Friday, February 23, 2007

The Stone

Sunday 18th Feb 07

For a while now I had a growing desire to do some work, but not regular work, something manually labourous, like when I enjoyed moping the floor at CoH last year. A while ago I had contacted a couple of churches with an offer to help out with 'anything', and while they were grateful, no immediate requests for assistance had materialized. Then about a week ago I was sitting on the steps of St.Pauls (Swanston St side) and noticed how dirty and grimy they were, it looked as though they had never been cleaned. To the side of the steps was a church billboard which read "Church Restoration, can you help?", so I resolved to do something about it..

Later in the week I was sitting at Small Group and they asked me if there was anything they could help me with. At first I said "no, just prayer" but as I sat there I remembered the idea to clean the steps and thought perhaps I could ask them to buy me a bucket and some cleaning materials to do the job. I normally don't like asking for a financial type of assistance, but the more I sat there and thought about it, the more excited I became. In fact I became so excited and energized about asking for their help I could barely sit still and wanted to jump up and run around, what was going on? It took all my effort to contain myself and after the prayer I asked the question, and of course they were more than happy to help, and down to the supermarket we went. None of us had much of an idea what cleaning agent was best for stone steps, but after reading a few we chose Sugar Soap (if anyone knows of something much better, then feel free to let me know). So soon I headed back into the city with a bucket, detergent, scrubbing brush, and gloves.

I carried around the bucket of things around for another couple of days, before I found the time to give it a go. But first I came and sat on the Flinders St Steps at midnight Saturday night. Ethan was there, called me over and asked where I had been the last couple of days, as he had been looking for me. I explained that after being up for three days straight, during the middle of the week, I had crashed at a friend's place for some rest (and to write the big 'catch up' blog - a big thanks to that friend). He reminded me that after our talk last week (when the Justice sign was being put up on the Church wall) I had then shown him the ACME Centre in Fed Square where you could watch students' animation and film work in couched booths, and play video games for free. He said he had been looking for me to thank me, as the cool air conditioned Center had provided him and his gang members with a perfect entertaining escape from the extreme heat that week. He said he had told his gang all about me and then called them over to introduce me personally. The gang members were pretty shy and formal, shook my hand and then moved on to chat among themselves. I let Ethan know it was Jason that had first shown me the Center, and so to pass on his thanks there. Then he asked what I had the bucket for? and I told him I planned to try cleaning the church steps, and right away he asked "Can I help?", surprised I said sure, and that I might try it later that night, and then he headed off with his mates.

An hour later (1am) things grew quiet, and I went over to St.Pauls. I looked at the steps and decided to just clean just one of the stones on the bottom step, at the end, so I could look at it in the light the next day, and check the result. I didn't want to come by the next day and find I had used the wrong agent and turned a whole step green, or something, overnight. First up I had to find some water. The taps around the Church were the kind that had the top bit missing, so I couldn't use them, and I was too shy to ask the fast food stores across the street, and so I headed up to Colins St, where there were some 24hr public toilets, and filled the bucket there. I came back, soaked the stone, and started scrubbing. I took my time, there was no rush, and I enjoyed the work which acted like a meditation. Back and forth, circular motions, patience and thought, it felt good just to sit there and drift away, my mind floated back to St.Francis. He had a vision where God had told him to 'build the Church', which he had taken literally, and then went back to where he had seen a deteriorated Church earlier, and rebuilt it over the next year. Scholars now look back and say God's request was probably metaphorical and that he wanted St.Francis to rebuild the Church as a religion and community, an impact he certainly had during his lifetime, and long after, perhaps even now. So I felt good there, scrubbing away, as it also felt like a literal action of restoration of the Church (stone), which metaphorically reflected my exploration/restoration into the gospels call of direct personal witness to the poor and marginalized. Which in a way was even a restoration of my own relationship with God, which had been lacking these elements in recent years.

An hour later Ethan came across, sat down, and we started scrubbing together (I had picked up an extra pair of gloves, brush and sponge, earlier in the day, in case of this scenario; I just hadn't expected it to happen so soon!). He asked me further about God and told me more of himself. He had a basic understanding of Christianity as his Aunt had taken him to Sunday School as a child for a couple of years, but which then stopped as his Dad was a Buddhist. He then lived on the streets for twenty years, was illiterate and was now about 32. He built a good reputation as a fighter, often attacking first to build fear with reputation, taught Ninjitsu for a while, and now was a Gang leader and respected street identity, occasionally drinking with Robbie's crew, where I first met him. He said he had been watching me for a while, and recently felt touched by my preaching (actions not words). He told me that he was only respected out of fear, and people wanted to know him, but only because of his fighting reputation. No one would do what he said out of love. For example he didn't want the young street kids to go through what he had and so he often wanted to send them home. But they would never go because he asked, he would have to threaten to beat them up if they stayed, to get them to leave, if only for a few days. He said he learnt from me that the greatest power was to make your own decisions and follow your own path, regardless of what everyone else said. In the last couple of weeks he had tried not fighting by 'turning the other cheek', or just running away. He was sick of his world of violence and self interest (to the point of suicide) and he now wanted to try something new, and to change. He said he believed in Jesus but didn't believe he could be forgiven because of the bad things he had done (some of them against the Church).

