Friday, March 30, 2007

Sunday 4th March

With winter approaching you may be forgiven for thinking people sleeping rough would head north for the warmer weather. Actually they come south to Melbourne as, irrespective of the cold, we apparently have the best charitable services of any state and thus Melbourne is the easiest place to survive.

Sydney has services but I'm told it's a cut throat rat race where the general friendliness between the street people down here does not exist. You're on your own and the threat of trouble is much more likely.

Queensland has a police state reputation where just being homeless (and nothing further) is likely to draw their attention and ask you to leave the city. I have even heard of the police/city setting up 'no go zones' for homeless people.

Tasmania, I'm told, has almost no services at all, and so if you don't have a friend to support you then it's 'move north (to Vic) or die'. Consequently most Tassy cons come to Melbourne once they're released from prison.

Adelaide is the only other city with a reasonable reputation and so when people have had enough here, and want a change, they generally head in that direction.

IN THE MORNING I got up happy that my fast was going well (after last month's trouble) and I didn't seem too dirty or smelly yet (note: I did decide to wash my hands after going to the toilet). I walked down the street to the Steps where I was due to meet a guy and take him along to St.Martins. He didn't turn up last week and so despite his re-commitment last night I wasn't too surprised when he didn't turn up this week either. The funny thing was he said the Holy Spirit told him to go to Church with me, so the fact he didn't turn up twice leads me to question if he was hearing God at all because if you heard God clearly tell you to do something, you'd do it, right? Or perhaps God was just using him to get me to go to the Steps because..

I sat down next to Goaty and noticed he had a particularly strong sharp smell. Then he took out a Methylated Spirits bottle, poured some in with his coke and took a drink. I wondered if drinking Metho was a contributing factor to his smell? Metho drinking (and Chroming) are more frowned upon by the street community than any other form of self abuse. Goaty was thinking of going to Sydney for a while as he had recently offered Robbie some Metho and one of Robbies friends was so angry about it that he bashed Goaty and threatened to continue to do so if he didn't leave town.

While we talked another guy (I had not met before) called Colin rode up on his bicycle. He was about 35 ears old, scruffy, haggard and unshaven. He talked about how he had previously been an alcoholic and metho drinker, but now recovered. He showed me a picture from three years ago when he was happily married with three children. The photo was torn at the side (to remove the image of his wife) but the image of himself was an amazing improvement on how he looked now. Not in terms of time and aging but with the comparativeness from a clean happy neat shaven business executive to the worn out life devastated shambles of a man that stood before me now. His character marked in a way that would take a lot longer to heal than it took to be hurt. I wondered what had precipitated such a dramatic slide into the abyss?

I asked him about his bike and he told me he rode it around as he wasn't able to drive a car because he sometimes got convulsions. That sparked my interest! A month ago I had a conversation with a guy from Church, who told me he had epilepsy, about the story where Jesus had cast out the demon from the convulsing man (when the disciples had been unable to) because he said that demon was only exercisable through prayer and fasting. Was it a suggestion that epilepsy could be demoniacally related? My belief has always been that any illness could be a cause of either a demonic influence, sin or a natural disorder and thus I generally pray across all three areas when I pray for someone's healing. But I had been keen to examine the issue of epilepsy and demonic influence further, and now I was with someone that possibly had that affliction and I had also been fasting for a few days and..

As we sat and talked Colin suddenly began to convulse and I asked him if he wanted me to pray for him and he said yes. He reached out and grabbed my hand, gripping it tightly as he shook. Without any further thought or analysis I closed my eyes and prayed for him to be healed of the convulsions, praying across each three areas of causation but focusing specifically stronger against any demonic attack or influence. It wasn't a long prayer and as I finished, and opened my eyes, he as sitting there calmly and he thanked me as the convulsions had gone and he also said he 'felt different'. Great! I was a little surprised how simple it was. I just said a prayer and he was healed, and if there had been anything demonic then there was certainly no 'Hollywood reaction' to deal with. Prayer, faith, action. Cool.

We talked further and he began to go on about astrology, which seemed to be somewhat of an obsession of his. When I suggested he should tone down his interest in astrology and trust more in God for his future he got very defensive. While I thought an obsession with astrology could be a foot hold for demonic influence, I didn't mention it out loud, but it strengthened my suspicions. I was a little annoyed that after some successful healing prayer he was not willing to listen to my advice, but I was later reminded that Jesus's healings were acts independent of teachings and without conditions (other than sometimes a request for silence). Colin was happy and I was happy that God had worked through the experience, so I felt pretty positive about it. I talked about God a bit further and then headed off to St.Judes for morning Church.

IN THE AFTERNOON I came out of the State Library and saw a small crowd gathered around a speaker. It was the speaker's corner where anyone can get up and talk about whatever topic was on their mind. One Jamaican looking guy started talking about Christianity and the threat of sin and Hell. I recognized him as Samuel from the 'Way Of The Master' course I had done last year. It's an evangelism course focusing on highlighting sin and the threat of Hell as a motivation to becoming Christian. Their idea is if someone only becomes a Christian for the happy positive reasons then they will fall away when the struggles and disappointments come, but if they become a Christian because of the threat of Hell then they will endure through the struggles and disappointments to avoid hell and get to Heaven. I saw the logic in it but it wasn't for me as I am shy enough, raising the issue of God to people, with out also having to come from a heavy sin/Hell approach that is likely to polarize someone straight away.

I wondered if it actually worked but after he finished talking he came over to say hello and he had another guy(Mark) with him who had just become a Christian through that method of approach. In fact I met Mark in the city again three weeks later and he showed me a pone video of him getting baptized in a lake the previous weekend. He was now out and about (on his own) looking for people he could talk to about God! So while the method was not for me, I have to be happy it works for others and it is bringing more people to God. I was reminded of St.Francis and St.Dominic. St.Francis focused more on preaching through actions and St.Dominic focused more on preaching through words. Both men lived at the same time, founded Orders and met each other a couple of times. When someone says their way is the only way, then that becomes a problem (except for Jesus, of course).

