Sleeping rough

Tess in winter fur
Tess wearing her fur coat
Tess snuggled up
Tess having a morning nap

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

Steps for Peace

At the very least, everyone deserves to have their most basic needs met:  food, warmth and shelter –  Raili



19 thoughts on “Sleeping rough

  1. I’m humbled. All power to you my friend. A very moving and yet uplifting post, for it gives me hope to know that there are people like you willing and able to respond directly to needs you come across, refusing to turn a blind eye or deny by focusing on blame. Thank you. Blessings and gratitude, Harula x

  2. I recently read Danielle Steel’s book “A Gift of Hope” about how she and a team of friends were able to help homeless people – not something one would expect from a chick-lit author, but very moving. You are doing a good job there, even if not always appreciated.

  3. Good for you! Thank You for posting this. This is a huge problem in America too. I think we think of Australia according to the travel mags and movies. Thank you for your continued writing about life in Australia. 😊

  4. I’m so glad to see folks taking an active part in helping. At our church we are participating in a National Organization called Family Promise where we take entire families into the church for a week at a time and provide them with everything including help find jobs. They spend a week then move on to the next church while seeking employment and regular housing. It’s been very effective. We can have to to 17 people at a time.

    1. What a great initiative. There is so much more that needs to be done here – and our government needs a swift proverbial boot up the arse to get its priorities straight. Funding is funneled mainly to women’s shelters. The men miss out on so much. Many of the shelters rely totally on the generosity and goodwill of the citizens.

  5. It’s an indictment of a rich country that there are homeless people. Something needs doing about the inequality that causes this. It should not be down to the generous hearts of volunteers.

    1. You’re right about that Opher. There are aspects of our country here that are third world. Equality and citizenship rights are for everyone – everywhere. We’ve got to get the basics right!

  6. My heart is heavy too at reading this-why do we have homeless people-I see abandoned buildings and wasted food-I am currently feeling led to attack this here. We have a small segment-though I think one is too many-May God bless your efforts.

  7. This moved me. It’s five of clock in the morning here. Already light. It’s Summer. The days are long, the nights short. I live in an affluent neighbourhood. Never seen anyone sleeping rough here. But in the town there MUST be. I know there are. I’ve heard. I don’t do anything for them. Shame on me!

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