I explained to him the metaphor of the Crucifixion. Jesus was on the cross and with two robbers, one on each side. One robber criticized Jesus and the other admitted he was a sinner and recognized that Jesus was innocent. Jesus told the humble robber that he would be with him in Heaven later that day. It was the same with us. If we criticize Jesus then we won't be forgiven, but if we admit our own sin, and believe in Jesus (having an attitude of changing to follow his ways), then we are forgiven and will end up in Heaven. I told him, from what he had told me, he had fulfilled both these criteria and so he was forgiven and a Christian like me! He didn't sound too convinced and so I asked him if he would come to the Alpha course (Christian intro discussion group) at my Church in a few weeks. He said sure, he would follow me where ever I went, and do whatever I asked..! Um right, I'm not sure I wanted that kind of responsibility, so I just left it at doing the Alpha course together.

We then washed off the stone and as he left he said I shouldn't clean any more as it was 'beneath me'. To which I tried to explain about servant hood but I'm not sure it sank in. He headed off and sat there amazed. (At first I became a little suspicious as too whether I was being played, it was all too good to be real, right? Always my top tickbox, to feel I've directly, person to person, helped someone to become a Christian. Was it a tick? But over the course of this week we have met a couple more times and he still has the same resolve. We even read some Bible together!)

I sat nearby as the morning sun came up and looked across at the stone. It was a little bit brighter :)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Meeting Bandok

Thursday 15th Feb - 12:30am

After the food van had disappeared for the night, I walked back up to the Steps, and sat down. Looking across the open walkway I saw Bandak, an indigenous man sitting on the ground, drinking and yelling at people as they walked by. He was right out just before the crossing lights, where the crowds had to surge around him to get by to the station. Occasionally someone would stop and give him some change, or a cigarette. He was a stocky fellow, with the darkest, most dense, black bushy beard I had seen yet. I also recognized him as the drunk indigenous guy that had welcomed me on the first night I had arrived on the steps. And I also recognized him as the guy who had whacked Dougy over the head with with a bottle, on the steps, a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't seen him around very often but when I did he was always quick to violence (or threats), usually without any provocation or reason. For that reason he was the other person (besides Gary) that I felt nervous around. I decided to head across to the meeting place, and he asked me "Buddy, can you help me out with some change?" I dropped a 20 cent coin into his pile. It was small but the chime of the coin hitting the others appeased him, and I was able to move on.

Across the other side I met Lindel, a street community icon, that comes in on weekends and sits with his dead cat (taxidermy) and becomes a central gathering point for peaceful conversation. Then I went over to the other side of the road and sat near Pete, another indigenous community regular I had not yet met. He was with a lady and soon they drove away in a car that pulled up, and I saw on the bench the lady had left her sunglasses behind. I picked them up and stored them in my bag, to give to Pete when I next saw him.

Back on Lindel's side, three or four others including Bandok were sitting there talking. Suddenly Bandok got angry and started to argue with Lindel. Bandok got on his feet and was yelling "I'll kill you! I'll pick you up and throw you through this window!" and Lindel still sitting was protesting "I didn't mean to upset you, I am a peaceful person and don't like violence." Everyone else just sat and didn't interfear. Bandok, still yelling threats, started swinging and I think one of his punches may have landed, at which point he stops swinging and then sits down. Some more talk of peace from Lindel and he accepts it, and sits there silently.

Not long after I came across and sat with the group for a few hours. Around 5am everyone got up (except Bandok) and decided to head off. I got up too and thought about leaving, but I saw Bandok sitting there and thought that's what Bandok is probably used to, everyone abandoning him with no one willing to risk sitting with him alone. What would Jesus do? He would probably take the opportunity to sit down with him when no one else would. And so I sat down next to him. After a few minutes of silence he said to me "Did you just call me a dickhead?" Uh Oh.. this might be the start of something.. I replied "No, I just want peace" and he seemed ok with that and nodded off to sleep, and slumped against my shoulder.

As I sat there with him leaning against me, I realized I was probably unable to move away without waking him up, but he might sleep for hours, so what to do? A few minutes later some cops came along and woke him up, saying "you can't sleep here" and we had to move along. I got up relieved that the situation had been resolved. As we walked away from the cops Bandok came after me and grabbed my arm. He said "Thanks for staying with me, no one else did and you didn't have to do that." He shook my hand three times in the process and also said "your welcome to come and talk to me anytime" before he walked away, and I was left a little stunned.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dougy Detox Wrap

Well Sunday a week ago I stayed up all night (walked with Alice and learnt about the heroin dealers/cash for mobile phones 'black market' trade) and through to Monday evening before I saw Dougy. He came over to the Meeting Place (green seats out front of St.Pauls) and was fairly drunk. I asked him about the rehab program, that he was due to start today, but he was reluctant to talk about it other than to shake his head no. The other crew were sitting there and so I was hesitant to discuss it further until we were alone. Just as the others left, an hour later, and I asked him if he would start the program tomorrow and if I could go there with him? He said ok, but again was too drunk to make much sense (or probably he didn't want to discuss it). Before I could press the matter further, the cops rolled up to talk. They said they just wanted him off the streets this evening, and didn't want to lock him up, and so they told me they were going to drive him to Ozanam House (an emergency/short term accommodation place) where he could 'sleep it off' overnight. He got in and away they went.

