Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Street people

Thanks to Episcopal Padre for the following video which intrigued me as it is partly shot in my home city.

I recognise one man sitting on the ground, he is nearly always to be found in the most upmarket shopping precinct. I am fairly sure some of the others are men who sleep in the porch of the court buildings next to our church.
Sadly they are one of the reasons, our church has to employ a security guard on Sunday.
Women in all Anglican churches in Sydney are advised to carry their purses with them to the communion rail and most churches arrange for one sidesperson to take communion first and another last so there is always someone watching from the back of the church. So sad.
When I was growing up in Sydney, it was most unusual to have someone ask you for money in the street or on trains. While expected, it was rather a shock when I first visited Asia in 1974 and even when I went onto Europe later. However, even today, Sydney is nothing like San Francisco or Paris which are the worse for this activity in Western cities I have recently visited.
I guess the growth in such activity can be put down to drugs and also the fact that mentally ill persons are no longer locked up in asylums.

To my mind, there is no need for people to beg in Australia. Our social security system, while it has its faults, should see that people have at least the bare necessities especially when augmented by the many charities run by church and other groups.
I realise that mental problems exacerbated by drugs mean that some people are unable to organise their life even to accept the help that is available.
I soon learnt in Asia that if you give money, you are soon surrounded and having to push people away.
In Australia, I am very suspicious of anyone asking for money as I am fairly sure how it will be spent. I prefer to give to charities who are equipped to provide real assistance. I do speak to the men outside our church when they greet me.
Perhaps I should offer my services to a charity to help but I am not sure I am well equipped.

I have a friend from school days. We met in the first year of high school. He was very effeminate, had a terrible home life about which he only told me in later years while we were at university. He was academically brilliant gaining a doctorate in chemistry and a masters in English. He tried teaching but the students made mincemeat of him. As students we use to think it was a joke to hold his hands still, he could not continue talking. He did have some government office jobs but they were probably difficult for someone of his mental capacity.

I reconnected with him a few years ago. He told me he suffers from bipolar disorder, has been unemployed for years and lives in government housing. I visited him, his apartment is stacked high with newspapers with narrow passageways from room to room, a real fire hazard. He tells me marijuana is a help to his condition. We went out for lunch and I discovered he has been banned from all the local hotels but I was able to buy wine at a bottle shop. He wanted 2 bottles and when I pointed out that I was driving and 2 glasses would be my maximum, he said he would drink the rest.
We actually talked for several hours so I probably drank more than 2 glasses.

After lunch he asked me to help him transport a 2nd hand TV he wished to buy so we went to the shop and during the price haggling there was some misunderstanding with the shop owner which led to my friend becoming verbally violent and claiming it was my presence that stopped him being physically violent.
Needless to say, I was very embarrassed and have never visited him again although I feel guilty about that.
However, despite his obvious problems, social welfare does provide him with a home and food, he does not need to beg. Perhaps I am too judgemental.


Fran said...

This post leaves me filled with many feelings and emotions, so all I will say is thank you for posting it, thank you very much.

God bless you BrianR.

Birdie said...

What a helpless feeling it must be, to watch and be able to do nothing tangible. Acceptance is our only recourse at times like this. He is living the only life of which he is capable. He is safe. Lift him up in prayer.

Doorman-Priest said...

Just the same here and no obvious solution either, sadly.