Dear Inner Circle,
Not one face was familiar when I walked in this morning. There was a lady dressed as Father Christmas doing some vigorous exercises, I guess, in preparation for December. There was a fellow squatted on the ground, holding his head in his hands like his world had utterly collapsed. One fellow made a bee line for me and said, “Are you in charge?” “That’s the rumour,” I said, “although I spend most of my days doing what I’m told”. My humour was lost on him. He said, “I’ve been studying the First World War…” “Well, let’s have a cup of tea and talk about it because it’s one of my favourite subjects”. We’d not said more than a couple of sentences before I realised he knew nothing of the First World War. “Well tell me this then,” he said, “What happens when we die, you know, where do we go and how will I know if I can trust you?” My sense was that he was about as interested in this question as he was the First World War. I said, “What’s up? Are you afraid of dying?” “The last time I felt like this,” he said, “I swallowed six bottles of pills”. Finally! There is nothing more human than a conversation. This man was able to name his fear and we’ve been able to find him some ongoing support.
When they were clearing homeless people from Martin Place last Saturday, I happened to be on the spot. My understanding is that the City of Sydney have been most supportive of the people sleeping rough and have shown great sensitivity to this group. I also understand that the builders on the site have left the need to clear people out of the area until the very last moment. Building is at a stage where it would be unsafe to allow people to stay put. On Saturday that was a massive team from the State Department of Family and Community Services, doing all they could to find better options for people. I’ve heard and read some criticism this week but in my view, good will and sensitivity marked every part of this operation. A few people expressed a truth that we at Wayside know so well. Sometimes the provision of a roof means the loss of community. We’ve many times seen how difficult it is to adjust to a safer but more isolated life in some small flat, miles away from community. An elderly lady was successfully housed just weeks ago, but still spends her days and many of her nights hanging around Kings Cross because she is known and loved here. The need for housing is urgent but never underestimate the need for community.
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