nap, in my safe spot.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
(Update: My mum remembers further details: It was a young couple with a baby, from a church, that had nowhere to stay as they were 'living by faith', and they only stayed a couple of days. In their discussions on Christianity, my Grandma questioned the man's responsibility of living this way with a wife and baby, and he questioned my Grandma's wealth and body weight [re: consuming too much]. Angry at his comments she asked them to leave.)
I had spent the night at a friend's house, and slept in. The temptations of a quiet dark room and soft carpet! My plan was to head to the Rosie's lunch at Catani Gardens, in St.Kilda. I was about 2hrs walk out of the city (I had used up my travel pass and money) but felt like a brisk walk to wake up to the day, and so headed off. I was pushing for time to get to the lunch and so I again toyed with my number one temptation; to free ride in on a tram.
A few days ago I had walked for an hour and a half into the city and was tempted then, but as I was not pressed for time it was pretty easy to ignore. When I got halfway up Brunswick St I bumped into a street friend and we had a good chat. He asked me for a drink and as I had $2 at the time, I bought us a can each. After he left, I was really pleased that I had not jumped on a tram, as by walking I had been able to have this good unexpected meeting.
So back to Sunday, I was able to overcome the temptation (and the time pressure was really strong), and do the right thing, partly thanks to the blessing from doing the right thing previously. Then as I was walking up Smith St I was greeted 'Hi John!' It was Angela from the Steps Ministry I had met on my first Thursday night of the journey. She and some other girls from St.Martins were having a chit chat and asked me to join them. I sat down and she explained what I was doing to the other girls. I'm a bit surprised I am still quite hesitant in explaining what I am doing to others, I should be used to it by now. As we all talked we discovered 'small world' connections as we had mutual friends, and attended same churches, and one of the girls had even been a part of 'Wipeout' (a church youth group some friends and I had started a long time ago, which is apparently still going!) So it was a good meeting and I now recommend everybody should walk everywhere and let God bless you with health and friendship.
Later, through the city, and down St.Kilda Rd, I stopped to ask a Mr.Whippy van man the location of Catani Gardens (if those guys don't know where a park is then no one would). He told me it was next to St.Kilda pier and I realized it was a lot further than I though and by the time I got there the lunch would be long over, so I headed back to the steps. I stopped in the Art Gallery briefly to look at the display of how sneakers changed over the last 20 years. They all looked pretty much the same to me. (That is a subtle comment indicating how I am currently seeing things more as functional than fashionable.)
I caught up with Dougy, who was in great agony from the sunburn he got from sitting around drinking the last few days without a top on. "I'm going to have to kill my self" he kept saying (as a way to stop the pain). After chatting to him a bit I told him to stay seated on the steps while I went to McDonalds and got a cup of iced water and some towelettes. I came back and soaked the towelettes with the water and dabbed his back with them. After a while he gave no response that it was helpful, or not, so I pulled out an ice block and ran it slowly over his lobster red back. This time I noticed he was holding his forearm in one hand while the other kept scrunching into a fist. I realized he was just taking the pain of the ice block, which he told me later was worse than the sunburn. So I went back to the soaked paper towels for a while as the cops came by to chat with him about his sunburn, before they asked him to come along with them to chat about it some place else. So I am not sure whether the effect of my treatment was positive, although I had tried. Later I wondered whether or not I should have asked him if he wanted to pray about the pain, perhaps next time.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
I mostly caught up with old friends, and built on the new ones I was developing. Thanks to those friends I caught up with for your interest and chats, and also those that sent me an encouraging email.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the young guy at the Vic Market Food Van that asked me the time, and I felt that small acknowledgment was a 'connection'. Well, last Sunday I came out of the Library and he followed me out and approached for a quick chat about News Years Eve plans. The next day I was sitting on the Steps and he came and sat down and chatted further. Rick told me has been on the streets for about six years. He sleeps rough as each fortnight he gets his $400 benefit and then spends it all on alcohol, and has a good time, which lasts him about two days. He then walks around, carries nothing, just has his clothing, and waits for the next payment to do it again. I said 'That's a lot of money to blow in two days on alcohol'. He explained as he has been doing it for years, he no longer drinks beer or wine, but just has a hankering for the top quality spirits. He wished me a happy new year and walked on. Later at the food van, he gave me a tip that you can heat up the food on the free BBQs, over in the park. We haven't talked about God yet, but we're on chatty terms now, so that's good.