I had always planned to checkout one of the first level short term (3 to 6 months stay max) accommodation places at some point. As I had $15 in my pocket (the cost of a room for the night) I decided to head up to Ozanam House for the night, so I could try and catch up with Dougy there in the morning, when he was sober. When I got there (about 10pm) I spoke to the reception guy who said he didn't think they had any places available, but when I qualified that I was only interested in staying for one night, he said I was welcome to use the emergency room. This room is kept in case the hospital releases someone who needs somewhere to stay at short notice, but if it isn't filled by 10pm then it is up to the staff's desecration on how it is used. I was given it for the night, at no charge, and went for a look around the place to see what it was like. Well I found the room secure (swipe card entry) with plenty of space and bed and window. In fact the building was designed to give every room a window, even if it was just one meter between walls, but it still felt good. The rest of the building had a few pool tables and tv rooms, with some being watched, but there were no groups of people around, probably too late. All the halls and spaces were clean but bare, which gave the place a sense of emptiness that a few pictures or plants might have abated. Overall it was a fantastic step up from sleeping rough and it seemed very livable with nothing really to complain about.

After a good nights sleep (after being up for two days), and some toast from the cafeteria, I was unable to find Dougy and headed back into town, Tuesday. He came by the meeting place and told me he had just been released, as the cops had not taken him to Ozanam House but to the city lockup. There's no law about cops having to be truthful in conversation, and I guess when they're picking someone up they would like to get them in the back of the van with as little fuss as possible. Sometimes the guys do argue a lot when they're told they're being locked up. Now Dougy was back, and sober, we talked further. He said he had been in hospital all Sunday night and gone with the staff the next day to look at the Rehab Center, but he did not feel comfortable there, and the number of days he needed to be there also still worried him. He said he had got off drugs in the past without rehab and said he could do the same with alcohol when he was ready to. I didn't push the issues too far, I could see he had made up his mind, and I just told him "you make your own choices, if you want help to get through it at some point, then I will be here to support you." Then I saw surface, for the first time, a hidden intellect and persona. In a way that was reassuring but completely out of character, he looked at me and said quietly "I appreciate what you're trying to do."

The rest of the day I couldn't help but to feel some disappointment. I realize it is a huge challenge to change (and to what future?) but I felt we had come so close to taking a major step. Perhaps this was what I needed to learn from my fasting attempts this month. Certainly there seems to be some correlation between Dougy trying to give up alcohol and me trying to give up food, and both of us struggling and failing. So despite the letdown I would continue on, as before, to grow and support the relationship, but I also felt I had become a bit too Dougy focused, and I should be just as open to interaction with everyone else that was out here. This is not any level of rejection, just that as I continue on I will try and be more open to other people and directions as situations develop.

That evening I caught up with the Steps Outreach girls and discussed the situation further with them. Susan's experience working with the Savo's meant she had an incredible knowledge and history of many street people, including Dougy. She said she could see a gradual change, for the better in Dougy, over the last six years. He used to go to the 6/14 (Salvo's Church) and be very aggressive and violent with people, and sometimes ask for prayer. In effect she said he goes through cycles of wanting help and then rejecting it, but overall his steps of wanting help have been more and more positive. She said that if he had 'given his life to the Lord' last week, then it would have been completely genuine. That was good to hear. The girls talked about how the concept of 'middle class conversion' (where someone makes a decision for God and turns over a new leaf on the spot) doesn't apply 'out here'. For many it is a long journey, or process, of making small steps that bring them closer to God. It's not such a black and white world. They said if Dougy had not told you to piss off after one week, then you're doing well. They told me it was all positive and to keep going. Those girls are really fantastic, did I mention that! :)

Wednesday I met up with the crew in Elizabeth St and they didn't want to drink up at the meeting place, as they were being hassled by the cops too much there. Yes, the constant grind/attention from the cops at the meeting place does seem to have 'some' effect (which is why they have a few different drinking spots around the city) but I couldn't say when or why they move around some days, and not others. After my mentor meeting time mix up, I got back and sat down with them, and a cop car pulled up. The lead cop (a big fellow) told us all to 'get out of the city and don't come back today or be arrested.' Every western I had ever seen where the sheriff tells the troublemaker to get out of town, flashed back into my mind. He said to go over the other side of the Yarra, and they all got up to move on without much fuss. As we departed, the big cop looked at me and said, "You're not helping, you know," and I said, "I think I am helping," to which he replied, "Your being with them condones (to them) what they do..." and I was called away by the others, although I wanted to continue the conversation.

On the other side of the river we sat down under the sculptures outside the Arts Center (it was a hot day) and that's where Gary started questioning me about what was in my bag, and if I was a Narc. Then Gary asked Dougy about me and Dougy in a very serious way (out of character for the second time) "He's done alright by me" and that was the end of the issue.

Shortly later a few guys moved off (including Dougy heading back into the city to see his favorite stripper) and it was just Gary, myself and another bloke. I sat and thought about what the cop said, and decided my presence was not condoning the guy's actions. When I am with them I do not drink, smoke, swear and degrade women, thus my presence should be a constant reminder of those alternate values. In fact why don't the crew mind me being there? I'm not sure I know. Just then a new group of cops pulled up and told us there had been some complaints and we needed to move on again. The guys headed into the park across the road and I decided to head back into the city and have a break with some prayer in St.Pauls.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Catching up on Last Week...

My interacting with the street community is pretty much non stop now. I have been mostly going for about two days without a break, then sleeping for about seven hours before going for another couple of days. Today I made a tough decision to just take a break to get some sleep and blog for a bit. As no natural pause in events allows me to slip away, I needed to make an excuse to depart, which can be a problem in itself..

Yesterday I needed to visit my mentor at 1:30pm and just told them (Dougy's crew) I had to meet someone (unspecified) and would be back in an hour. I had the appointment time mixed up and came back 10 minutes later, which I think, innocently, raised a little bit of suspicion. There was a new associate (new to me) who met up with us after just getting out of prison last week. Everyone has their tough guy/stare you down mode, but with this guy (Gary), it seemed to be his only mode. He is one of only two guys on the street I have seriously felt nervous around. Shortly after we all sat down, he kept looking at me and asking if I was a Narc (an undercover Narcotics police officer). But first let me re-wind a bit...

