Yep, it's cold.
Winter, my one biggest fear when I started out in the summer, and now it is here. To me it is 'the eye of the needle', expectantly the most difficult part of the year to get through on the street, and yet I am... ok! How have I coped?
First a few months ago my mum gave me a woolen beanie, on her birthday. That night I was talking to Goaty and he suddenly said "I like that beanie, I'll swap you for my cap" and reached out his hand. I straight away traded our hats and noticed how dirty, and slightly bloodied, his cap was and lightly put it on my head (but didn't pull it down tight because it was so yucky). Later that night I felt bad that mum had given me a special gift and only hours later I had given it away, but also conflicted as I felt giving a homeless person something I had to help them keep warm was also the right thing to do.. I went back to Goaty and explained to him the beanie had been a gift from my mum and could I have it back? He was very good and said he understood how special it was and thanked me for letting him wear it for the last couple of hours. Over the course of the next two weeks the issue played on my mind and in the end I went back to Goaty and explained again how special the beanie was and gave it to him as a gift. He said he appreciated it, although I doubted it as he has short term memory problems and often completely changes his clothes from week to week. In the meantime a friend gave me a different beanie which I have been using and I explained to mum what happened and she was understanding about it. A few weeks ago I had a hair cut (No.3 all over) and boy did I notice the cold then! but with the beanie on and hood up it has kept my head warmth trapped. Also a friend said the beanie and hoodie combo was true streetie fashion! Last week I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Goaty in different clothes but still with my mums beanie on :)
The thermal underwear I got at the start of march worked well over Autumn but failed when the real cold hit and the wind was cutting through. Thankfully I was given another tshirt, woolen vest, a second set of thermal underwear and a new pair of pants. The old pair wore out and tore open all around my thighs and bum area but I was so busy it took two weeks before I found the time to go to the shops and buy a new pair with a generous financial donation from a friend. For a wile I wanted to get another pair of brown pants, to keep my appearance consistent, but unable to find any I went and got some cargo pants, which I thought looked brown in the shop but turned out to be green when I was outside. But I have been really happy with them as the extra pockets around the knees have been really helpful, especially now that I carry a notebook, pen and was given a small complete Bible, which keeping in my pocket as I walk acts as my Christian tefillin (the Jewish act of keeping your scriptural beliefs strapped to your body).
So I am wearing 6 tops and 3 pants! The cold has been blocked out. I wanted to be hard core authentic and keep wearing the sandals, and for a while my feet seemed to cope. But when the temp started dropping below 10 degrees I added socks and finally I caved and switched to an old pair of brown runners, which have been a wonderful treat, and at first I felt a bit guilty about not being challenged enough by the cold, but after one night where I lost all feeling in my hands from numbness, I bought some fingerless gloves ($2) for the day, and was donated some full gloves for the night. Winter gear complete, I can now walk around the city without being bothered by the cold anymore. While other street people have also geared up for Winter I am surprised by the number of people who stand around in light open clothing and tell me that the cold just doesn't bother them.
What about sleeping?? Well the shed is just as cold inside as it is outside. I don't do any sitting around when I get there but go straight to sleep. So I quickly get into the sleeping bag with my thermals on and it is good enough to keep me warm all night.
There was a period of adjustment over the first few weeks of July where I was really struggling with the cold, and I also wanted to take some time out from my normal routine to do some Bible study and meditation. I thought of staying at the Mother Theresa's men's refuge for a couple of weeks but they have a night curfew that conflicted with some commitments that I still wanted to be available for. I prayed hard about it and God answered by providing me with a Hotel room for two weeks! A street friend who lives with his dad has a gambling addiction which he spends all his disability pension on. For extra money he begs in the street with a sleeping bag by his side (as a prop). One night someone came by and offered to put him up in a hotel room for two weeks. My friend took up the offer but when he saw it was just a simple budget room he preferred his own bedroom. He tried to refund the booking to get the money to use for his gambling habit, but there were no refunds allowed. So he was about to tear up the voucher and throw away the room key when I sat down and he offered it to me. It was a real blessing, being in the CBD being able to rest and come and go as easily as I pleased. It was also funny as people were asking me how I was coping in the cold and I would say 'Oh, I'm in a hotel..' Actually the best thing about the room was not the warmth.. it was the light. Being able to lie there at night and read my Bible for hours before going to sleep was fantastic. I worked through Romans and both Corinthians books, and even had some good talks in the TV room with a girl who was into Scientology (you know.. the Tom Cruise Religion).
Funnily enough when I got back to using the shed this week I found it very homely and restful. I have located a candle, I got from a friends wedding a month ago, and was able to start reading Galatians ch2, in which Paul meets most of the Apostles for the first time in 14 years. The only advice they gave him in his ministry was: to remember the poor, the very thing he was eager to do.