I just walked past a homeless man.
(I am assuming he was homeless as he had no shoes on, dirty clothes, mated hair and was looking through a bin. )
As I past him I tried to not look at him, I didn’t want to gain eye contact.
Honestly, I didn’t want to give him any money. I didn’t want to help him. And I knew that by looking at him, and getting eye contact with him I would feel terribly guilty about not helping him. I don’t want to feel bad. So the best tactic was (is) to pretend I didn’t see him and just keep walking. Just act as if he didn’t exist.
The problem is this didn’t/doesn’t really work. I still feel terrible. This man does exist and is probably still wondering the streets looking in bins, without and shoes.
Although this video is highlighting the transformation of a homeless man from an on the surface to a deeper level. To me this video is about stereotypes. About how we judge and treat someone based on what they look like. As shallow as this sounds, if we take a look into our own lives we wont have to look hard to find examples.
We tell a story at Urban Seed, and although it is an old one, and has almost entered the realm of myth. It holds a profound truth about stereotypes. It goes something like this:
There was once a man who worked on the top of end of Collins St in Melbourne. He was a successful business man, looked the part and fit in very well in the city.
He was invited to a fancy dress party at the Old Melbourne Goal. Not wanting to dress the same as everyone else he decided he would go as a homeless man. He thought he was being rather clever, given that the Old Melbourne Gaol was known for the likes of Ned Kelly and prisoners. He thought a homeless man was a good modern twist of the outsider in society.
Wanting to look the part and have the best costume he deiced to grow his beard out. He went to the op shop and found dirty hole-ly trousers. A slipper and an un-matching shoe to go with. About 3 overcoats. And he stuffed plastic bags full of rags. We wore fingerless gloves and a beanie. And even made a cardboard sign asking for money and put a bottle in a brown paper bag.
This fancy dress party happened to be after work. So the man decided to get changed at walk and then walk to the party. So he took off his nice suit and put on his ‘hobo’ costume. Then hit the streets of Melbourne at peak hour on his way to the party.
As he walked up the busy streets to the party something strange happened. He had this feeling that everyone was looking at him, but no one was looking him. Instead of having to push his way through the crowds like he normally would after work, he had all this space around him. And one person even crossed the street as he got close. This started to disturb him. Did people think he was homeless?
His suspicions were confirmed when he went to get some cigarettes to complete his outfit. As he went to go in the 7-11, the man serving from behind the counter came out and stood in the doorway stopping him from entering, and said, “you can’t come in here!”
The man was taken a back. He just wanted to get some smokes. He’d never been knocked back from a shop before. Thinking on his feet, he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his wallet, and said “what makes you think I can’t pay?”
Immediately the shop keeper, stepped aside and let him in.
This story makes us question whether we really know who someone is. I think we all would have assumed this man was homeless had we seen him that day walking the streets.
It also highlights how we include or exclude people based on they way they look. As I feel this video is highlighting.
And finally it makes a sad point about money, and how it talks and changes everything.
Just last week I bought one of my friends a pack of cigarettes and my other friend a can of coke.
Both these friends are addicts. And both these friends are homeless.
Should I have done this? Was there a better a way to spend my money on my friends?
Sure neither cigarettes or coke are good for you. Maybe the coke is the lesser of these 2 evils, but the amount of coke my friend consumes means it’s probably just as bad as the cigarettes my other friends smokes.
Maybe I should have bought my friends something useful and beneficial?
But that assumes I KNOW what they want or need. What I may see as useful may be particularly un-useful to them.
I once walked past a man begging outside a fast food joint. Another man went into the restaurant and come out with a burger and handed it to the ‘beggar’. The ‘beggar’ muttered under his breathe ‘that’s the 10th burger I’ve received today, I don’t need a burger I need money for a room to stay.’ To me this powerfully illustrates how we can’t assume what another person needs or wants until we have looked at life from their perspective.
If look at my own spending habits, I’m not sure I always buy things for myself that are useful or beneficial. I do it anyway because I WANT to and for that moment it makes me happy. Sure maybe I have the right to because it’s MY money and sure maybe the things I buy wont kill me…but is there really a big difference? Are our motives are the same…?
You see I bought these ‘drug’s’ of choice for my friends because I wanted to a do a nice thing for them; without judging what they want or deem as useful or beneficial – gift if you like.
Maybe that wasn’t a smart or wise thing to do from my perspective. But when I took the time to look at things from their perspective it seemed like the right thing to do.
Is the Melbourne Cup and Spring Carnival just an excuse for us to spend up big….?
It is estimated that we will spend $53 millions this year on fashion alone.
$140 million on food and drink.
$806 million on betting through the spring carnival. The average bet being $8.50. And it’s reported that during peak times a bet will be placed every 2 seconds.
It estimated that the average race goer will spend $1,200.
Overall $455 million will be spent.
This year the crowd at the Melbourne cup – was 104,000. This is approximately the same number of homeless people in Australia.
Just think what else could be done with that $455 million to improve the life of this experiencing homeless and disadvantage in Australia.
Another great post about money from Dumbo Feather…
A big part of Credo are the bowls that we eat off. We have a tradition of having handmade and hand painted bowls. We recently just created a whole new batch. These bowls are a fantastic part of the Credo spirit and story as each bowl is hand painted by one of our Credo family. Each bowl not only carries the food in which we eat off but the shared stories we all hold and share in Credo.
I taught a homeless man to code
My preconceptions about homelessness have been shattered. I always thought homeless people were isolated, but Leo is part of a very supportive community. He says the hardest thing is not the practical challenges but society’s view of him. There is an assumption that homeless people are addicted to something or mentally ill, but Leo doesn’t drink or smoke; he became homeless after he lost his job and then his accommodation in 2011.
At the start of this project, I wrote a blog about it and was inundated with responses. Some were moved and inspired; others were more negative, suggesting I should focus on buying Leo food or finding him somewhere to live instead. This idea is a tricky one. I consider Leo a friend. If he said he needed anything, I’d jump through hoops for him, but I don’t ever want him to think we are anything but equals.
Disadvantaged young people face ‘life sentence of poverty and exclusion’
“For many of the young people … this essentially means a life sentence of poverty and exclusion because they don’t have the qualifications they need.”
Australians in 2013: happy, confident – but not as friendly as we used to be
This year, 28% of us disagreed with the proposition that “accepting migrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger”; and 25% admitted to having “negative feelings” to migrants from the Middle East and Lebanon in particular. Markus takes this to be code for Muslim.
Intolerant Australia appears to be becoming more intolerant. Markus reports a sharp rise in discrimination. The 2013 survey revealed 40% or more of all new arrivals from Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, China and Hong Kong have experienced discrimination because of their colour, race or religion.
Markus is loth to tie this deteriorating situation directly to the politics of the boats. He found our attitudes to asylum seekers have further hardened in the past year: 33% of us now want all refugee boats turned back and only 18% support our treaty obligations to give refugees arriving by boat permanent residence in this country.