Only one thing going for him

It’s Sunday evening and the dining room at the Missionaries of Charity Men’s Refuge and Soup Kitchen, Fitzroy, is almost empty.  The men have eaten, scraped their plates in the bin and headed into the night.  I’ve mopped the floor and piled the chairs, but one man is hanging around.  He’s new, I haven’t seen him before.  I can see he’s up for a chat.  He picks up his bag, puts it down, picks it up, puts it down again.

His name is Stephen.  He’s tall, bearded, middle-aged.  He looks like an Auskick father.  He could be an accountant, a librarian. He’s not.  He’s homeless.

Stephen starts talking.  He arrived from Sydney recently and has been sleeping rough in the Carlton Gardens.  Being April, nights aren’t too cold yet, but recent rain has made sleep difficult.  And you don’t know who’s lurking around.  There’s always someone more desperate than you.  He gestures at his bag.  It contains everything he owns.  The sisters have given him a room in the short-stay refuge above the soup kitchen.  The sisters only allow men over forty-five stay upstairs.  Drugs on the streets are getting too heavy and the young men invariably grow violent if they have a hit and land back at the refuge.

Stephen is a truck driver.  He’s had his licence for years.  He couldn’t find work in Sydney and things spiralled out of control.  You know how it is.  Originally from Melbourne, Stephen reckons he’ll find work here.  It’s an easier city to get around.

Stephen picks up his bag and puts it down again.

Two young female volunteers enter the dining room to say goodnight.  Also from Sydney, they’ve been in Melbourne for the week staying with the sisters at the convent around the corner.  Both are considering joining the Missionaries of Charity order.  One believes she has received the calling.  The other is undecided; she’d also like a family one day.  God will help me make the right decision, she says.  The women smile and leave through the front door.

Stephen has retreated to the corner, however, returns.  He’s made a few wrong decisions in his day.  Mostly to do with the grog.  It’s led him down the wrong path.  He’s ok when not on it, but can’t stop at just one or two.  If he has a taste, he’s gone.  Can’t walk past a pub without feeling the pull.  Stephen shakes his head and looks at the floor.  I wonder if he has a family, but dare not ask.  Too many of the men who come here have lost contact with wives, children, parents, friends.

Haven’t got much going for me these days, Stephen says.  Actually, there’s one thing.  He pauses.  The Pies.  They’re going alright for me.

Comments

  1. it is a wonderful story, and better than so many.
    Do you find that many homeless people have mental health issues as well?
    From my office last week I saw police deploy a taser against an indigeneous man outside a bulk billing medical centre.
    It is across the road from an early opening pub.
    Although, I have no idea as to why the Taser was used, it seemed to me a distant tragedy.
    Not unlike watching the evening news.
    It must be heart wrenching to by up close and personal.

    Well done Andrew best I can ever do is a donation.

  2. Touching piece.
    It’s really great that you are doing your part for society.
    It takes a special person to go out and help in such ways, so keep up the amazing work. :)
    This also shows everyone that footy is not just a game, its real passion that keeps us going and for some its all they’ve got.

    Danni

  3. John Butler says

    Something to put a proper context on things.

    Lovely piece Andrew.

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Wonderful perspective Andrew.

    The AFL is doing its best to alienate people like Stephen with the Pay TV rort.

    Hope you enjoyed the Roos win yesterday. Excellent piece.

  5. ramondobb says

    Wow, what a raw but touching piece – thank you. Amazing how this great game of ours can be a shining light for so many from various walks of life and situations. Hopefully the mighty Pies can continue to give him a smile at this tough time but more importantly life in general turns for the better.

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