IN THE EVENING I was sitting with a group of guys and Warren gave a new guy some coins towards the cost of getting a new cask of wine (termed as a 'Charge' or just 'Goon'). Soon after the guy said he was heading off somewhere else. Warren asked for his money back (since it wasn't going to be used for a cask) and the guy turned angrily and spat "you want the money back!? what do you want me to shank (stab) you or something?!" and he reached into his bag for a knife.. It took Warren five minutes to talk his way back down from the threat. I sighed. This is how cheap life is on the street: $4. More healing is needed..

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Saturday 3rd March

Some street people can be quite lazy. If an activity requires the effort to travel (even for food) then they will most likely decide against it. Some even prefer to tram one block, rather than walk it. But the most laziest seems to be guys and going to the toilet. While there are 24hr public toilets within any two blocks of the city, any nearby corner or wall (out of sight from the street) is more likely to be used. The ground behind the 'Mathew Flinders' statue (at St.Pauls Cathedral) is used so often it can no longer absorb what is splashed there, it's had enough, and so a puddle has formed. In fact people often go to the toilet on the edge of the street, and you may walk by (within a meter) and not even realize it! You see the street bins sit inside their green latticed metal exterior framework. This latticed framework has many holes, just big enough for a guy to unzip his fly, stick his willy through and relieve himself while he casually leans against the top of the bin and smiles at people passing by.

I hung around in the afternoon and chatted with some street kids. Up until now I had talked mostly to adults, the kids were more closed off in their own groups and gangs, but as a regular face around I am becoming a more familiar part of their world.

In the afternoon I was chatting to a guy(Don) who was recently out of prison, dealing in a little bit of prescription drugs, and slept rough next to the police station, for safety. As I was heading off to CoH for the evening, I asked him along and he agreed to come. We had a bit of dinner and their was a talk from a visiting pastor and Christian guy who was a reformed ex prison tough guy. He asked a few questions during the talk and later chatted with them in private. Then they came over and we talked further and he said he was interested in coming to Alpha on Wed night. That was a positive experience and so the evening was looking good.

Around 2am I was chatting with Dougy and then sat down on the street against the wall for a break. There were a lot of street people about, and Dougy got into an argument with one. She was a little teenage girl(Sally), about 13, who claimed she was pregnant (not all pregnancy claims are true, sometimes girls claim it to gain sympathy, attention or protection because of their 'condition'). As they argued Dougy threatened to have her bashed by another woman, and then he came and sat down next to me. A short time later a tall older teenage guy(Dirk) came up and started abusing Dougy for his threats against Sally. Dirk's mates egged him on to attack Dougy but he was hesitant because of the cameras in the area. But Dougy, still sitting, started abusing him back and challenging Dirk to hit him. Dirk then obliged and whacked him three times to the head and then danced triumphantly as Dougy slumped over onto the pavement moaning.

I was surprised Dougy had not got up or defended himself, perhaps he was looking for a way to get to hospital, or feeling the need for some pain as a way to deal with a recent family loss he had been upset about. I wondered if I should have tried to stop it, a little disturbed at sitting next to someone while they got bashed, but as they were both looking for a fight I felt I should stay out of it. Now it was over and a police van drove by and Dirk got in to drive back with them to the station for a chat about what happened. Dougy was quiet, it hadn't seemed that bad, so I patted him on the shoulder and asked if he was ok. No response, he might be lying there too upset to sit up, but I decided to get check him out further. As I moved around to check his face I noticed a lot of blood had spilled out of his mouth and down his chest, making big red patches splotched all over his t-shirt. I tried to rouse him but he seemed unconscious.

Another person saw the blood and called an ambulance from their mobile phone. As we waited I tried to make him a bit more comfortable by lifting his head off the pavement and putting my sleeping bag under it. Another guy came over and told me not to bother helping him. he said if I knew who Dougy was then I would know he wasn't worth helping. I continued on and the guy was quite serious and i thought he was going to physically try and stop me helping Dougy. I got up and, seeing my cross, he said "Hey, I'm a Christian too but don't help him", and I said "I help anyone, right or wrong, if you piss someone off and get beat up then I'd help you too". He said that he knew I was trying to do the right thing but in this case it wasn't worth it. Now I was shocked, that I was arguing with another Christian about whether to help someone?! I explained to him the story of the woman about to be stoned to death for adultery, she was guilty but Jesus still intervened to help her. Then he backed off and let me attend to Dougy's situation.

When the ambulance crew arrived they saw it was Dougy, checked he was breathing, and then stepped back to talk. They said they couldn't help him as he was now banned from all ambulances and hospitals because he was too violent to their staff. Instead they called the police to come and take him away. They stood and waited about half an hour before the cops arrived and they said they were unable to take him in that condition. The ambos then agreed to take him if he was handcuffed and escorted with a couple of officers coming along with them. They agreed, lifted him up onto the stretcher, cuffed him and drove away.

That was about the last I have since seen of Dougy. The story went around that he had threatened a teenage pregnant girl and so he was not welcome in the area anymore. A few different people threatened to beat him up again if he ever came back, and even Robbie (his main drinking buddy) agreed he shouldn't come around anymore. I guess Dougy got the message somehow, as I didn't see him for the next week, until I ran into him at the Salvos for lunch. He was sober, friendly and happy to see me and we played cricket in the alley. He said he had been hanging out over at St.Kilda and he was like a completely different person, one that everyone seemed happy to be around. I wished he could realize how much better it was for him (and everyone) to be this way. But then someone asked him if he'd like to go get some wine and have a drink with them, and off they went. I haven't seen him since and with no phone or way to contact him there's not much I can do about it. Even the cops came and asked me the other day if I had seen him around, so he hasn't stumbled into them recently either (in the city or over at St.Kilda), which makes me think he may have headed out to the country for a bit. After investing a fair bit of time and effort with him it's hard to let his situation go and just pray to God that it may still improve, but that's part of what being a Christian is about: having hope for others when they don't have any for themselves.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday 2nd March

A girl told me her brother is addicted to ice (a drug). The way he pays for the habit is to go to nightclubs, hook up with a girl and go to a Hotel room (hopefully getting her to pay for the room). Once they have had sex and she takes a shower, or goes to sleep, he will then steal her clothes and wallet, and head to his dealer.

