Wednesday 25 October 2017


All photos copyright Runningonempty.

St Paul's Anglican Cathedral Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, this week.

All photos copyright Runningonempty.

The main entrance, above.

All photos copyright Runningonempty.

Copyright Runningonempty.

All photos copyright Runningonempty.

Where I was praying, above.

All photos copyright Runningonempty.

Floors and steps in the rear section.

All photos copyright Runningonempty.

All photos copyright Runningonempty.

Some back doors, above.

All photos copyright Runningonempty.

At this point I handed the iPad to Acerules, who continued shooting.

I was remiss one day this week. That's par for the course, I'm remiss about something nearly every day, but I just thought of this one. I forgot to pray in the cathedral I was in, for a possibly homeless man I had just "met". I remembered to pray for our sick dog, family and friends, and for my husband to keep his job. I should not say "met" , as, unusually, I didn't have a conversation with the gentleman, as I would have had in the past. Why? Maybe because I was anxious to get back to my daughter, in the cafe. No, I still made time to take photographs for this blog. 

I think it was because of a newspaper article and editor's opinion I had read that day. One that probably meant to elbow governments into helping homeless people in Melbourne, but actually fostered division and fear between we the readers, and them, the homeless, as it drew attention to a few "bad apples", erratic behavers due to alcohol , drug intake, or mental illness.  Maybe it created fear in me where normally I have none,  with people who could be me, if my house burned down, or some lawsuit took it, or many other reasons.

A couple of weeks ago, Acerules and I were sitting at a bus stop in the suburbs of Melbourne, (the wrong busstop, as it turned out, we missed the bus and had to walk) . Two men came up who were drunk, one more than the other, arms covered in tattoos, and wearing a singlet. A type that is called a "bogan" here. The more intoxicated one sat down with his can of drink next to me, the other one was facing us,  Acerules was on my other side, and I was concerned for her, as no one else was around. I signalled to her to stay quiet. They struck up a conversation with each other, and got around to the subject of a man they both knew who had died. They knew him from the streets thereabouts. The one next to me said "he died inside, in a house. " He repeated that several times. Their voices were still loud and the situation didn't feel safe. The other man left, and I knew the one next to me was going to say something (I've lived around drunks as neighbours for years). I said to him, "I'm sorry about your friend." He mumbled something and I said it again, "I'm sorry you lost your friend." I really was. He said , in a quiet and thoughtful voice, "thanks, I am sad." With that the atmosphere was safe again, and we started walking to our ebay seller's house.

Clip from Godspell.

"Flowers of thy heart, oh God are they. Let them not pass like weeds away."
From Godspell.

Going back around ten years, I was walking past the solid wall of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, a very similar neo -Gothic Cathedral to the above one pictured, but it is Catholic. My son had been accepted into a youth master class for three days at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) . It was an honour, but we lived so far out from the city, and he would need an escort. Mischievously, I asked the school if one of the (very highly paid) beaurocrats at the Education Department offices could be allocated to escort he and the other boy chosen (out of over 1000 students at their school, and the other boy didn't show up.) The answer came back No, so I resigned myself to marking time in the city for three days. It was fun. I walked alot. I saw the Asian tourists and artists flocking in the Gardens among the flowering cherry trees, and figured out which fountain I could get a drink from. I visited a museum to offer a beautiful article of national historical value, as we were moving to Victoria, I'll save that for another post. I walked along the water's edge all around the famous Opera House, etc.

So, my encounter story. (If you think I go off on tangents here, you should speak to me in person, I'm worse!) I was walking past the solid wall of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney one of those days. There was a person begging in one of the indentations in the wall. I struck up a conversation. He said that the Cathedral clergy came out and told him to move on, when he was sleeping in one of those nooks, one Winter night. He had bare feet. 

It stuck in my mind, because the Cathedral, at that time, was preparing for a visit from Pope Benedict. There was going to be a service in the large forecourt out front, which was refurbished for the occasion, and activities inside, too. Youth from all over the world were going to come . The Archbishop commissioned a very expensive addition to the elaborate Victorian period detailing inside. A team of craftsmen from a woodworking firm made a carved screen , figurative, and intricate, a masterpiece, that doubtless enabled the old skills to live on and to not die out, while employing people, thus helping the economy.

