Where do the homeless sleep this winter?
As we all know, winter is here. Because it’s so cold I often feel guilty for having a warm place to sleep, while so many people are sleeping rough. As you may have read and seen in the media, people became homeless for so many reasons.
I have a real concern for the homeless in the ACT. I wonder how they are going to cope in the cold and wet this winter. With COVID-19, so many organisations and places are suspended that would normally support some of the most vulnerable people.
A few years ago, many rough sleepers used to sleep in the car parks around the city. Not an ideal situation, but apparently you could usually find a quiet spot, tucked in under one of the up or down ramps. The concrete was cold, but a few old cartons could protect you a bit and there was some protection from the wind. At least frost did not settle on you.
The most common complaint I hear today is that these sites are no longer available. Security has increased, so unfortunately the homeless are usually unceremoniously moved on. So where are they going to sleep this winter?
Yesterday we had a client come to St John’s Care, who we will call Simon (not his real name). He was so cold that he could not talk. I offered him a takeaway coffee and a blanket to help warm him up while he sat in the sun.
Simon and I spoke about why he came into the Centre. He told me that he has been sleeping on the street for 5 months now. He lost his home in the fires. He has not found a job and has found it hard as he can’t shower every day and doesn’t sleep at night. I asked about Centrelink and he told me that he does not have any documentation to show who he is.
He then mentioned that another homeless person had stolen his tent and sleeping bag while he was getting some food two weeks ago.
While a volunteer was getting him some food, a swag (lucky last), a sleeping bag and some warm clothes, we discussed who might be able to support him. I suggested that we contact Street Law and Onelink to see if they were able to assist.
After our conversation, Simon left feeling warmer and happier knowing that someone was there to help him when he needed it most. He said that he finds it hard to ask for help but he couldn’t sleep another night without something warm. He was so grateful for all the support we gave him.
SJC Programs and Fundraising Manager Community Worker
Items required: Large tinned fish, full cream long life milk and Vegemite.