I was woken up early, about 5am, and asked to move on and so I headed down to the bottom level of an underground car park stairway. A sign on the wall gave it four star security protection, but where I was sitting there was no cameras. Since it was warm, and there was no customer activity that early, I sat there for couple of hours, but didn't sleep as I'd rather move myself on at the first sign of activity than wake up to a confrontation. The time went pretty slowly.

About 8am I headed back to the meeting place to find the Jamboree, from last night, back in action. They had moved to the riverbank after Dougy and I left and now had just come back. It was day two of my fast and I was sitting there thinking about the 'no washing' thing (Jesus didn't wash his hands before a meal, the Pharisees pointed out at one time) when I was asked to take one of the indigenous women around to Lazarus House so she could shower and get a change of clothes. That hadn't happened before, being asked to take someone for a wash, interesting timing of events. I happily guided her around behind the Cathedral to the center, and the ladies there helped her with the shower and clothes. On the way back she was nervous about looking nice and asked me to go ahead so she could arrive on her own, and then was pleased to receive the flattery when she came back and sat down. Moments later Warren asked me to show him the place as well, and I headed off again and waited while he cleaned up. As we got back to the meeting place there were about fifteen cops standing there, closing down the Jamboree, and so we walked on by down to the Yarra.

That evening, at my usual Friday night tv gathering with friends, I told them about my fast and they were concerned enough about my smell, that they offered to wash my feet for me! But I declined. It was more about experiencing the extra strain the physical impact that being dirty and smelly would put on relationships, despite still being the same person inside. Thinking about the power it has to divide and separate people was certainly made clear that night when another friend said that if I hadn't washed by this time next week, then staying the night at his place would not be an option. An understandable lesson in consequences, but even if I'm smelly I'm still the same lovable me, aren't I..?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday 1st March

Summer is finished and things begin to get a little colder. There only needs to be a small change in temperature to make a huge difference in being comfortable sleeping rough (no sleeping bag) and it being intolerable. I'm constantly watching the weather reports for the nightly minimum forecasts (15Degrees+ is great, 11 to 15Degs is a struggle and anything 10Degs or less is 'find warmth or no sleep..'), although one person told me they slept under a bridge in Canada when it was -30 Degrees.. I don't know how!

The other night someone told me they were trying to sleep in the bushes outside a corporate building, but it was to cold and wet to sleep. He was pleased when the security guards came around and told him to move on. He asked them to call the police. Then he took a swing at them and deliberately missed and fell to the ground. Then he told the guards to tell the police he had attempted to attack them but drunkenly fallen over. The guards agreed and the police came and took him away and locked him up for the night. The guy was happy as he now had a nice warm cell to sleep in until the morning.

I had started this journey on the 10th Dec 06 and it was approaching the 3 months mark. It's been a significant amount of time and now that summer was over it was time again to think about whether to continue on or wrap it up. I was still learning new things every day but to go beyond three months was to make a considerable commitment, probably for the rest of the year.. I was confident this was where I was supposed to be for the moment but I wanted a clearer indication from God as for a longer term indication. What I decided was that I would fast for the first ten days of March, that would also be the last ten days of my first three months out here. This would serve to raise the issue to a higher level in my thinking and prayer with God. Remembering that an issue on the back of my mind can be just as much a prayer as saying some words out loud. The odd thing was, I also decided to make the fast an abstinence from washing, as well as food. I don't know why but the idea was there, strong, and I couldn't see a reason not to try it out. Being smelly and unclean is a physical state that a few street people go far below the level most people keep themselves at. There is no logical reason of limitation for being aromatic and unclean, as there are number of charity services that offer showers and washing machines at no cost. It must be a choice to be that way? A reflection of peoples' self worth? I wasn't sure. So no eating or washing and, as with most of my ideas, I will try it out and discover the implications and lessons (and hopefully the spirituality) as I go along.

In the evening I caught up with BJ again and he said he was still interested in coming to Alpha next Wednesday night. While we were waiting for the food van, I talked to another teenage kid, who was interested in my 24hr Church idea and had a number of fundraising ideas to discuss. I also offered him an Alpha invitation and he said he might come along.

After we got back from the van the crew, and a lot of others, were all sitting around drinking and singing songs, as one guy had a guitar and harmonica with him. It was like one of those 'men in the bush sitting around a campfire' nights. A jamboree, but in the heart of the city (and with no fire). Things were getting a bit rowdy when Morgan, sitting next to me, said "this might be a bit above your head, but you're safe here, understand, we're all family", although I was pretty cool with it all. But it's good to keep caution at the back of your mind, so I stay alert.

Dougy was wasted and I asked him if he wanted to go home, and taking the suggestion he got up and I went to help him as he stumbled away. Just as we walked off the cops arrived to talk to everyone else. I pointed out the cops to Dougy, and what a good decision he had made to leave, and he was ecstatic that he had avoided them and started to 'stumble jog' down the hill towards the tram stop, in case the cops saw him. That was until he saw a couple of scantily clad women and stopped to say hello, in the way only he does.. ie 'Hello ladies, wanna root?' It always draws a laugh from those around and often even the cops have a chuckle, it's more of an attention seeking act than an actual proposition. I tugged on his arm and mentioned the cops again, but that primary motivator had no more effect as it had been replaced by another, and there only seemed room for one. I finally pulled him away and then got him home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wasted... (Tues 20th March)

I was just up three days straight without any sleep and the squat I stayed in last night was smokey, thus I have a sore throat and feel absolutely wasted today.

So even though I put myself in this position please say a prayer for my health and recovery. I have some things to attend to later today and so need to keep going for now but I hope to take tomorrow off for some rest.

Thanks :)

UpDate: 8:30pm
I went to St.Pauls 6pm Healing Service and (still feeling ill) have now come to my retreat shed in Clifton Hill. I will stay here and rest tomorrow, even if I feel better in the morning.

