Organised medical assistance for a young girl having an epileptic fit
Helped 3 street sleepers obtain toiletries and new shoes
Found a missing 10 year old boy
Helped a young man obtain a Street Swag so he has somewhere warm and dry to sleep – he’s currently sleeping under a bridge.
Hugged 2 homeless men and made their day – their smiles would have lit up a dark room.
Managed 30 volunteers to meet and greet 820 guests at Homeless Connect.
Got to hang out with my friend the Lady Mayoress of Brisbane 🙂
Spoke and “connected” with people who don’t often get the chance to connect like you and I.
Today I volunteered at my 10th Homeless Connect event. This event was launched in Australia here in Brisbane in 2006. It is now being rolled out all over Australia. Sydney’s Homeless Connect event is coming up in June. Check out the website and register for Homeless Connect in your city – it is so worth it. http://www.homelessconnect.com.au/
Homeless Connect is about connecting with people who have the most amazing stories to tell and who live a life that most of us can’t even begin to imagine.
Every time I volunteer at this event, someone touches my heart. Today it was 3 young guys – well young compared to me – probably in their 3o’s. These men don’t have a home. They sleep rough. They sleep in the park every night. Not in a boarding house, not in a tent, but out under the bushes in one of our parks. Their clothes and bedding are hidden under same bushes during the day, and they retrieve them at night for sleeping. Sometimes they go back and their only belongings have been stolen.
These guys are all someone’s son and grandson, possibly someone’s father and maybe even someone’s exhusband. How did they end up living a life where they don’t have a home or a job? They are totally displaced and doing the best they can to survive. They are all actively job seeking. Think about this. You are job hunting – you live under bushes. How do you get ready? How do you have freshly ironed clothes? How do you shower? Shave? Clean your teeth? How do you apply? Send your resume? Simple things for us, but for a person who doesn’t have the things we take for granted this is tough. It’s a vicious circle that is terribly hard to get out of.
Today they came to Homeless Connect to each obtain a pair of shoes and some toiletries. They could have taken blankets, towels, sheets, clothes etc, but they said they only needed new shoes and toiletries. They have to live lightly otherwise it becomes too hard to hide their stuff. I can’t imagine living like that.
These 3 guys were watching at least 400 people in a queue to the donations room where all the clothing etc was located. They were becoming despondent and they were angy – there was no way they would be able to obtain the two things they need. Unfortunately shoes and toiletries go so fast – usually only the first 100 or so people are able to obtain these items. They asked me how they were supposed to obtain things when so many other people in the queue did have places to live and warm beds to sleep in and were snaffling up all the prized items first. This is one of the unfortunate problems with these events. Homeless does not only apply to people who don’t have a roof over their heads. There are varying degrees of homelessness and Homeless Connect caters for everyone.
Being a team leader comes with some priviledges and I was able to go and select these items for my guests without them having to wait in the queue. I managed to pick 3 really cool pairs of shoes in the right sizes and they loved them. They were surprised that I would go out of my way to do something special for them. I could tell by the looks on their faces they are not used to people doing kind things for nothing in return.
I didn’t find these guys a new home and I didn’t fix their currently broken lives. What I did do however was make a connection with them, show them that I care and solved their problem of no shoes and toiletries. When they arrived they were angry and upset. When they left they were grateful and perhaps, just perhaps, I gave them the feeling that they are worthy of love and caring.
Over the years of volunteering for this event two significant things have happened that have totally changed the way I think about our disadvantaged people.
Eric, a homeless man who has lived in Brisbane for a very long time, told me he likes tourists and overseas travellers much more than he liked the people who call Brisbane home. When I asked him why, he told me that the out of towners actually took the time to say hello to him. The locals did not. From that day I always say hello to anyone who looks at me. You just never know how much difference you can make by a friendly hello and a smile.
An indigenous lady, who over the course of the day became more and more intoxicated – she was drinking a clear spirit from a water bottle – eventually told me she slept each night in a toilet block. I was shocked and said I didn’t know how she did it. The words she said next changed the way I think forever. She said “why do you think I drink myself into a coma every day?”
I used to think that disadvantaged and homeless people could somehow fix things themselves if they gave up smoking, drugs and drinking. Now I know that for some of these people, smoking, drugs and drinking are the only things getting them through. I have no right to judge.
Anyone can become homeless – for some people it is only a week away. For others it is unimaginable.