Monday 5th Feb - Evening
As I was sitting on the Steps Jason and Ruth (the Fijian girl) came over, and asked if I wanted to come along to the State Library to play with them on the computers in the Games Room there. We headed over and played for a couple of hours (this time I had a legitimate reason to be playing the games!). Jason mentioned he had no dad and his mum was an addict and didn't care what he did. After the Library closed (9pm) I walked them up to the Vic Markets to get some food. Along the way Jason was really hyper active, smashing things, spitting, and yelling random insults at people passing by. I didn't say anything, but really wanted to. I wonderd about my role, responsibility and authority in the situation. Could I say anything? I've not been charged with his care, but I am an adult in the city at night with a young kid, so that implies some responsibility. I decided anything I said would be best coming from a friendship/relationship, that had not developed far enough yet that what I said might be respected.

At the food van I met up again with Dave, the Adelaide runaway kid (Harry) and his mate (Jimmy). Jimmy was getting into a showdown with another street kid over an insult about his sister, that had come by rumor through about three different people, whom they backtracked it by calling each one by mobile phone, while they held the accused against the wall. The last guy they called denied knowledge and so the 'accused' got off, but I had to re-assess Jim's comment (last week) that he was part of a Ministry team, as he certainly didn't act like it. In fact most of what I'm told on the street is either partly or totally rubbish, but I like to take people and what they say at face value, until they prove otherwise. I don't consider it naive, but rather good to be open to people being honest with me, without suspicion. It's an opportunity for them to start an honest relationship with me, even if they mostly don't avail themselves of it.

I had a hamburger from the van, before I remembered I was supposed to be fasting, and Jason had disappeared and so I headed back to HJs. I got there just in time to see Dougy being whisked away by ambulance, this time though not drunk; he had just had an epileptic episode. I stood on the corner and was approached by young tough street girl (June) whom I had seen around. She usually wears a bandanna and has an amazingly good singing voice, she could easily get onto Australian Idol, and she had joked that she might try. We hadn't talked but she knew who I was and asked if I could hold her bottle of wine (although I hadn't seen her drink before) while she went into the pub to use the toilet. I said it was fine, and she went off. I put the bottle on the ground behind my leg and waited. I put it on the ground to be a bit cautious as it is an offense to have an open bottle in public (I think, usually the cops just tip it out) and this way if the cops came along I wouldn't be holding it and could honestly say it wasn't mine. June came back and thanked me, but before we could talk further, another older street lady came over and pulled her away to giver some advice about 'a women's prerogative to say no', before she and her friend headed off to talk to a couple of guys, Harry and Jimmy.

After midnight and into early Tuesday morning, I hung out on the street and started chatting with Ethan. He and his mate were young adult Asian guys that hung out, drinking a fair bit, with Robbie's crew. He was very friendly but told me that I was lucky I had sat with them this week, as most other weeks they would have just 'pounded' me. For some reason, he said, they had not been in a fighting mood for the last few few days. He was really intelligent, and quick in conversation, although later he told me he was unable to read. It was an issue I immediately felt frustrated by as he seemed so capable and enthusiastic otherwise. Illiteracy could be a lot more common than I realize.

About 3am Dougy strolled back with a grin, the hospital had not held him for long, and we had a chat. He said he was committed to doing the detox program (which would also help his standing in an upcoming court case) but he could not do it this week as it would mean being in the rehab center for six to seven days, and it was his birthday this Saturday, and he wanted to head out of town and catch up with family and friends to celebrate. He said Bernie, at the Salvos, had talked to him and was really upset that he would not do the detox immediately, but he was heading back for another meeting with him later on today. Again he emphasized, once his Birthday was out of the way, there would be no problem. I offered to come along to talk with him and Bernie about it later and he said that was cool. So I left the issue for later.

Not much later Dougy, Terry (another of the Crew who is always always high, happy and has a natural sliding speech slur that makes it incredibly hard to understand what he's saying, although no one else seems to struggle) and I were all sitting at the front window bench in McDonalds. They were both hunched over and asleep and I was down to the last chapter of the Homelessness Resource Book (an excellent introduction to the issues), and feeling sleepy myself. I decided to read the final chapter later and thought about dozing off myself, it would be quite comical, the three of us, all hunched over in the front window. Instead I got up and walked outside and talked to Ethan, as we tossed a soft ball back and fourth between each other. Not two minutes later along came three cops, which the manager had called, to wake up the guys and get them out of the store. Phew, I had made a good call not to sleep. They went in and really had to shake Dougy to wake him up, always with the blue gloves on when they may need to touch someone. We all stood around outside but there was another rabbit in the hole, and a moment later the cops went upstairs (which is roped off at night) and came back down with Ruth. She was in a bad mood at being woken up and they told her she was disturbing the peace, and she told them they were disturbing her peace, before trying to run off, at which point the cops grabbed her and took her to the ground, whipped out the cuffs and escorted her back to the station, which is right around the corner.