I also had my first chat with Dougy. He was the drunk that, earlier during Christmas, had a bet about how long before he would be locked up again. Dougy is the cops (or 'jacks' as they're known on the street) number one drunken trouble maker. He claims he was locked up 17 times in three days over Christmas. He said the 'jacks' can hold you up to 4 hours before having to charge or release you, so they have a constant cycle of releasing him, following him around, locking him up for a few hours, and releasing him again, and so on. I have often seen the jacks, in a group, follow him around and just chat for a bit and move on. Dougy and his mates claim the seats outside SPC opposite the Hungry Jacks store (a hangout place for street people) is 'theirs' and nobody is going to claim otherwise. Of course with the jacks, it is only their way or the highway, and they never really compromise. Although once I was sleeping on the bench there, next to some wineos, and woke up to find ourselves surrounded by 13 jacks. They moved the winoes on but saw I was not a part of them and not drunk, so didn't hassle me further, which was a suprise as they nearly always ask for your ID and write down your details. So I thought that this might be the time when I talk about why I have no ID and what I am doing, but no, not this time, maybe later, or never. Anyway, Dougy stopped me as I walked by, and chatted for the first time (although I had sat next to him on a number of occasions) about how the jacks had followed him and his mate into Hungry Jacks (HJs) and his mate had said 'Why are you following us all the time?' and upset had thrown his drink all over one of the jacks, thus getting himself promptly taken away. People steer pretty clear of Dougy, but I hope to chat further with him.
Now on a spiritual note, a word of advice. If you visit the Shrine of Rememberance and notice, as I did, the message engraved on the path leading up to the steps, but before the flame, that says 'Let all men know, this is Holy Ground', do not take off your sandals! Seeing the message, and thinking of the story of Moses, where God says to be bare footed on Holy ground, I took off my sandals and walked around. Soon I had a security guard come up to me and tell me to put my footware back on, for 'safety reasons'. I pointed out the message said it was Holy Ground and that should mean bare feet. She agreed the message was there, but said I had to comply and also to take off my hood, so the cameras could see my face...
Last night (Friday) I was standing next to a guy who asked me about my top and then invited me to come along to the Planet Shakers Conference. His name was also Jake and he was the cool enthusiastic youth pastor for an AOG Church and was heading in to the conference with about 30 kids, all soccer chant singing 'He Sa,'a'a,'a'a,'a,'aves, Jesus'ss, Jesus'ss...' as the tram went along. The conference had been running all week at the BrandName Areana (Tennis Center) and it was the final night, which was free, lucky for me! John warned me it was like a Church souped up on steriods, but when I found myself in the middle of tens of thousands of teenagers all jumping up and down to booming music and a massive video screen, singing and yelling, I would more describe it as a Hyper Hyper Go Go Trippy Spinout Conference of Super Godly Fullon-ness. While I didn't quite get into being bouncy, I did enjoy it. My only concern was one speaker who said Satan was siting in the chair he had on the stage, and had everyone shouting out, repeating after him, just how angry Satan made him, and had everyone yelling to give us back all the good things he (Satan) had taken away... I abstained from that one. I am not sure encouraging kids to talk to Satan, even in righteous anger, is a good idea... better just to focus on God, I was thinking. Anyway I was really impressed by the high quality of the production and how hyped up the kids were for Jesus, so that was also good.
On the way back to the city, a crowd of people was waiting at the tram stop. As it approached I could see there were only three other youths on it, who seeing the big crowd, all ran down the back of the tram to avoid the crush. As the tram took off the 'Jesus Saves' chant song started up again, and the youths started yelling out that they were there first, and what was with this stupid Jesus tram, and other negative comments. I moved down the back to where they were and 'suprise' one of the youths was the 'sex tape' kid I had talked to one week earlier. He saw me and said "Hey, it's the Christian guy from the City, he's ok." And they all stopped making their negative comments. Another of the street youths said to me "There's nothing in the Bible against smoking pot, is there.." and I said that 'the Bible says your body is a temple' and he said 'I look after my body' in reference to his physique, I nodded. They sat quietly and when we all got off he shouted out "Don't forget, your body is a temple!", I think he was sincere :)
Later, I met a new street person, a girl who constantly asked people for a cigarette, smoked it, then asked someone else for another. She was chain smoking by request. There seems to be an understanding of sharing cigarettes between all smokers, that she was taking advantage of. I noticed that her feet were black, although she was white, from dust and dirt. I asked her if she had any concern, like with broken glass, while walking around the city in bare feet. But she didn't, and looked at me almost as if it was an odd question.
I left her sitting there at 3am and went off to sleep on the lawn out the front of the AxA building, as Eco Paul had suggested some time ago. It was pretty dry and dusty but I lay there looking up at the ordered structured form of the building, and thought about their business of financial planning, the nature of man in progression from sleeping dirty and rough, to suits, offices, apartments and mansions. Both ends of the pendulum now here, resting together, back to back. Was it a good spiritual experience, as Eco had suggested? Well I woke up in the morning light and knew I had just had a dream of something significant, but I couldn't quite remember it. So I might have to go back and try again sometime.
