I’ve spent this week on the streets of Brisbane. I’m up to day six. Two more nights to go. Every day I’ve been speaking with homeless folk and listening deeply to their stories. I’ve been wearing track suit pants and a flanno I bought for four bucks at an op shop on Monday. My stench is pretty accurate by now too. People are looking at me differently. It’s diminishing. Soul crushing. I feel powerless… voiceless.
Last night we slept under Kurilpa Bridge. There were several homeless folk hidden around a wall. We slept right under the bridge in a more comfortable spot out of the way but visible if you were looking for us.
The police arrived at 2am. They told us to move on. I asked if we had to… we had an appointment near there the next morning in only a few hours and really needed the sleep. She said all homeless folk needed to move on. I asked her where they would go. She said she didn’t care just not here. I told her that we weren’t actually homeless but we were raising awareness for the homeless. She said we weren’t doing anything for homeless people. I told her I ran a charity and we kinda actually do quite a lot (trying not to be smart about it). She said we still had to move on. I asked if all the other homeless folk who were hidden around the corner would have to go too. She said it was okay if they were hiding. Like that was a real solution. And I guess it is because she’s employed to police what the community charge her to do… what most people are too afraid to do. It’s cowardly members of the community who call them on the their smart phones while going for a jog in their Lorna Jane gear before they start their six figure salary job for the day… they’re just outsourcing the bullying to the police. So for the police if the homeless bloke is effectively hidden they don’t get the phone call and the issue is solved. If the problem is hidden we, as a community, don’t need to deal with it. But that’s not okay. And that’s what I told her. Hiding the homeless isn’t solving it.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Every person I’ve spoken to has had several devastating blows that have driven them on to the street. Yeh there’s a few weirdos who actually choose it. Most want to live a healthy normal life and they’re doing what they can to get there.
I’m filled with rage over what our society is doing to these people. We just pick on them. We’re kicking them while we’re down and we need to stop. Hear this, if you’re doing nothing right now, then you’re part of the problem.
There are a few hundred beds in various hostels around Brisbane. The problem is there’s a few thousand homeless people. Whatever family and friends they are lucky to have remaining are here in Brisbane so we can’t just send them away without causing even more harm to already strained relationships. Until we setup more accommodation for them they’re gonna be on our streets and it’s our responsibility to look after them as the church, as a community… and as a city.
We need to face this. It is an issue. We need to stop looking away and start dealing with it.