UpDate Thursday
Feeling better, still resting as I still have a bit of a cold but the fever has gone. So naturally I am thinking about the issues of being sick while on the street..

On Wednesday I actually took two other people to the free Health Service doctor. Both didn't get the 'medicine' they were looking for. Some script medicines are low level drugs that are then sold or used personally for a high. The previous night some street girls stole hundreds of Zanex pills from some guy, who chased them into a McDonalds, and then they kept taking the pills the next day until they were all gone. Some of them were staggering around, and droopy eyed, all day. One guy I took to the doctor was so upset he didn't get a script that he walked out without without filling out his Health Care details on the form and so the Doctor didn't get paid for the consultation. Even if I got sick enough that I needed a script I wouldn't have the money to pay for the medicine..

Later I was feeling too ill to stand up and so I lay down on the park bench for a few hours. Normally when you get sick you can lie in bed all day, but when you don't have a home and most sleeping spots are only usable in the night, what do you do during the day? If you have friends you can stay with them (as I am doing now) but there are those that don't have that option. I wanted to stick it out, being sick on the street, but by the evening I had had enough. It must be unbearable for those with a much more serious affliction and nowhere to hole up..

Also not feeling well enough to be out and about how do you feed yourself? I guess you would just have to make the effort to get to a food van for something to eat, or starve until you are better. If you want to survive you just have to find the effort to get through these difficulties, and then add it to your experiences of the Hell life has dished out to you. Probably another reason why some see prison as an easier option.

Even resolving the 'simple' issue of finding a hanky to use has forced me to improvise..

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tuesday/Wednesday 27-28 Feb

So far on this journey I have not been threatened, hurt, sick or injured. In fact it's been a long time since I felt so confident and happy. It's tough going but equally rewarding. The only discomforts I've had are: dealing with the cold, getting used to sleeping on stone and a small wound on the back of my heel (where the skin has dried out an cracked a bit) but that has easily been patched with a band aid [something you can't apply to a soul] :)


In the morning I was sitting with the crew and the Bikky Kid and his cousin came by and sat down next to me. I was more formally introduced to them and the cousin happily told how I had helped him find the bottle shop last night. Then the conversation changed and I listened as the cousin told the Bikky Kid how later on last night he had rolled a couple of dealers and got a couple hundred dollars and about ten caps (drugs). So here I was, having been wary of walking around near the drug dealers uptown, sitting with a guy who mugged drug dealers!

As we sat there a group of cops came over to check us out. One of them was a cop I'd met a couple of times before, the first of which I had explained myself as a Church outreach person who was from Christ Church Hawthorn. He took me to be a 'kind of social worker'. I was not happy that I had not fully explained who I was and so I took the opportunity to set the record straight. When he asked for my name and address I also explained how I was not connected to any specific organization but was here as a Christian to love and serve the poor, like St.Francis ect... When I finished explaining he looked at me blankly and said "I've spoken to you before, you're a kind of social worker.." I nodded and he moved on to another person (well I had tried to give a proper explanation, so my conscience was now clear).

Now I must apologize to the Salvos. Later that morning I met Dougy outside the Life Center (the Salvos drop in center) and he was pretty sober and talking with the staff and a few others. Actually the more I interact with the Salvos the more I am impressed with them. The key thing from them is what they have and give out is always top quality (a Plasma tv in the Life Center [donated of course], fresh food [not expired stuff] and even an outreach bus [with DVD lounge and 10 computer terminals for internet and networked games inside!]). What this means is that you feel like you're treated as a 'first class' citizen, a great change from how you feel treated on the street, and they also take great interest and care in you as well.

As it was Tuesday we headed off upstairs for the weekly 3 course lunch. Dougy wanted to go but he had a wine skin with him (for drinking later). He asked if he could stash it in my bucket during lunch, and I agreed (thinking better that I hold on to it and he come to lunch with everyone, than he head off on his own to drink). After soup Dougy and another bloke came over and asked for my bucket (they wanted a drink) and I told them to take it outside, and they agreed. They headed off but I soon spied them coming back with cups full of wine and wandering around happily talking with everyone. I sighed. These weren't the craftiest criminals around and I felt guilty being party to them drinking wine up in a Church hall where the AA meetings are held.. A moment later the head Salvos guy caught on to the situation and confiscated the bucket and wine. He left it by the wall where I later picked it up on my way out and (having learnt my lesson) vowed not to let that happen again (sorry Salvos). I thought about Jesus's first miracle of changing water to wine at a party where a lot of drunkenness was definitely going on. Was Jesus feeding the addictions of the alcoholics of his time? Besides the spiritual symbolism of the act of 'saving the best to last' I really wonder what he was thinking about supplying the wine in that situation, from a practical perspective..

I visited my Dad for the day and went to Small Group in the evening. And that's the end of Feb :)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sunday/Monday 25-26 Feb

The other day I was sitting on the street and two guys passed by. One of them stopped and said "poor bugger", pulled out his wallet and stepped closer. Then he saw the cross on my top, turned back to his mate and said, walking away, "I almost gave money to a Christian!"

Churches were I visited Richmond AOG (Assembly Of God) Church, on the recommendation of a friend. It had the biggest open floor area I had seen at a Church, and it was packed full. I had heard AOG was Pentecostal and it was very much like Planet Shakers. A slick production and a 'hype you up' sermon, except there was no bouncy bounce during the songs. So it was almost like Planet Shakers is for kids and AOG is for Adults. I enjoyed it and afterwards I noticed the cafe required you to purchase your food and drink (nothing wrong with that, just different to most churches, but the number of people attending [about 600] would understandably make it necessary).

That evening, after the food van, Dougy was intoxicated and I offered to escort him home (to a room he has at an emergency accommodation hostel north of the city). He agreed and we trammed up there. It took me two stops to rouse him up out of his seat and off the tram, and then gripping his arm I guided him back to the residence. He said there have been many times where he has fallen asleep on the tram to the end of the line. (I actually dropped him home a few times over the next week. Again I was concerned about using up my tram tickets but every time I am about to run out I get new ones! A couple from friends, someone recognized me in the street after reading this blog and gave me a ticket, and even sitting on the Steps a stranger once walked by me and said "I have an extra ticket for someone to use..." which I thanked them (and God) for.

