So often, we ponder what we can do to help “the homeless” and yet, the answer is simple: “SOMETHING“. Don’t just simply walk past. After all, good intentions still amount to doing nothing!
Yes, I know that’s not always as easy as it sounds BUT…
One thing I do is buy a copy of The Big Issue magazine when I’m in the city. It’s a small thing but it’s SOMETHING and it’s helping people through established channels. That takes all the guesswork out of what happens to your money.
I also like to chat to the Vendors and hear their stories.
On Monday, while Miss and I were in Sydney, we met Tim and his dog, Nugget. Tim and Nugget are both Vendors for The Big Issue.
The Big Issue is a fortnightly, independent magazine that is sold on the streets by homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people. Vendors buy copies of the magazine for $3 and sell them for $6, earning the difference. There are vendors set up right throughout the Sydney CBD (and beyond) and they’ve become an approachable interface where you can get to know “the homeless” and appreciate their individual stories and destigmatize sleeping rough. The magazine is available in both print and digital versions from vendors. The Big Issue also sells subscriptions to the magazine, providing jobs for homeless and disadvantaged women through their Women’s Subscription Enterprise. Here’s a link: http://www.thebigissue.org.au/the-big-issue-magazine/about/
Vendors usually have “their corner”, which I guess you could say, is something of a “pop-up shop”. Tim and Nugget are usually on the corner of Elizabeth and Market Streets, Sydney outside David Jones’s exclusive city store, where everything is pure luxury and glamour. Quite frankly, you can’t help notice the enormous gulf between these two worlds. That said, money doesn’t buy happiness either.
So often, I hear the question: Is sleeping rough a choice or a necessity?
Quite frankly, this is something I know nothing about. As much as writers are told to write about what they know, I also believe we need to pursue what we don’t know, ask questions and investigate the great unknown. I know nothing about being homeless and have always had Mum and Dad…that safety net. What I took for granted, is seemingly a luxury. Family is something we should never take for granted.
Tim tells me that finding accommodation is difficult. Hostels are full and it’s hard to find accommodation which accepts dogs.As for making the leap from living on the streets to finding bond and paying weekly rent, that’s a huge step and as much as someone might want to climb back up the mountain, it can be incredibly intimidating.
Becoming a Vendor for The Big Issue is one way of making those baby steps forward.
Hearing Tim and Nugget’s story, you might also wonder whether homeless people should have pets.
As much as you might think that responsible pet ownership should include having a home, Tim explains how Nugget gives him love, companionship and a reason to wake up. Although Tim has been sleeping rough for a long time, he adopted Nugget recently after a devastating personal loss and Nugget is family. Consequently, Tim and Nugget usually sleep rough in Hyde Park across the road. However, on a good day, they head out to a caravan park out at Hurstville, which accepts pets and charges $50.00 a night, which is their idea of 4 Star!. Tim also has a collection for Nugget and I did notice two lamb’s hearts on the mat, so Nugget isn’t going without..at least today!
By the way, you’ll notice that Nugget is sporting a highly fashionable woollen dog jumper. To the best of my knowledge, this didn’t come from the David Jones “Dogwear Department” but was a gift from Pets in the Park to keep warm through Winter. Although Sydney’s Winter’s are comparatively mild, even a street dog needs a bit of added TLC!
I’d never heard of Pets in the Park before.
Pets in the Park (PITP) aims to support, build relationships with and improve the wellbeing of homeless people in society living with animal companions. Many people who are experiencing homelessness own pets which offer unconditional love, companionship, emotional support and security… basic human needs that are often not met elsewhere. Although pet ownership greatly enriches the lives of those who are homeless, it also comes at a significant financial cost. Annual vaccinations, flea treatment, routine worming, and de-sexing and microchipping an animal costs hundreds of dollars.
PITP is a registered charity with DGR (deductible gift recipient) status that runs free monthly pet health clinics in Darlinghurst and Parramatta and free quarterly de-sexing clinics. PITP is run completely by volunteer veterinarians and veterinary nurses, and strives to provide emotional and educational support to owners and practical help to their pets in a social and friendly environment. By reducing the financial burden of pet ownership, and by promoting access to human social services by operating in partnership with established providers such as Rough Edges Darlinghurst, PITP aims to make a difference to both animals and people in Sydney experiencing homelessness.
So, you could say, you learn something new everyday. That instead of simply walking past and getting caught up in the philosophical rights and wrongs, supporting homeless people through recognised channels is an effective way of making a difference.
Even the smallest contribution can bring more than a smile!
Moreover, just because we do not have the answers, that doesn’t mean we should stop asking questions.
PS: Tim consented to be photographed and appear in this story, which I will be forwarding to the Big Issue.
A Homeless Story from Hawaii
Recently, my friend Tom and dog Max from Within the K Streets blogged about a homeless man in Hawaii. He hadn’t seen One Guy for awhile and was concerned about what might have happened. https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/one-guy/
Tom later went on to hear that One Guy had had a heart attack and had been taken to hospital by a stranger and then received appropriate treatment and is now doing much better. His daughter, a photographer, was doing a story about homelessness and actually found here Dad living on the streets and this is her story: I Thought He would Die: Daughter Documents Homeless Dad’s Life: http://kindnessblog.com/2015/08/18/i-thought-he-would-die-daughter-documents-homeless-dads-life/