We all split up and went our separate ways. I headed back to my usual arcade spot, but there was someone already there, snoring away up the top of the stairs. I was too tired to go looking for somewhere else, so I got out my sleeping bag and lay down at the bottom of the stairs. Sleeping in a higher state of alert, I noticed shortly later when Ruth came along, released, and sat down in a corner. I still haven't mastered the art of sleeping sitting up, but many do it. Another hour or so later I awake to watch the guy at the top of the stairs get up, it's Robbie, with his indigenous flag on a pole, and he shuffles to the top corner and relieves himself, all over my favorite sleeping spot... Oh Robbie.. I don't know if I'll ever be able to sleep there again! He then stumbles down the stairs and asks me "Do you know what time it is?", "About 5am" I replied. Another hour later the arcade security guy came along and told me to move on. As I got up I saw Ruth had moved to the top of the stairs, where Robbie had 'been'. Did she not notice, or not care? I walked out into the early morning light.

I had only slept about 2hrs, but it was enough to abate the sleepiness for a later time. As I walked along the empty street Dougy saw me and called out to wait. He strolled up with a can of VB in his hand, his first drink of the morning, so he was pretty much sober. I saw some cops coming along the other side of the road, and said "Jacks", he stuck the can in his pocket. The cops came over and started to question him. Seeing the can in his pocket they made him toss it in the bin, and proceeded to arrest him. He was pretty upset about it as he wasn't drunk and not disturbing anyone, which normally only induced a warning and an order to move on. But they called for a car and whisked him away. Then along came Morgan, probably Dougy's longest best mate, but who is not around as much as Robbie. Morgan is a wiry tough older guy, who is an intelligent gruff ex-navy seal, who did a couple of tours of Gulf War 1. He talked to me about being shot out of torpedo tubes, and as a scuba diver myself, I noted that he really knew his stuff. He also lives on the streets and does a lot of drinking, but he never looses his mental capacity, and never fears anyone. He quite happily chats with the cops when they're around, and the crew has charged him with finding a squat, to which he said I was also invited to stay with them, once he found one. I told him Dougy had been locked up and he said he would be out in four hours, and went to sit down with the rest of the crew, who had just arrived.

I was concerned that with Dougy locked up he might miss his appointment at the Salvos, and so I went to the Police Station, to ask where they had taken him, so I could meet him when he got out and take him straight to the Salvos, before he came back to the crew. The officer at the station let me know he had been taken to the Carlton Watch-house and gave me directions on how to get there. When I left the station I noticed three officers walk out behind me. As I walked down the block I paused at a shop window and saw in its reflection that they appeared to be following me. I kept walking to the corner where they then tapped me on the shoulder, from behind, and I turned around to talk to them. They wanted to know why I had asked about Dougy? I explained what I was doing, and they asked me who I was with, and I said I was from Christ Church Hawthorn, my home Church. They seemed ok with that but told me there was 'no hope for someone like Dougy' and that I was 'wasting my time.' They then asked for my personal details, and I gave them my real name and particulars, before they left and I went and sat with the crew for a bit.

Around noon I headed up to the Salvos to ask them when they closed, and they said it didn't matter, that if I brought Dougy in, they would find someone for us to talk to, which was pleasing. I walked up to the Carlton Watch-house and went inside. It was a lot older and rundown than I expected, not at all fresh and new like in tv shows. An officer came out and said it would be another hour before Dougy was released and I asked if it was ok if I waited there, so I could then take him to the Salvos. The officer went out and spoke to the Sargent, who came back, and said he was happy to release Dougy now, into my care, which was great. A couple of minutes later Dougy and I were heading back up the road, and he kept stopping to tell people how I had come all the way to get him and he had "just got out, early", he was very excited by it, and he would be talking about it for the rest of the week. We got to the Salvos and sat down in the hall at a table, while we waited for them to find Bernie or Macca. As we sat they suddenly brought us out a meal each, and as it was there I didn't want to offend them, and reject it, so we both ate up and my fasting was delayed yet again. After making some more enquiries, and waiting another 20 minutes without anyone coming to talk, Dougy got very impatient, and decided to leave. As we walked back to the Steps he said he was concerned he was late in meeting Morgan, who had promised to pay for him to have a hair cut, and get it all removed. When we arrived Morgan was not around and Dougy was a bit upset and went to sit with the crew.

I went to my Brother's place in St.Kilda, for a break, which I had spoken to my cousin about last week, who also lives there (my brother was away on a ski trip in Japan). When I got there I sewed up the edge of my brown Coles carry bag, which had started to come apart at the edges, and remembered that my brother had some electric clippers in his bathroom drawer. I went and got them and headed back into the city and showed them to Dougy, who was very excited, immediately bent over and said "Do it", but I needed to find somewhere with a power point. Ah yes, electricity, a commodity not so readily available to a homeless person as I first thought. I went for a hunt and it was an hour before I finally found a power point at the back of the men's toilets in the Flinders Station underpass. I also noticed as I passed the women's toilets entrance that in their foyer they got wooden couches to sit on, which the men's foyer didn't have, what's that about? I headed back to get Dougy but he had gone, and I was told he would be sleeping for the rest of the night. So I headed back to my brother's place and got some sleep as well.

Wednesday morning I borrowed my brother's spare keys (so I could later return the clippers) and headed back in to town. Dougy was there and we went and clipped his hair, which without showed up about twenty different scars on his skull, from past 'incidents'. He was really happy with the cut and gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek. I washed the clippers and he went off to meet someone in a bar elsewhere.