I walked back by the Steps and noticed the black footed girl still sitting there.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
In response to the interesting and important issue of 'Drawing On Charity and For How Long?' that has been raised, I have written the following: (Keep in mind I do not draw on the Government Centerlink benefits and my thinking is still developing; so I am interested in other points of view as well.)
As the elderly lady I recently met said: "you need to please God first."
Jesus said 'I did not come to do my will, but the will of my father'. When we say 'what I want is...' we are creating expectations, rules and restrictions on how God can relate to us and direct our lives. For example if I say 'I only want to:- work in Australia' then I am telling God that I am not interested in his will if it involves working outside Australia. In effect we can be closing our eyes and ears as to the possibilities God may have planned for us. (This doesn't mean we can't make decisions about our own futures. We can, and move forward in faith that God is with us, but we also need to be open minded to God wanting to talk to us about other possibilities.)
Part of this Faith Walk is to 'seek God first' and spend time being open and listening to what he might want to say about what he wants me to do with my future. I never said the Faith Walk would go on forever, but as God leads. I believe he will make it clear when and how things are to change, and for this Faith Walk I didn't feel it was right to put a time limit on that. In Israel there are Orthodox Jews that decide to do nothing else but seek out God (ie: do a Faith Walk) and are sponsored to do so by the State, no matter how long they continue to 'seek', even if it lasts a lifetime. A vocation of seeking God is seen as a central and valuable part of many cultures.
So is it a problem that I am drawing on charities for some food? If I take a traditional missionary template and put my bank account number on this blog and ask people to donate, so that I had support of about $70 a week to cover food costs, would that solve the issue? Or would it still be seen as drawing on the charity of others? The charities I have drawn on are Christian based, and so I see it as a part of the provision of God. Christian charities are under God's authority, doing work for God's glory. Are we all not part of the one body? What if the hand said 'I am my own entity, why should I put food in the mouth?' Also King David took the bread from the priests to feed himself and his men, and the early Church pooled resources and 'each took as he needed.'
So then I ask: am I doing God's will (his work) that as an acting part of the body of Christ, I am justified in having my needs met by the body? If you read my posts and think I am just sitting on my bum in the city being lazy, then certainly I am not justified in accepting the support of others. But if, as I do, you see Godly value in my Faith Walk, (be it by reflecting Christ in the relationships I am developing, or personal learning about God, poverty and justice issues in Melbourne, or by raising these Biblical issues with others, or just being a light in the darkness, or some other aspect) then I am justified.
Lets look at the Collins St Baptist Church's 'Urban Seed' model. Among other things, they have 'live in' residents that run a cafe (Credo) and sit and eat with street people that visit. Is it wrong that these residents are drawing on the charity funding for their accommodation and the food they eat there? What if they ran the cafe and didn't eat with the visitors? They think that sharing in the 'banquet' and developing the relationships is more important than abstaining from the food because it was not paid for out of their own independent financial resources.
In my case I am eating food with many people that are not connected to any other charity or Christian relationship. If I end my Faith Walk and go and join an 'established charity' tomorrow, who will represent God in their lives? For God to reach them, he must find people who are willing to go and meet them. Does not God in his 'banquet' story invite the rich and also the poor, blind crippled and lame. He sends his servants out to the streets and alleys to find them. In our culture there is quite a separation between the rich and poor. Do you think that at that banquet the rich and poor would sit at separate tables? No, Jesus says everyone should go and sit at the lowliest position, and then you can be pleased if God calls you to come sit at a more important position. This is because God sees the wealth and value of people in a different way to how we may value ourselves. In reflecting that in our lives today, as we are provided for by God, where do we place ourselves, who are we sitting next to? Perhaps God does not see me sitting down the back of a rubbish tip alley eating with a homeless person as of little value, as other people might.
Take for example, how I found the bike light module blinking in the dark out on Swanston St. It seems like a bad and dangerous position for a light module, but it was noticed and picked up. I feel a bit like that module, out in a socially bad, dangerous position, but as light for Jesus blinking in the cultural darkness. If someone notices my light and 'picks it up' then isn't that worthwhile and may even be just what God planned?
Finally, I also see my journey like a seed that has been planted (me in Melbourne), to grow a tree (reaching out to others about God), and you can't rush growing a tree. And if it is a tree that bears the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; isn't it worth watering, feeding and encouraging?
How then the tree is watered, fed and encouraged is up to the Gardener, and perhaps after some growth it may be re-planted in another area, but that is up to the Gardener too.
I hope I am growing in a way that pleases him.