In the last couple of days I’ve done a couple of things a little out of the odinary: I’ve been to a homeless men’s shelter and I’ve visited “The Block”. And no, I’m not talking about the home renovation show, I’m talking about The Block, which was one of the first pieces of land in urban areas owned by Aboriginal people (aside from forty thousand years previous, but you know what I mean.
The block also has a reputation for lawlessness and poverty, and I will admit, it was with some trepidation that I wandered along. It was a case of the rational brain saying there was nothing to worry about, while the emotional brain was believing everything I’d read in the paper, half-expecting crack houses and physical violence. Mind you, there were a couple of houses without windows or doors at the front (they were bricked up), and it was an alcohol-free event, so in a different circumstance some of the fears might have been justified. I just don’t know.
But anyway, I was really keen to go to see Kate and her son, Tom, who is in a band called
“Combat Wombat” which was playing as part of the Rock The Block Musical Festival.
The last time I’d seen Combat Wombat play was about twelve months ago at the Hopetoun Hotel. Even if Tom weren’t part of the band, I’d really like their work, combining excellent music skills with overtly political lyrics, highlighting environmentalism, peace activism, indigenous rights, etc.
It was a good, fun afternoon/evening which I enjoyed immensely. As well as Combat Wombat, I really enjoyed seeing the young (early teens) rappers doing their thing.
And then this morning I went to a homeless men’s shelter, due to a work commitment. Again, it was a case of the “rational” brain vs “the media brain” leading to personal safety fears.
At the shelter I visited, a fair percentage of the men would be sleeping outside, would have some form of mental illness, and would probably lead lives involving alcohol/drug abuse and/or physical violence and abuse. To put it frankly, they’re the “scarey men” you generally avoid on the streets of Sydney.
But although the nearby laneway was a little scarey, no doubt due to people wanting to either sell drugs or abuse the men in some way, the hostel itself was okay. It was just men coming in for a shower, a meal, some company and some recreation, looking for a “safe place” in the midst of pretty complex and confronting lives.
This was described as “the pointy end” of homelessness, and an area which many of the men who go through prefer not to be reminded of later in life. Although I can’t say I was entirely comfortable, it wasn’t as scarey as I thought.
On occasion I felt a tear swell in my eye, quickly stopping. The men don’t deserve (nor probably want) my sympathy nor my tears, nor my help on “Christmas Day” (there’s hardly any volunteers on Boxing Day, apparently).
In the grand scheme of things these were two short incidents in my own personal awakening. But it’s not about me, it’s about them.