I went and sat 'somewhere' and along came Jason with a friend (Amos). They were talking about how Amos had just 'found' this bike he had with him, and wondered how much he could get for it. An employee of a store nearby came over and asked if Amos was interested in selling the bike? Amos said yes, he had been wanting sell the bike 'for a while now' and they agreed on a price and arranged to meet later on to do the deal. I found myself in a new dilemma as it was basically a crime (more serious than drinking) happening in front of me. Should I do something about it or warn the employee it was stolen (although I'm confident he was aware it was). I had a general rule of non interference but if it was my bike stolen I would hope someone would do something about it.. I decided to speak up and I said to them "I feel, as a Christian, I should say that I think you should return the bike, or I could take it to the police station anonymously, if you like." He said "no", that he was not really worried as it was in the police computer that he was 'not to be arrested, in lieu of the fact that his brother was a Federal Cop'. I spoke a bit further then dropped the issue, deciding to think about it more before they returned later in the day to do the deal. I mostly thought about what type of God do I want to represent: a judging punishing one, or a friendly someone who is there to help you when you want to change. I was leaning towards the latter, but the former one does turn up at some point.

I went and spoke to my mentor about the trouble I had starting my fasting. I said it was always difficult to start but when I had been successful in the past I felt it was because God had been backing me at those times. (ie doing it in his strength, not mine [Bible speak]). Since I had felt strongly that God wanted me to do some fasting in Feb, he asked why I thought God had stopped me from fasting so far? An incredibly interesting question from many angles. Was it a matter of timing that was not ready yet? Could God work from two different angles that appear opposite? Could my inability to act be not of my own weakness but of Gods action/design? I would think about it a lot over the next week and formed an opinion later.

That afternoon I ended up doing something I never expected to do, I bought Dougy a bottle of Port. It came about as at the steps I was minding Jason's jacket for him and then Dougy came along and asked me to mind his bottle of Port for him while he went to the toilet (yes, I'm becoming a bit of a closet). After Dougy got back, along came Jason who reached down and grabbed his jacket off the ground before I could tell him that Dougy's bottle of Port was underneath, where I had put it. The bottle tipped over and clunked down the steps and smashed at the bottom. Dougy immediately went into a rage and fists clenched yelled and glared down on Jason (13 years old), like David Vs Goliath. I immediately told Dougy it was all my fault, that I had put the bottle there and Jason hadn't known about it. I said "I'll buy you a brand new bottle, full to the brim..", while Dougy's glaring eyes scanned Jason up and down, seemingly oblivious to his protests of innocence. About to step between them it diffused as Dougy then smiled and then hugged Jason and said "You know I'd never hurt you..." and then headed down the street saying to me "Let's go". I was lucky I had some money in my pocket and as Dougy was already fairly gone, I asked "Do you want to save it for a later time?", answer "No" and I got him his bottle. As we exited the shop I got another commitment from him to do the Rehab program next week and then he bumped into his friend Gary, who had just got out of prison yesterday. Gary resonated violent danger and so I was happy that they decided to go off alone to catch up, and I headed back up to check on Jason. I didn't see Dougy for the rest of the week.

I headed back to the Salvos to ask the time and place they had arranged for Dougy to go into Detox on Monday, so I could help him get there and support him through it, but they said it was actually arranged through his social worker at St.Vincents Hospital. So I headed on over there and spoke with her. She was friendly, smart and pleased I was interested in helping Dougy. We discussed what was involved in the detox process and took my email address to let me know the booking details, once it had been finalized.

After that I went to Scotty's place for a lift to Small Group. He told me he had used the public transport without a ticket yesterday, and as a penance for himself he bought a ten journey pass and gave it to me. An excellent response if anyone else finds them self in the same position. LOL. In fact my Dad had also bought me a couple of passes for my Birthday last week, and I was enjoying using them in a new way. Rather than let the possession of the tickets control me, I decided to use them on an immediate need basis with no consideration as to trying to 'make them last.' If I run out, then so what? It's great! I now just stamp them with no stress or temptation and not only have I not run out of journeys, I now have extra ones. Even yesterday (prior to this post) I met a Public transport Association volunteer who gave me $20 to use specifically for met tickets! I need to be careful I don't start preaching prosperity doctrine. Ha. Anyway, small group was good again and when it later hit midnight, I had finally just finished a full day of fasting. Tick.

Thursday I started the day a little pissed off. There were a few issues including I was still beating myself up over my poor fasting performance. So yesterday someone passed on to me some sunglasses they had been given, and I put them on. I felt a bit better now, as it was like having a nice comfort barrier between me and the world. I might also now be able to sleep sitting up at the park benches, without the cops realizing my eyes are closed. [Actually, after a few days I felt that it was more important to make direct eye contact with people, and so I passed the sunglasses on to another homeless person.]

At lunch I took up Kate's invitation to visit Credo Cafe (Urban Seeds midday meal for: 'all welcome'). At first it seemed a bit claustrophobic, as it is in a narrow basement with no windows, but everyone (staff and patrons) were very welcoming, and I soon felt comfortable. I enjoyed chatting with a number of people and also saw Tony; for a blind man he certainly gets around. It's also good to note that they serve mostly vegetarian (and vegetables are a nutrition hard to find on the charity food trail), but they also had some donoughts, so I might be back ;)

Back at the steps I sat next to Alice (the girl who had abused me on the first night of the FW and then later apologized). She had 30 cents and was trying to raise $20 so she could go and buy some Chuff (Marijuana). The second guy she spoke to, who came along, she convinced she was really hungry and he gave her a $20 note straight up. She blessed him and then headed off to score. Jason came by and told me that the Acme Center in Federation Square had an AstroBoy exhibition which included lots of Playstations and Nintendos running AstroBoy games, all for free, so we headed off and spent a few hours playing together. Afterwards I took Jason along to CoH for a Bible study, but he didn't stay long.