After dropping Dougy off I was near the RMCH (Royal Melbourne Children's Hospital) and I went in to speak to the clerk. That afternoon I had stopped by St.Vincents to ask about the girl who had her face kicked in earlier in the week, but they said anyone underage would go to the RMCH. The clerk here didn't have a listing for anyone with the name I had. (I only had a first name but many street people use a false name when in Hospital to avoid having the police notified of their location, but when the name doesn't 'check out' they can get into further trouble. False names are generally used for minor incidents where people can get some treatment and then walk out of hospital early the next morning [without being released by the staff] before the name gets checked with the police in the regular 9 to 5 business hours). So I had no further lead on the girl, but I did see her on the street again two weeks later, arm in arm with the same boyfriend who beat her up previously. (That's something I still don't understand, why people return to their abusers. Last month I helped a lady find the right tram stop for her destination and she told me how her husband hit her everyday for twenty years, before he passed away. I asked her why she couldn't just leave, and she said it wasn't an option and didn't explain any further). The latest on the young girl is that the DHS (Department of Human Services) has her now in 'secure' (lock up detention) which lasts for about three weeks.

Later in the night I was surprised by the HJs staff attitude when one member was cleaning the tables, where it appeared one youth had fallen asleep (sitting face down on the table) and he gave him a little shove. The youth slid off the seat and slumped across the floor. The staff member calmly stepped over the youth and continued cleaning the tables. I went across with another customer and checked the youth. He wasn't asleep but unconscious and we called an ambulance. Unable to rouse him (perhaps a drug overdose) we put him on his side and the ambulance came, stuck a tube down his throat and took him away. All the time HJs staff paid no attention to the issue at hand. Just a regular Sunday night for them? If they didn't care what about a 'duty of care' for those in their store? I later emailed HJs head office to qualify about that, but so far no response.

Around 2am there was a woman who sat quietly but had the shakes. When she came up and asked if I would be her boyfriend I detected a sizable mental disability. Knowing a large part of the street community deal with some sort of mental disability (officially 80% since the de-institutionalization of recent times) I often wondered where the line was drawn. There must be some sort of care for the worst cases who really have no ability to care and protect themselves from harm. In this case I was sure the lady I was talking to was well across that line. She said she was waiting for the 4am train, so I said I was a priest (which put her at ease and explained why I couldn't be her boyfriend) and sat with her for a couple more hours to watch over her until she headed off to the station (even though the first train is at 5:20am).

In the evening the woman I sat with was back. This time another girl (Jen) was around and knew her well, as she had lived with her a few years ago. She said she was supposed to be in an institution as without her meds she will unknowingly harm herself, perhaps walk in front of a tram or train. Jen called the police and they came down and took the woman back to her residence. Interestingly I was told that while the lady was not able to care for herself in normal society, her residence is not a secure location and people are able to wander off, so if I see her again, don't hesitate to call the police to take her back. So ironically even those deemed not able to care for themselves are still responsible for their own well being to some degree.

Also later in the night I helped a guy (just new to Melb after two days) find the 24hr bottle shop, up in Russel St. I chatted with him as we walked up there and he got his beer. As we started back we bumped into the 'Bikky Kid' who is involved in the drug scene up there. It turns out the guy I was helping was his cousin! I walked with them a bit, as they caught up, and we passed a young girl huddled in a doorway corner. They asked if she was ok and she said she was fine. We kept walking and then the guys headed off elsewhere. I went back to check on the girl as she look vulnerable and alone, like a runaway new on the streets. She was still huddled there and I approached and said I was with the church and did she need any help? She again said she was fine and her friends would be along soon. I said ok, and went back to the other part of town. She could be telling the truth but I didn't sense it. But for someone new on the streets I could understand them not wanting to trust anyone. Learning to survive can be a lonely road of hard lessons, and you can't help someone who doesn't want it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Yesterday (14th March)

Phew.. been so busy this week, every time I think I have time to do some blogging, something happens..

Yesterday morning I was walking through Collingwood (9:30am) thinking 'I've got nothing planned for today so I should have plenty of time to go to the library and do some blogging, but first I will commit the day to the Lord...' As I finish praying an Arnotts delivery truck pulls over and the driver jumps out to say hello. It's a Christian guy I met on the Steps around Christmas. He asks if I am still doing my street work and we have a catchup before he then gives me a box of stuff (chips and about 100 Heaven chocolate bars [just expired]) to hand out to people!

Next, I stopped at St.Mary's House of Welcome, handed out something to everyone and then sat with a lady and had a good long talkbout her discrimination issues and prayer for her back pain. Then I walked around the city handing out the chocolate bars to street people I knew, a good busker (with his bass guitar), an Amnesty International girl (who thanked me with a kiss on the cheek [Woo hoo!]), and a Big Issue guy. I still had some left over, so I dropped a bunch off at the St.Pauls reception, for the staff there, ate two myself and kept the last one for Jen (a little street girl I'd been talking to recently) whom I hadn't seen yet. Then I walked around the city for a couple of hours with Angela (another indigenous street girl I had been befriending). When she left at 3pm I thought I would go and sit down the back on the comfy seats in the upper level of HJs and have an hours break before I was due to meet a friend at 4pm. As I sat down someone shouted out 'Hey John!' from even further down the back, and it was Jen and some friends sitting there, so I joined them until it was time for me to go and meet my friend.

At 5pm I was free again, I thought, but moments later as I was walking along I came across Warren and some others sitting under a tree, drinking, and (I am always learning new things) smoking chuff using empty cans as smoking pipes. I sat with them for a while and at 7pm an internal dispute was getting a bit aggressive, so I headed off and went to Small Group out at Hawthorn.

