Parishes, schools and agencies

City on a Hill's solidarity street sleep

A street count in July 2018 found almost 400 people sleeping rough across five inner-Melbourne council areas. Over two weekends this winter, volunteers from City on a Hill Anglican Church's community ministry Many Rooms slept rough on the streets of Melbourne in solidarity with and support of people experiencing homelessness.

September 3 2018

Amanda Warrick, director of Many Rooms, which provides practical support and care for disadvantaged and marginalised people, said, “The aim of this event was an immersion experience so that we could better understand the needs of those who serve at our Friday night and Saturday drop-in centre kitchens — to build compassion and relationship with those who have not.”

The Friday and Saturday Kitchens provide nutritious meals in a safe environment to marginalised and homeless people in Melbourne’s CBD. Over the course of a year, around 9000 meals are served up.

Melissa Tan, a volunteer with Many Rooms’ Community Development Team, participated in the first Street Sleep (29 June-1 July), which coincided with one of the coldest weekends this winter.

She wrote on her blog about the experience, saying, “The most valuable thing you can give freely to another person is your time – and on the weekend of our winter sleepout this year, the community of rough sleepers in Melbourne gave us so much of theirs.

“One gentleman, a regular at the Friday Kitchen, was undergoing chemotherapy and still insisted on showing us around the streets. After being sexually abused as a seven-year-old, he spent the last 50 years on the streets. We heard about the difficulties of experiencing homelessness, and the vast improvement in resources and services in the last thirty years. It was encouraging to see the array of resources and the community power of grassroots organisations in assisting those sleeping rough. Despite this, the reality is that Melbourne is not the most liveable city in the world.

“Homelessness doesn’t always look or act the part. There is a myth about people experiencing homelessness as being ‘lazy’, ‘uncaring’ and ‘unmotivated’ — yet so many in the community were the first to jump to our aid.

“On our first night sleeping under the pylons, the residents there were quick to ask if we needed an extra blanket, or extra piece of cardboard. Those who we met on the weekend were so eager to share their hurts and hopes; their broken pasts and their dreams for the future. I met a former Irish poet, an 88-year-old Lithuanian on a ‘walkabout’, a business owner who used to make $4K a week, two teenagers on the run, and a man who still dreams of the day he can see his son again.”

Ms Tan said of the Street Sleep, “This was not a ‘stunt’, nor a fundraising opportunity, nor a physical endurance test. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to hear from and share with our friends in the community and to witness their stories first hand.”