Up at the Vic Markets (but earlier at 8:30) I met Eco Paul to experience another charity, that puts on a meal, by a group following Sadi Babba (probably misspelt), an Indian 'love everyone and everything' religious group. We stayed also for the regular food vans and I ended up chatting to lots of people until about 1am, when I then went back to my brother's place to return the clippers. I was going to head back into the city to sleep, but my cousin strongly insisted I stay, and so I did. As I went to sleep I thought about how I, and others, manage to cope with living on the streets while we are strong, healthy and supported. I contemplated just how difficult it would be to cope is your physical or mental health dropped down, and if you had no one to support you through such a struggle.....................

Friday in the morning I stopped by the Life Center (the Salvos drop-in centre), which is the most classy of the 'drop-in centres' I had been to, and thus it was popular and busy. They had a TV, multiple newspapers, and (for all my friends at World Vision) a Table Tennis Table! When I first went there a mean looking guy asked me for a game, and he was quite good, but I was better, though I let him win 2 games to 1, by 3 points, as I didn't want him out there on the streets with a grudge against me. LOL.

Not much else happened during the day, but I did some exercises to loosen things up. There was a lot of emergency services whizzing by every half hour, that night. And there was a stabbing further down on Elizabeth St. I had been thinking about doing some prayer for healing, and so I was happy that night for the opportunity to pray for one homeless man (I was talking to at the food van) who wanted prayer to stop smoking and healing for his lungs, as he was not far from getting emphysema. When I went to sleep, Ruth came by and asked if it was ok if she also slept in the same area/spot. I said it was. (I have been told that some homeless people will go through the pockets of other homeless people sleeping [mostly those out cold from intoxification] but hey, I don't have anything to steal).

Saturday The security guy (which reminds me that St.Pauls have not had any security guys at night for a while now, I wonder if it was just a Christmas period thing?) woke me up, time to move on, and asked me to wake Ruth and move her on as well. I called to her quietly until she woke and told her we had been asked to move, but she didn't seem acknowledge what I was saying, and knowing her temper for being woken up, I didn't insist any further and headed off (she later told me the security guy didn't return). I sat on the bench in front of the Town Hall for an hour, and then Ethan and his mate came along and we walked to St.Pauls.

At St.Pauls there was a team of guys absailing down the side and attaching a huge 'Justice for David Hicks' sign, to the wall. We watched and started to talk about God and politics. Both guys said they were Christians but had no real idea of the Bible or what Christianity was, they had just attended Sunday School as children and thus ascribed themselves to it as it was where their history was. In fact surprisingly (to me) most street people respect God and Church and a lot describe themselves as Christians. I think it comes mainly from a sense that they know and admit they are people who have done a lot of wrong stuff, and the Church is there waiting, as a way to start to deal with their sin and issues, if they feel they might want to head in that direction. I chatted to the guys about God for about two hours and Ethan's mate expressed a desire to be Baptized, at some point, which was really encouraging for me, and I hope to speak to him further about it soon.

I was due to meet my friends in Reservoir that evening, and while I had a train pass, I remembered finding a small badge on the ground earlier in the week and decided to walk, so I could visit a friend along the way, who makes badges. I gave myself a few hours to walk there and headed off and up Nicholson St. I passed the Hub and halfway down the block I stopped. Something ticked at the back of my mind that I should turn around and head back to Gertrude St. I thought about it and went 'ok, I have time' to back track and go a different route. As I turned back and walked around the corner into Gertrude St I smiled as I saw Ali, whom I had not seen since I helped him find his lost key, back in December. He remembered my name and was very pleased to see me. He said he was now off drugs and improving on the methadone program, and asked me to pray for God to help him find a job. Great! His mate, standing with him, was on crutches with a swollen foot that was still painful from a motorcycle accident and operations he had a year ago. He was also interested in prayer for his foot, and so I got to pray for both of them in the street and then everyone was smiling and happy, and they waved as I continued on my journey north. I also stopped by Colette's place but she was away but I caught up with Brandon (her partner and also a friend) before walking the rest of the way to Reservoir, the whole journey took about 3hrs. I was pretty stuffed when I got there, but in a good mood.

On Sunday morning I headed back to the Salvation Army Church for a second time, on the chance that Dougy might turn up two weeks in a row, but he wasn't there. Though I must mention the great talk from the lady teaching, in her Salvo uniform, who demonstrated her desire to be 'drenched in the Holy Spirit' by tipping a large jug of water on top of herself, yes she got drenched. I love it when people give action and drama to their talks, it's much more kinetic.
Afterwards I decided to go and visit my parents, and went to catch the train from Finders St. As I stood on the platform, where the escalators came down, I decided to go to the other end of the platform for a change. I wandered down and the train pulled in and when the doors opened June stepped out and said "Hi John" and walked by as I, caught by surprise, reached for a reply.

Lunch with my parents, a nap, and a service at my home Church later that evening, and I headed back into the city. I was planning to stay awake all night, from now until when I would see Dougy, so as not to miss the opportunity to support him to go into the Rehab program tomorrow.

As I hung around Jason and Amos came by, (Amos had 'found' another bike) and after Amos rode off, I asked Jason what had happened to the other bike. He said they had not sold it to the employee but he thought Amos had given it to someone else to sell to Cashies (Cash Converters store) as the seller needs to supply a Driver's License ID and Amos was under age.