When I came back in at 9:30 I talked with some people at the Rosies tea and coffee van, which I always enjoy as they often have fresh volunteers (Catholic teenagers) that are a little timid to talk with the street people and so sometimes they see me, and my cross, and think I will be an easy(Christian) person to talk to. I take the opportunity bushwhack them and open up on them with full force Christian topic discussions and get them to think beyond their normal boundaries! LOL (Don't worry I do it in a caring tactful way) They enjoy it. One guy said he learnt more in 10 minutes, from our talk, than he ever had from Church, which is a good point that a lot of Churches assume everyone knows the basic practical knowledge stuff you get as a kid from Sunday School, but what if you never went to Sunday School, where do you learn that stuff if your Church doesn't offer anything extra beyond Sunday sermons?

After Rosies I thought I would take a break and headed down to Elizabeth St, but I ran into some street kids I knew there. So then I decided to get away on a tram and head across to the other side of the city. I got off at a random stop and... there were some more street kids I knew, standing at the stop, who told me the Salvos outreach van had just come by and was heading over to HJs and asked me to head over there. So I caught the next tram back and met up with everyone outside HJs and waited for the Salvo's van. It came along just before midnight with some pizza and drinks, which a lovely little old lady (about 90 years old) handed out with a smile.

And then God let me head off for some sleep.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sat 24th Feb 07

While I write about the dramatic highlights of the day, I am still quite busy and active in the other times. I do spend a lot of time just sitting quietly with people, as well as chatting, going to churches, meetings, catching up with non street friends, and of course blogging. It took me 2 months to finish the St.Francis book(about 300 pages) and I enjoyed reading it when I had spare time! My typical day would be: get up around 7am, sit for an hour, meet up with some of the alcoholics (that always start drinking at 8am), talk to some people at any one of a number of charities (they mostly open from 10am to 1pm), do some Internet and blogging at the State Library early arvo, have a nap on some grass somewhere late arvo, there are a range of early evening activities(street related) to choose from depending on the day of the week, the late food van gatherings (8pm to 10pm), sit on the Steps and talk or sit at the Meeting place(10pm to 12am), and then hang out around HJs until about 2am before finding a spot to sleep.

My average weekly sleeping pattern (the most common question I get) is usually: Sleep rough three nights a week, stay up all night and get some sleep on the grass during the day twice a week, meet some friends for tv night (and stay over) once a week, and stay the night at the invitation of another friend(generic) once every couple of weeks. (I generally have a number of open offers to visit friends for the night, which I like to use when I haven't had a break for a while as they are always such stimulating catch ups and refreshing sleeps.)

There was a state wide gathering of scouts today, for their 100th anniversary. The street was closed off and there were kids everywhere. Dougy was half pissed and, shirt off, was happily staggering around the kids on the street, saying hello. I kept beside him smiling and waving at the leaders to assure them he was ok and no threat. The kids were curious at him and not too worried, innocence can be happy and peaceful but I'd rather be aware. I wonder if that means I think Adam and Eve eating the apple was a good thing?

In the afternoon I was sitting with Dougy and another guy who had both gone to sleep on their benches, after drinking too much. Along came the Indigenous Elder that broke up the fight between Dougy and Troy last weekend. (Actually Troy is gone permanently now as he beat up a guy on the Steps and stomped on his head [all on camera] and as the guy lay there bleeding he pulled out a police badge, he was off duty. Realising he just beat up a cop, Troy ran for the hills and hasn't been seen since.) The Elder slapped Dougy on the back, hard, saying "Wake up to yourself!" but Dougy didn't move. He looked at me and, seeing my bucket, asked me to go and fill it with some ice, and then he would be able to wake them up. As I was agreeing to find some ice he picked up my personal bag and said "I'll hold on to this until you get back, I'll be up near the Church" and he walked off. Right, what was I to do? I didn't have any money to buy any ice and I didn't want to go to the HJs refill machine and stick a bucket under it.. but I needed to complete this mission to get my bag back (please Lord..).

I went over to HJs and had a look at the refill machine. To my relief the catchment tray underneath the refill taps was full of spilt drink and ice! I got a used cup and scooped the ice into my bucket and then did the same with the refill machine on the other side of the store, which was busy enough that no one seemed to notice what I was doing. I filled up the bucket over half way. Happy, I headed back across the road and looked for the Elder. He was no where to be seen. I headed up to the Church and again he was not in sight. I wandered around the general area for about an hour getting stressed that I had just lost all my stuff, and wondering if I had been tricked so he could take my bag without any objection. I went and sat back at the Church in despair.

Next thing I new the Elder walked out of the Church with a staff member, hugged him and happily swapped my bag back for the bucket of ice. We headed back to the benches and he scooped out a handful of ice and held it against the first guy's face. Instantly the guy jerked, convulsed and sprang up to his feet shaking his head and spluttering. (he he..) Then the Elder went and held the ice against Dougy's face and.. not even a murmur. He held it there for about a minute but Dougy slept on and so the Elder sat down, pulled a bottle of port out of his pocket, took a sip, and then stuck it in the bucket of ice, at his feet.

A while later others had joined us and Dougy was awake. I needed to go to a friend's birthday party but was waiting for the Elder to finish with the bucket. In the end I got up and said goodbye and told the Elder he was welcome to keep the bucket. He got up and hugged me and said "from now on your name is Magic!" and then told everyone else that from now on they had to call me Magic. (I was a little unhappy about it as 'magic' is a non Christian supernatural term, but perhaps it meant something else in the Aboriginal language?) Then I headed off to the party, where I shook my stuff with a Turkish belly dancer.

(I later replaced the bucket with one from Safeway for 99cents, which I got the money for from the people standing in the express lane. It was my first 'begging' experience! or, as I prefer, 'fund raising' experience. On the street it's called 'coal biting'.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thursday/Friday 22-23 Feb

Got thrown out of a shopping arcade, near Bourke St Mall, one minute after sitting down on a bench, because the security guy said 'he didn't like the look of me.' I asked him what was it about my appearance that concerned him? and he said 'he wouldn't say because then he would be liable..'

