It’s simple – we’re all human beings
Published 1 December 2018
In the wake of the tragic Bourke Street stabbings, a hero emerged. A homeless man who grabbed a shopping trolley and used it to try to deter the assailant, creating space between the offender and the police. He became known as “trolley man.” When I first saw the footage I was not in the least bit surprised that a homeless person put themselves in harm’s way to protect others. Later, when details emerged of his criminal activity, I barely raised an eyebrow.
I have seen it over and over again, where a person living on the streets intervenes in situations where most average people would not. Many of those I meet in our service are desensitised to violence and have highly protective instincts. I have had conversations with our visitors where they speak of being stabbed or brutally bashed as if it was to them like getting the common cold is to me. Only recently a man came to us after escaping a situation where he was held against his will and violently treated. He had not yet sought medical care or police intervention for some significant injuries but once with us, our team acted quickly. He was back visiting with us shortly after, where I suspect most would have been in hospital for at least a few days.
At 3rd Space we see many visitors who have a cyclical relationship with the corrections system. It is not uncommon for us to see people released from prison onto the street, with a small payment, inadequate or no accommodation and absolutely no support. Statistics suggest that some of them are dead within months of release and many of them are re-incarcerated. The proportion of homeless people who enter the corrections system is significant.
These issues are not, as people suggest, complex. These are people – human beings like you and me – who have previous life traumas. They often come from disadvantaged and poverty ridden backgrounds, have less education and opportunities in life, have chronic physical and mental-health conditions, can have dependencies on drugs and alcohol and simply have never been able to catch a break. Our society often blames and condemns them for their situation, but that is easy to say from the comfort of our air-conditioned offices and Google-enabled homes.
A groundswell of financial support formed for Michael Rogers, which I think is practical, useful and will provide him with the means to make life look different. What I wish for him, in addition to the financial support, is for him to be included in his community, for people to reach out and make social connections with him and for him to receive whatever support he needs to optimise his physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing. On Thursday 8 November 2018, Michael was for the most part, invisible to society and community. On Friday 9 November 2018, he was visible because he became a hero. Today the country has forgotten him again.
Homelessness is unattractive. It makes us feel uncomfortable. It is unrealistic to think that a groundswell of community support will form to attack the issue at a systemic level. But at 3rd Space, we are clear on what we are about – which is breaking the cycle of homelessness, supporting people today and preparing them for tomorrow. We would love you to support us in our work by making a donation in the lead-up to Christmas. We want to do the work, but need your help to do it.
3rd Space CEO