Recently my friend and I were sitting having a coffee on Swanston street when a guy wandered up to us and asked us if we could spare any coins. He explained that he was homeless, sleeping in a nearby alley and needing money for food and accommodation. He looked the part too: the epitome of the homeless stereotype. An older guy with a Gandalf beard and ragged, dirty clothes.
We offered to buy the guy a meal and he accepted. My mate and I wandered across the street with him to a 24-hour diner style restaurant and we all got a drink and him a meal. We sat and chatted while he ate and he was a pretty friendly guy. He explained that he had been homeless for about 20 years, spending most of that time in Melbourne. We asked if he had heard of our organisation (Credo Café was only a few hundred metres away from where we sat) but he said he wasn’t familiar with it. This shocked me. Firstly because of the long duration of his homelessness but also the proximity of his sleeping spot to our main office and café.
It really hit home for me that the roughly 100k homeless people in Australia is no small number.
As he finished his meal we said goodnight and off we all went, him to his business and us to ours. As we walked down towards Flinders Street my friend and I chatted about the conversation we’d just had. I couldn’t believe he’d never heard of Urban Seed but my friend commented, “I just wanted to know about his ring.”
“His ring?” I responded, confused. “Yeah he was wearing a wedding ring. He’s been homeless for 20 years and is clearly alone now, so what happened to the girl?”
One hundred thousand homeless around the country and each one has a story but I’ve only had the privilege to hear a few.