Was with the crew and met a 200 pound openly gay indigenous man and chatted with him about his favorite movie scenes. As I left he hugged me and started crying because he said he was affected by meeting 'such a good person..'

Visited some new friends for the first time. Enjoyed some pizza and talk about what we(personally) would be like if we lived in caveman times. Stayed the night.

As I left the next morning there was a lady on Oprah talking about how she went to live on the streets as a learning experience (for 3 days). She made a good point about giving out money to beggars. She said 'she doesn't always give money, but she always acknowledges them.'

Stopped and sat next to Bandok and had a chat about what movies he wanted to see. He had a bottle of port and after a few minutes said 'Brother I love you but it's time for you to leave. I'm going to be drinking now and I don't want to Red Light you..' (draw the cops attention to you)

Met a man unsure what to do with his life after he had been rejected from joining the Franciscan Order after the application process. (In St.Francis's day there were no requirements, although some people were expelled.)

While sitting on the steps an indigenous girl came up and kissed me on the cheek and said 'Hello uncle..' ('Uncle' is an indigenous community generic name prefix for someone you respect, or just Uncle if you don't know their name. I am sure there is a more intricate understanding as to how and when it apples, so I'll keep sussing it out.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Wed 21st Feb 07

Jason has been away for a couple of weeks, I am told he has been picked up by Social Services and is in a 'secure' juvenile center. This highlights one of the problems with relationships on the street. People just come and go without any warning or explanation. They can be picked up(jailed), taken to hospital or they might just head out of town for a while. Often when they head off it's not that they don't have time to give you advance notice, just that they don't think to do so. Compared to normal Eastern Suburbs life where knowing your family and friends locations and movement plans is a very high priority, it's quite a difficult change to get used to.

I got talking to a guy(BJ) who had just got out of prison yesterday, after a few years. BJ spent all his time working out and had plenty of bulk, a shaved head and a light high pitched voice that contradicted his physical image. At first he was a little concerning as, half drunk, he kept hugging, slapping, and pushing us around but it was in a friendly way. He said he would probably be out for a few months before he mucked up and headed back inside. I always thought it was a bit of a cliche about ex cons not being able to cope with the freedom and responsibility of the 'outside' but he said that was exactly how he felt. He liked the ease of routine and structure provided there, and thought there was no possible life he could build out here. This is an issue I come across more often now. Even if someone wants to change, then what future can I/we/society offer them? All their friends and life experience are in another system of culture and to make a solid attempt of change would mean leaving that(and friends) all behind. Then there was his despair that there wasn't any jobs he thought he could do. I suggested physical trainer, and he seemed to like that. He asked me about God and we chatted for a couple of hours and he just could not believe you can't get into Heaven without Jesus. He asked me at least twenty times "So if you live a really good life helping people and never do anything wrong then you can't get into Heaven without Jesus?.. that's mucked up!??" shaking his head. Before he left I invited him to come to Alpha and (as he had nothing else to do, and nothing to loose, before heading back 'inside') he accepted the invitation. (He stopped me last night to confirm it was still on this Wednesday :)

Warren was feeling crook again and asked me to call the ambulance for another try. While we were waiting the Salvo outreach van pulled up and we went and talked to them. Warren asked them for a lift to hospital and they were happy to do so when they were finished, which was good. So I canceled the ambulance and they took him up there where he got some treatment.

Late in the night I was sitting with some people and I heard screaming from across the road. As I got up I saw an adult guy(indigenous) walk away from the area and his girlfriend (14yo white street girl) stumbled across the road and collapsed at our feet. He had attacked her and been kicking her head, after an argument. She was convulsing on the ground and it looked like there was a sharp dent in her forehead. I went to the pay phone, called an ambulance, and returned to help. There is not much street knowledge of first aid other than 'don't move them', and even that rule is often ignored. I reached down to check her pulse but was really doing it to provide her with a bit of human contact while we waited, as she was in such distress. As I reached another street girl shouted not to touch her, as the boyfriend was watching from across the road, in the dark, like a wolf at the edge of the forest, and she said if I touched her then he would come after me too. She cried out for a cigarette to smoke while we waited, one was lit and passed to her. After the ambulance took the girl away I asked someone what the her name was so I might visit her in the hospital the next day. I was told not to visit her because if the boyfriend found out, again, he would come after me.

Later the boyfriend and his brother came over and the brother said 'it was ok to beat up women but this time his brother had gone too far' and he would take care of it. Then they just played around together (pretend martial arts) and were all happy and smiling. I went up to the brother and asked if I could have permission to visit the girl, and was told to ask the boyfriend. So I went ans sat next to the boyfriend and asked him if I could go and visit her in hospital, and he said if she was in hospital then he would visit her. Then he broke down and started crying and asked me to pray. So we put our arms around each other's shoulders and I spent some time praying for him and the situation, emphasising 'love not hate', 'peace not war' and better relationships.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Tuesday 20th Feb 07

Often you see homeless people in completely different outfits from day to day and week to week. For them it is easier to go to a charity, shower, and change into another set of used clothes(free) than to wash the ones they were wearing. The charity will wash the discarded clothes and then pass them onto the next person. So sometimes you think you're seeing a similar garment on someone else, when in fact it the same one that has just been passed on. And then there are those, like me, who never change what clothes they're wearing, and it becomes a part if their identity.

In the evening I was talking to one of the crew called Warren and he agreed to go into rehab. He is a thin white guy from the country that had used switching to alcohol as a detox method to get off Heroin, swapping one addiction for another (hopefully less destructive) one. It think this method had some 'cool' name but I have forgotten it for now, so I'll call it an 'alco detox switch'. The problem for Warren was that his high long term use of drugs and alcohol had damaged both his kidneys and the bruising from their internal bleeding had made both his hip areas pretty black. In reality he is in dire straights and told me he had been on dialysis previously.

