ONCE I thought I would write a book about what it is like to be homeless. I wanted this book to inspire readers, to make them go “wow, people live like this in Australia? This can’t be right.”
This blog is my compromise.
I have met too many people who spend their nights in the Hungry Jacks of the CBD who believe they cannot complain because their life is better than those in foreign countries. They’ve been told to believe this by those who’ve been told by others told by others who have seen what it is like in Africa.
But just because most of us in Australia are wealthy and stable and not forced to slavery doesn’t mean we should neglect those closest to us and assume everything is okay.
I signed up to work for the Order 614 Project in Melbourne CBD. I passed men shooting up in alleyways and met people living under bridges when I worked the food van at midnight. I volunteered close to 70 hours a week attending workshops by local rappers and supervising kids in the children’s court while their guardians debated their future to the magistrate and solicitors. Performing karaoke and Wii bowling alongside those who were abusing volatile chemicals (chroming). Visiting Wittlesea in the aftermath of Victorian bushfires.
It was 2009. It was a year’s internship. How old was I? 19, I think. I felt obligated in a gap year between years of uni to join the Salvation Army program. Why?
It was to serve Jesus. I told myself this. In hindsight it was probably part true – part bullshit.
It was to save people. From something. I don’t know what.
It was in the name of adventure. Yeah.
It was to delay life for a while until I made up my mind because I sure as hell didn’t know why I was studying journalism anymore.
All these reasons I think.
I gave up, you know. Not just writing the book. I gave up on The Cause (promoting social justice issues,). I gave up on Jesus and the daily prayer and bible and speaking in tongues. When I finished the year I was lonely and exhausted and confused about my life and where it was going and what the point of fitting into society was, when it only praised superficiality as success.
it was a series of events the years after that led to my bland cynicism, my years as an objective newspaper journalist numbing the pain of power games in my day-to-day life, and the rough domestic situation dealing with an alcoholic stepfather. In these years I forgot about my Order year. My life felt like it has been leading to something – each year except 2009. This year is the wildcard and exception and I don’t yet have use for it.
But I think I’ll blog this “book” in installments. And this is the first cut, the first chop of the process, an attempt to capture the enormity of feelings I have felt in recent years.
Not so much of working with the homeless but of what exposure to it taught me when I was left to live my life as normal.