But stop. At that same time they were moving homeless people on in the dead of winter without offering an alternative?  

"When wilt thou save the people? Oh God of mercy when? The people, Lord the people, not thrones and crowns, but men?" Godspell.

 Out the back, in the park, there was an outfit called Just Enough Faith. They were non denominational, non religious. Using volunteer labour and donated food from restaurants, they fed over 900 poor people , from a van, every night four courses: soup, hot main, cooked dessert, and fruit, within view of the Cathedral, yet not of it. A restaurant quality meal, for free, with the menu varied. My hubby was one of the cooking volunteers, as he worked in hospitality, and he said there was a mountain of food prepared from scratch, vegetables, meat, etc., during each day in the kitchen in the suburbs. It was a logistical feat of organisation, 365 days a year, any army could be proud of.

Later on, our circumstances changed, he had been unemployed for awhile, but we were still in the 3 month waiting period to be eligible for government assistance. He would sometimes jump on a train and take the hour trip into the city ,  to bring us back meals, from Just Enough Faith, in disposable plastic lidded containers, the same as restaurant food, very nice. The founder had had a successful career owning restaurants when on one occasion he happened to spend a night or several, sleeping on the streets. This opened his eyes, and he vowed to bring professionally cooked food to the struggling and the homeless, using the vast amounts of restaurant waste at that time. 

I did not know how to give back. My hubby would eat there before he brought back the food, sitting with the "battlers" (Aussie term for struggling people in this country.) Some were homeless, some in boarding houses, he said, one in a one room apartment. One lady there would knit, night after night, she was one of the ones he got to know personally, he showed them photos in his wallet of our kids. At Christmas that year, the knitting lady gave him a knitted ornament for our tree, hanging from a humble pipe cleaner. It remains the most precious one, up there with the cigar smoking angel that was my mother's, and a huge glass bauble sent to me by a dear friend in the US last year.

I did not know how to give back, so I cut armfuls of roses from my garden, that I had planted in more prosperous times, and sent them with hubby on the train, to give out to the volunteers and friends, which were well received.  Our hard times ended, on that occasion, but for many, they would not have. We sold a property, and moved down South, in this hemisphere, that means colder Winters in Melbourne than Sydney, and yet, there are hardly any homeless shelters down South? Certainly nowhere near enough to meet the need.

What happened to Just Enough Faith? Well, they got "up the noses" of the established churches and charities, I remember, and eventually the founder was allegedly seen gambling somewhere, leading to accusations he was using the donations. My husband, son and I were positive it was a "beat up". In fact I think it was the devil's work, the rivalry, and the accusation. We knew the man had made extensive use of his own funds, and he couldn't have been feeding 900 people every night of the year, a four course meal, without using every dollar of the donations. I only went there once, when hubby was volunteering in the van, and I was amazed at the crowd. Well, Just Enough Faith was shut down, leaving a huge gap, which was filled by a traditional church charity, again, not the Cathedral, but a Protestant group.  Later on, a charity was started to collect food from supermarkets that was going to go to waste.  Just Enough Faith had left an example.

So, getting back to Melbourne, to the gentleman sitting next to his wide brimmed, but not brimming , hat, on the front steps of the cafe that Acerules and I had our decaf and soy hot chocolate in, this Monday. When I put something in it, he thanked me in a well spoken manner. I said no worries, and got on with photographing that building, avoiding taking any of him. I went  upstairs and down, inside and out, and he was still there in front of one of several entrances.  I continued on around the side, then saw a group of police gathering who had just arrived. I was snapping everything, thus:

Copyright Runningonempty.

They approached the man, who still didn't have many coins in his hat. He was dressed in a Nepalese/Tibetan type purple poncho. You can just see it peeping out from behind Mr Drizabone * coat below. They spoke respectfully to him, in that they were quiet, but had out their notebooks, and the procedure took them long enough for me to go inside, pay, gather up Acerules and her sketches, and leave. As we were deciding what to do next, the man got up and walked slowly away. 

