No, Tess is not sleeping rough! She’s tucked in snug and cosy on a cold winter morning – inside. Sheltered and warm.
Homelessness statistics are sobering. Nearing 6,000 homeless in Australia. I wrote about this very same thing in Jan 2016. It has not got better. In fact, probably worse due to worsening economic circumstances and unemployment rates. According to the Jan 2014 census 67.6% are male.
Here in Adelaide on any given night there are around 200 people, mainly men, who are not as cosy as Tess. They are either sleeping rough, couch surfing, under bridges, in stairwells, in doorways or in a shelter – if they get there early enough and can afford it. It costs. Some more than others. And there is a limit. 16 nights in, 60 nights out.
The rules don’t stop there. Those sleeping rough without an address (post office boxes are not allowed to be used) cannot access regular government support payments. On a Friday, if they turn up in person, they are eligible for $16 a week. Could you live on that?
We’re in the middle of winter here in the deep south. Nights and mornings are cold. You ever stop to think what it must be like to be sleeping rough in this weather?
Tonight I got a call from a friend who makes and delivers food to various homeless shelters. She had a call asking if she could help. The shelter was full and they had NO food. No money. No donations left to use. Empty pantry. She wanted to know if I would go with her to deliver some food. Of course I would.
Between us we were able to provide them with enough food for the night.
As we pulled up, we saw a young man painfully limping along the street. He stopped at an entrance next to the shelter and put his backpack on the ground. Painfully, he lowered himself to sit on it. It was raining and the entryway was not well sheltered. We asked if he wanted some food.
He was so hungry, he said. We gave him sandwiches, a roast meal, some boiled eggs and tuna.
Asked if that was where he was staying the night, he said no. He would try to find somewhere more sheltered. There was room in another men’s shelter nearby, he said, but he and some others refuse to frequent it. They do not feel safe there. He would rather take his chances on the street.
“The staff eat our food. They raid our rooms at night and turn the beds upside down. They bully and pick on us.”
We made our delivery, and as we were leaving, a soup van pulled up and started serving hot soup and sandwiches. People came out of the shadows. It was good to see the young man lining up for some warm soup too.
I returned home to my warm house and a larder full of food. And a heavy heart. At least we were able to provide some comfort to a handful on this night.
A few of us have banded together to provide ongoing support as best we can. I’m thinking of calling it Project Homeless Dudes.
© Raili Tanska
At the very least, everyone deserves to have their most basic needs met: food, warmth and shelter – Raili