When is an alcove a home? Sadly, it is more often than any of us would like to imagine as we enjoy the comfort of four walls and a cosy bed.
Hosier Lane, which features on the Crosslight cover, is a famous Melbourne laneway. Tourists flock there to take selfies among the colourful street art adorning the brick walls. It is also home to the Youth Projects Living Room drop-in centre, which provides free healthcare and support to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
In late August the alcoves were being boarded up in preparation for some local building works, removing sleeping options for some of Melbourne’s homeless. As this was happening Crosslight spoke to Gary, who was visiting the Living Room to collect medication for his diabetes.
“It’s just very, very hard for people in low-income situations and who are genuinely trying,” Gary said of the difficulty of accessing housing.
“They don’t go out and do crime and do drugs – the majority of us just try to get along day-by-day, step-by-step. It’s very hard.”
A recent count of rough sleepers in Melbourne reported that the number of people living on the street had doubled in the last two years.
Churches are very familiar with this significant societal issue, and many seek to find creative ways to support these extremely vulnerable members of our community. It might be as simple as allowing homeless people to find shelter on church properties through to establishing breakfast clubs or looking for alternative accommodation options.
Homelessness is one of the ‘wicked’ problems facing the globe. People end up homeless due to a multitude of factors, which can develop very quickly or compound over time. Visible homelessness accounts for only a fraction of a much deeper problem – people who couch surf, sleep in cars, are in refuges, short stay accommodation or a family of six sleeping in one room.
A letter to Crosslight this month outlines the growth in homelessness in the City of Wyndham. The author writes: “The area has the highest number of forced rental evictions in the state and two of the top eight postcodes for ‘mortgage delinquency’ in Victoria.”
Walking past a beggar or a rough sleeper raises a range of emotions for all of us … helplessness, anger, embarrassment, fear, compassion, empathy.
Pilgrim Theological College’s Katharine Massam draws attention to John Calvin’s writing on prayer in this issue of Crosslight “… he prompts us to remember that prayer enables more than we can understand, in us and beyond us. We will always be surprised by what God can do. Prayer empowers a new imagination.”
When we feel helpless and overwhelmed by the world’s wicked problems, remember that we are all called to prayer.