Copyright Runningonempty.

I think the police action was as a result of that day's newspaper article, which , in a nutshell was telling the authorities to do the weeding. 

I also think God was in this, despite my failure to pray for this citizen of "the lucky country". For some reason, he put Mr Drizabone coat, right there in front of the clear shot I know I took, of the man being asked to move on. He in his purple poncho was right in the frame.  Unlike cameras I've had, the iPad takes what I see when I see it, there's no delay. I think quickly, and as I pressed the button, I was wondering if it was ethical, but knowing this was "the money shot" not to sell, but to give to some organisation that could use it to help.

God thought otherwise. Maybe angels wear Drizabones. 

* A Drizabone is a traditional Australian Stockman's (farmer, or cowboy's) oilskin weatherproof coat. 

Please sign the campaign to ease homelessness. 


KEthical Politics said...

Did the police take the man away or just make him move along?

It is so sad to see someone who has no where to lay their head at night. In US many are mentally ill or addicted. There are few resources for these people to access so they are put in jails. Now the Trump government wants to make more private jails for them and the illegal immigrants they round up. They have very little legal representation and can end up spending years in jail as cheap labor for some big corporations. This hurts society in so many ways. Taxes are used to pay government money to a private prison for profit....which the labor provides cheap labor to make profit for corporations. There is no incentive by the government to help these people as long as Corps are making a profit from them. How is it different from slave labor? If they are adddicted and thrown in jails, they may die from lack of treatment. It has happened even in affluent communities, with young people who have no criminal history. Instead of treatment they are left to die. Not every prisoner gets medical help as they want people to think.
It seems the church you visited has no community conscience to help the people in their area. We give them tax free benefits in US and yet many do not do their civic service. Many send missionaries to other countries and ignore the beggars at their own door.

There will always be misfits in society. It is how we deal with them that reveals our own soul. I think your soul is in the right place.
I think your introspection at the man shielding the beggar at the very second you took the picture is thought provoking.

Fizzfan said...

Amazing comments KE.
Homelessness is one of the biggest shames of our so called civilised societies.
I can only imagine the feeling of worthlessness being viewed as a nuisance piece of garbage that it must bring.

One of the most interesting Ted Discussions I’ve heard for quite a while which could pretty much eradicate this problem.
A universal basic salary......

There are several discussions on the same topic. The stats are impressive and the results in countries which have adopted it (albeit on a small scale) very surprising.

KEthical Politics said...

Fizz although I agree with the universal salary the temperament and leadership in US today is against any form of safety nets and even healthcare for the poor in our society. This world wide movement leaning toward conservatism seems to be a belief of survival of the strongest and no concern for those who can’t step up. It minds me very much of the Hunger Games books and movies. Even though the book was written before Trump it portrays him perfectly. I am not happy in the direction US is moving. I think we will see more homeless and helpless people with fewer options to climb the ladder of success while the wealthy will reap most of the benefits of our society. It is almost as if government is saying wealth determines worthiness.

Fizzfan said...

It’s a terrifying prospect and completely wrong minded. We need brave conscious moves to unify us and wealth divided more evenly.

The Ted talks stated that in the experiments many negatives in our society were noticeably reduced, including health care bills, and surprisingly it didn’t encourage people not to work but to actually continue and even start their own businesses.

There seemed practically no down sides.

Being homeless and instantly marginalised apparently is no more than 3 missed monthly pay checks for many people. That’s a very sobering thought.

Running on empty said...

Great comments, Thankyou. People with all kinds of opinions, even opposite to mine, are welcome to comment.

KE, he walked away alone. I know that he can't be arrested for begging, he wasn't asking for money, just had his hat out upside down with a coin in it. When I go into the city I'm never harassed any more by these people, but the newspapers say it goes on with some bad apples.

