Homeless. What a desperately sad and empty word. Homeless. Hopeless. Sadly, I’m learning those two words are constant bedfellows. Never thought that’s the address I’d be filling in on those endless bloody welfare forms. Thought that was ‘owned’ by the crims and the druggies and other no-hopers. Didn’t give a thought to those who are left financially and mentally crippled by divorce and losing the family, the home and the job. Didn’t know how easy it was to lose the lot. Or how low that could bring a fellow. Hmm… interesting words – ‘fell’ and ‘low’. Didn’t know just how low that was until I lost the respect of all I loved; how much I needed them; how ‘nothing’ I felt without them.
Would’ve thought one look at me would be proof enough. I try to keep up a semblance of cleanliness, decency and the like. But it’s damn difficult here on the streets with only the cracked and too often filthy basins in public toilets. Easier to clean one of them than risk the so-called ablution block – a favourite place for the drug-dogs to shoot up. AND leave their needles on the shower floor. If the busted up tiles don’t get you, the sharpies surely will. And a heap of other unsavoury types… don’t go there. Or to public ‘conveniences’ either. IF you have the luxury of choice!
Saw some headlines on a newstand yesterday – another homeless man found frozen where he tried to sleep overnight in an abandoned demolition site. Somewhere in the US of A, they said. This long and fierce cold snap of theirs is taking a terrifying toll of those doing it rough, they said.
Hmm… be grateful for small mercies, they tell us. And I am. I AM grateful for our balmy summer nights Downunder. And a chorus of other ‘down-on-their-luck’ types would chime in – if anyone with the ability to change things ever asked.
There was this bloke. Clever, well-to-do… once upon a time. Did a story on him, they did. Heap of photos and a video too. Showed 24 hours of his life. He had it all sussed out pretty good actually. Gave me a few ideas to copy, sort of… you know? Like catching the longest line a bus or train takes, riding them to the end and back again. Get a bit of sleep there – well – lots of bits of sleep, actually. Out of the wind and rain on a bad night, bit of a breeze on a stifler. Can’t complain about that.
But one problem is the scourge of our Aussie summer – the heat of the day. Shopping malls are great. Air-conditioned and all, but there are always security guards watching and waiting to shuffle you on… none too gently, either. They recognise who you are. Like they can smell you. Hmm… probably can, come to think of it.
So it’s back out on the streets – bitumen melting beneath the painfully thin soles of your shoes; shade at a premium – and again, you’re going to get moved on – sooner rather than later.
It’s bloody tough, you know. The good-hearted mob think of clothes and rugs to warm you when you’re down. But there are long, lonely months of heat where we need sunscreen and hats and shade and water. In dreams, you have a fridge with a jug of cold water that never runs dry and a bed that folds loving arms around you all night.
IF perchance you sleep long enough to dream!
OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.
Christine can be found on –