A teenage street gang came by, and started talking to to other teenage street kids. They asked what type of mobile phone he had and he pulled it out and showed them. One of the gang asked the kid if he could see if his phone battery worked with the phone. The kid agreed and passed it over, at which point the gang member put it straight in his pocket and they all walked right away. Goodbye phone. The kid from whom it had been taken said he couldn't go to the police, as he had a warrant out for his arrest, and he didn't want to fight for it, as he was sleeping on the street because his uncle had thrown him out of the house for two weeks, for previous fights, and he needed not to be in any new fights so he could return to the house next week. He said he might seek justice another way.

Around midnight I was wandering around Bourke St mall, when Alice came by and asked what I was doing. "Nothing much" I replied. She asked me to go for a walk with her. As we went up the street she pulled out and showed me a new looking PDA phone, she said she had just found it in McDonalds. "Where are we going?" I asked. "We're going to look for some Heroin dealers" she replied...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Update soon..

Was a bit burnt out on writing last week, but the break has been good and I feel re energyzed to write, just been really busy the last few days and today... so more story... coming soon...

I hope to have things updated by end of Thursday...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday 5th Feb 07

After returning to the city, from Church last night, I found Dougy drinking again. While he said he had tried not to drink, I didn't expect him to remain sober as an instant change. Defeating an addiction is a difficult and usually long process. What I was happy about was that he was still motivated to change his ways, and still planned to meet with the Salvo's guys on Monday. He's now a Christian, but with problems (like most Christians).

He was very intoxicated when he came and sat with me in HJs, about 12:30am. We talked about God, and prayed about his situation, before he asked for an ambulance, having trouble breathing, and then collapsed in my arms. It was a bit tougher emotionally, as he was no longer just a drunk, but a drunk caught in the grip of something he no longer wants. The Ambos came, were very friendly, and took him off to St.Vincents, and I went for a walk.

I came across Goaty who asked me to read some Proverbs to him, from his new Bible. As I opened it up I saw it was a King James version, and so I did some rephrasing as I read it, which helped. I tried to head off an hour later but he got upset that I was leaving him alone, so I stayed a while longer.

This morning I sat with Robbie's crew, which gathered at 8am to start the day with a bottle of port. I hoped to intercept Dougy and/or remind him of his appointment with the Salvos today. By 10am he hadn't arrived. I checked with St.Vincents and he had been released at 8am, but not been by the Salvo's yet. I headed back to Robbie's crew at St.Pauls, and then slept on the grass for a while. That afternoon, back at the Salvos, they said Dougy had come by earlier, to talk. They think they will try and get him into a Rapid Detox Programme, and they are going to meet with him again tomorrow. So that was good news, that he didn't head straight to the crew, and kept his appointment.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dougy becomes a Christian !!

Yep, I rolled up my sleeping bag this morning and headed to St.Augustine's Church, but I got the times wrong and they don't have a regular service on a Sunday morning. So I walked back to St Pauls and caught the 2nd half of a small service. Goaty was there and he had been given a Bible. I was glad he had a proper one now. Afterwards I still felt like some morning Church and decided to head up to the 10:30am service, I had heard about, at the Salvation Army building, at the top of Bourke St.

As I walked in I was surprised to see Dougy there, as he had never mentioned anything Christian, but a lot of street people do turn up to Christian things for a bit of entertainment, if nothing else. Then I was doubly surprised as he seemed to be completely sober, something I'm not sure I've seen before. I sat down and he sat two rows just in front of me. He seemed happy, singing along with everyone else to the songs. At the end of the service there was a call for people to come up and pray with others if they wanted God to give them direction in life. Dougy went up, prayed with someone for a bit, then sat back down, hugging those next to him. The speaker then told how Dougy had died, during the week, and had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where he had then been revived, and now he had just given his life to God and wanted to start fresh!! ....and all of Heaven rejoices :)

I went over to congratulate him, and after lunch he came over to talk further. He said it was the alcohol that had 'done him in' and he 'just had to change'. (After the incident last Saturday night I had been thinking during the week that I should urgently try and borrow a camera and take his picture, as he may not be around much longer, the way he was heading). Now his outlook seems better, but not easy. There was also an amount of relief mixed in with the joy. I offered to give him any support I could, and he said he was coming in tomorrow (to the Salvation Army) to talk to someone. I also noted they run an AA group there as well, which he may join.

Sunday - The best day - Praise God!

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Well I had planned to have a think about how things were going and decide whether to continue on with the FW at the end of Jan, but it wasn't really necessary. So many positive things have been happening, and at a high rate of activity level, that I see no reason to consider stopping just yet.

What I did feel I needed to change was to add in a program of fasting, that I had developed 18 months ago. It's based on fasting four out of seven days a week (for example only having a meal on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday nights). I lived this program successfully for four months in 2005. At the time it was mainly a physical training programme, in preparation for this FW, as I expected food to be scarce. But as food has not been a problem, I haven't needed the fasting skills I had prepared. But now I feel I need to implement them as a spiritual discipline and added challenge to the FW. So come the new week, on Monday, I will switch it on. I still plan to visit the food vans, but will just have a cordial. We'll see how it goes.

Also, I had a few relaxing nights catching up with friends and family, celebrating my Birthday. We watched 'The Pursuit Of Happyness' which had a positive homelessness theme/story. Despite the irony of Will Smith, one of the richest actors in Hollywood, playing a homeless person, I was pleased to see the homeless extras in the movie were the real thing and paid the proper day's wages for their time/work.

But best of all I enjoyed a soul refreshing swim in the sea. So I am good to get back into it for at least another month! Lets go... :)