A young man approached me asking for money in the city a few years ago, blocked my path. I said no, but I took him into the nearest supermarket and got him to choose some sensible lunch items, as I thought he might be an addict. In Sydney there were a few years where young men would be alwaysasking for money "so I can get home. " I thought they might be addicts. I would not open my purse if someone was blocking my path, it didn't feel safe. Many times I've given a sandwich from the nearest cafe instead. Two people, years apart, I bought shoes. They had bare feet and it was Winter.

one man slept on my porch. IMO he was not mentally ill or an addict. He taught me a few tips. He said he felt safer in the open, going in a stranger's house he could be cornered, and he wouldn't use a sleeping bag as if he was bashed he couldn't escape easily. He would migrate to warmer states in the Winter.

After a news paper campaign months ago, the Melbourne City Council tried to bring in a law making "sleeping rough" and begging illegal. There was an outcry from the Greens and other organisations that it was against human rights, so the Council backtracked on that.

I watched the video , Fizz. The thing I keep asking about the concept, is who is going to pay for it?

I don't agree with the speaker that all people would conserve their payment and be wise with it. I see drug and alcohol addiction right here in my street. There are spending, eating, gambling, sex industry addicts, etc., where their brains can simply not manage money.
then the other problem is that here, and in the US and other places the national debt levels are at record heights. We are on the verge of the biggest recession ever, IMO.

We have a minimum wage here in this country, that should be a bit more, but is a good system, if you can find a job. Jobs are getting scarcer that are enough hours to actually pay for necessities. Then there are the rogue industries that don't pay the minimum wage, but less, "under the counter".

Fizzfan said...

I don’t know that it’s a perfect system or idea, let’s face it nothing is, but people with no hope will fall into addiction just to negate the misery and worthlessness of their existence. It’s not only the poor that are addicts either. Drugs effect all sections of society. That’s a different topic for a different day maybe.

I simply like the idea of all people having at least a minimum safety net that would prevent them from falling into abject poverty.
There would always be those that fall through the cracks, but from the discussions I listened to there were many savings on health, policing and prison bills etc.
Another saving would probably come from the huge costs of not doling out individualised welfare.

The places that have put it into practise must have been able to afford it but the details were probably too lengthy to include in the discussion. It’s food for thought though and I actually do think that the majority of people wouldn’t squander it anymore than a person on welfare would. Why would they?

Running on empty said...

Ok, logistics again. The video said that even the richest would receive it, everyone. Now how many millionaires are going to agree to give up a big chunk of their hard earned, to pay out to other millionaires, or billionaires relatives? And the middle and working class certainly wouldn't.
The only way it could be introduced is if there was enforced communism, and that is out of fashion currently in most parts of the world.

Fizzfan said...

Yeah I didn’t agree with the wealthy getting it either. Seemed odd, but not sure if it was based on there just being no costs involved in checking who should or shouldn’t have it.

Couldn’t make the link with communism?

Running on empty said...

Communism uses the compulsory aquisition of funds and or assets to redistribute. If the rich wouldn't go along with paying for everyone to get it that's what you would need, isn't it?

Fizzfan said...

Still puzzled. We all pay for welfare etc through taxes, whether we use them or not. We already have a compulsory acquisition of funds.
Schools are a good example. Not everyone has children but we don’t ask only those with children to fund them.

Running on empty said...

True, but you would need a lot of extra money to pay all of the population, plus they are talking about an amount on or above the poverty line, whereas typical welfare payouts in most countries are below the poverty line per recipient. So where is all the extra money going to come from? That was the question I didn't find answered in the vid.

Especially as the US deficit is in the trillions, Aus is in the billions, UK is what? Current figures in Aus put the proportion of welfare recipients at 1/3, which will rise as the baby boomers age, if you add another 2/3, that's a lot of extra money to find.

I used to be a swinging voter, I'd think I will join the Greens when they can show how they can do the finances. So they got in accountants and lawyers running the party, who wore suits instead of dreads, and I sat up and took notice. If an idea can't be funded, how can it pass the voters?

Fizzfan said...

I wonder if similar thoughts and doubts abounded when they proposed the welfare state?

I completely understand that finances would have to be juggled and redistributed but still think it’s an interesting idea and I like the notion of all people having a basic standard of living ensured without question. It sounds civilised.

I’m not sure if it’s possible but I think it’s a good goal to aim for and I liked the sound of the positives.