Friday, 29th November, 2019
The last three days for me have been eye-opening, fun, educational, exhausting and satisfying. I’ve joined Year 10 on their community service project, learning about the crisis of homelessness, and providing practical support to vulnerable people most in need.
Across Australia, there are 117,000 homeless people. Every night in Australia there are 8,000 people sleeping rough. However, homelessness also includes men, women, young people and families staying in refuges or crisis accommodation, or who move from one temporary accommodation to another. It includes people who ‘couch surf’, or stay in cheap hotels, or live in their cars; and people living in severely overcrowded accommodation that falls well below basic standards. Yesterday we heard the story of one mother who lived on trains with her children, washing them every morning at the station before dropping them off at school. She would ride the trains during the day to sleep, because at night she stayed awake to protect her family.
On Wednesday we began with a walk through the streets of Kings Cross and Darlinghurst, led by people who have experienced homelessness, abuse and addiction. They generously shared their life stories, and the girls listened with great interest and respect. Despite the sadness and tragedy, we were inspired by their determination and courage in turning their lives around. I asked our guide, Grace, the meaning of one of her tattoos, Keep Going. ‘It means never give up,’ she told us, ‘You can do it!’.
We have also learned about the problem of food scarcity in Australia, and cooked meals in community kitchens for people living rough on the streets, for women’s refuges and domestic violence shelters. We made toys and care packs for refugees, and for the pets of the homeless.
On Thursday we enjoyed lunch at the Heart Cafe in Bondi, a social enterprise initiative run by unemployed young people who receive traineeships in the hospitality industry. One of the best discoveries for me has been the number of volunteer initiatives there are to support people in need. There are so many very good people in our world, and so much to be grateful for. Sometimes, with all the challenges life throws at us, it’s good to be reminded of that.
Dr Katrina George