He decided he had had enough and it was time to go to a Rehab and dry out, then head home to the country and get away from the city for a while. I had offered to support him and visit him while he was in Rehab and he said he would appreciate that, it would mean a lot to him, and so (as he was also had back pain from the kidney trouble) he asked me to call him an ambulance. I made the call and they said it would be dispatched right away and I went and sat back down with him. While we sat there I asked if I could pray for him and he said that would be good, and so we spent a few minutes in prayer. As we waited a pair of cops came over and told us to move along. I explained to them that an ambulance was coming but they replied that there was no ambulance coming, that the ambo service had called them(the police) to handle the situation as it was not considered a priority for them. Warren showed the cops his bruised hips but they said 'if you want your kidneys to improve then just stop drinking' and again told us to leave the area. Shocked that they didn't see that getting Warren to hospital and Rehab was in 'everyones best interests' I helped walk him away, down the road. I offered to help him tram up to the hospital but, feeling rejected, he was no longer interested in trying to get any other help that night.

Later I was thirsty and went into HJs to get a cup of iced water but they refused to give me one because I didn't look 'trustworthy'. It actually worked out in my favour as I then went next door to McDonalds, where I got a cup (no fuss), and sat down. Sam was there and he kept giving me strange looks, so I invited him to sit with me. He said he was surprised to see me sitting there as I wasn't in the store when he first walked in, and he had been watching the door (without a break) ever since. He said there was no way I walked in without him noticing and was suspicious as to how I got there (he might have been thinking teleport?). We ended up having a good chat for over an hour about politics and all sorts of other things. As he left I noticed his pants were split at the back, which is not an uncommon sight among the homeless (not that I am out here looking at asses all day). I wondered if he knew or didn't care? I decided not to ask.

Feeling like doing some more scrubbing, I got up and asked the manager if it was ok if I used the rest room basin to fill up my bucket. He then offered to fill the bucket himself and went round the back of the kitchen and came back shortly with some hot water. I was very grateful. Heading across the road I started cleaning and there were a couple of street kids at the top of the steps. They asked me all sorts of questions about God, half in jest but also some serious ones as well. Their biggest question was whether I thought Homosexuality was wrong? I gave them my opinion and they said it was the best answer they had heard, and gave me their respect. Then they went off into the night, and I got the whole step finished and felt good.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Monday 19th Feb 07

The other day I was walking around Federation Square and I noticed all these tents set up behind it. They were of a strong white vinyl/plastic and a couple of meters square in size. I looked inside one and they even had a mat flooring. 'Wow' I thought, 'these are great, the city has finally solved the homelessness problem..' but no, they were there for the Sustainable Resource Festival that weekend. As far as I know Melbourne doesn't have a night shelter for those sleeping rough. I wonder how much resources it would take to set one up? For a couple of days the tents were empty, residents: at least one.

In the morning I found the guys at a different place, down by the river. Robbie was standing there, in drab blue denim pants and jacket and bare feet. With shoulders slightly slumped and fists half clenched, he looked like a washed up brawler who still had fight in his heart and carried a long deep memory of events past forgotten but with their history visible enough in his eyes that he would instantly get your respect, even if you didn't know why you were giving it. I wished I had a camera, it was one of those lasting defineing images. In fact as I have come to know Robbie he is really just a big softy. Yesterday I was sitting with him at the meeting place and along came Nora (one of the friendly Credo girls) who sat down with us to say hello and have a chat. Robbie talked about the environment, materialism and how precious young women were, to be looked after as our most valuable resource. He even reached into his jacket and pulled out a pen set (from the souvenir shop across the road) and gave it to her as a gift, and then asked me to find her a flower. He may even be a Christian? as he mentioned there was a particular Church he likes to go to on Sunday mornings (where they give him a bottle of port to start the day.. I guess alcohol[Communion] is served in Churches most Sundays, his just comes in a bigger size..). Actually I have never seen him in a fight, he only tends to get upset when people are inconsiderate or disrespect his indigenous values. He is almost a living statement of 'What else can I do? White man's society hasn't left any room for me (and my people) to exist..' His favorite thing is to pat a pair of little dogs, a lady walks by with most days, he calls them his pupps.

Also by the river I saw the indigenous guy Pete, whom I'd been on the lookout for. I introduced myself, reached into my bag and pulled out the sunglasses his lady friend had left on the seat last Wednesday. Returning them to him he was a bit surprised and it was a moment before he remembered whom he had been with, and thanking me said he would return them to her later. Not long after, I was standing by the river railing, staring at the jellyfish, and he came over to talk to me further. He told me of some issues, and then asked me to pray for him and his family. I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed with him for bit before he returned to sit with the others.

In the afternoon I was sitting at he steps with Dougy and Troy (another indigenous guy of the crew who is usually high and happy but also quick to anger and violence). They were both very drunk and they started arguing together that quickly escalated into violence. They were yelling at each other and standing toe to toe with Troy gripping Dougy by the throat and Dougy standing thee with his bottle of port in one hand behind his back. I decided to see what influence I had gained with them and walked up to them telling Troy to let Dougy go and for them both to seek peace. Unfortunately I got Troy's name wrong and he turned to correct me but remained gripping Dougy's throat with full force. The distraction allowed Dougy the moment to 'bottle' him (smash the bottle over Troy's head) and I was showered with port and glass.. Influence not detectable, and so I stepped back and went to sit down and let them resolve it (I didn't half blame Dougy for his action as he probably couldn't breathe for the last minute and there was no indication of being let go). Troy seemed ok, thanks to his cap, probably more stunned by the action than the actual impact. Then one of the older, most respected indigenous elders, charged Dougy and wrestled him to the ground yanking the rest of the broken bottle out of his hand, and it was over. The cops wandered over and Troy ran off. Dougy waited for an ambulance to arrive to check him out as Alice (sitting nearby) had told the cops that Dougy had hit himself over the head with the bottle. At first I thought she had seen it wrong, and then I realized it was to protect Dougy from being charged with assault, as it's probably not an offence to hit yourself over the head. Interestingly Dougy was later 'punished' by the indigenous community for the fight, as while he generally has more respect than Troy, when it comes to violence the indigenous community rally around their own before anyone else, whether the person was in the right, or wrong.