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.