As I sit and write this, the rain continues to pour outside my window. That really heavy, persistent rain that seeps into everything and leaves a sogginess for days after. Sitting here, by the fire with a hot drink, I offer up thanks that I don’t have to trudge through the wet to find the least damp spot to sleep tonight. But many of Perth’s homeless will be doing just that.
This is something that I think about a lot since volunteering for Homelessness We Care’s food run. Run by Santa Maria Old Girl Jane Armstrong (Class of 1993) and her partner Sim, the food run happens every Tuesday night in the city regardless of rain, hail or even Christmas! The service provides comfort in many forms: a nourishing hot meal, a hug or a handshake. Toiletries are handed out and other services are available on a regular basis such as physio, podiatry, vet and hairdressing. The Street Doctor sets up in the same place and Big Orange Sky provides a wash and dry for clothes and blankets. And now Santa Maria has committed to collect donations and provide the meal for up to 120 people once a month.
Why do I volunteer? Firstly, it’s within my capacity to do so. It suits my work and family life. I can tap friends and family on the shoulder for their travel toiletries, or to buy an extra couple of toothbrushes, a few extra little cans of tuna or an extra pack of ladies’ sanitary items in their next shop. This is the easy stuff.
Mostly, I like helping. I like challenging my judgement and putting people in need first. It’s refreshing to have my preconceptions around homelessness challenged by being on the ground. In that moment, seeing and dealing with the immediacy of their needs, all judgement is suspended. All I can see are people who deserve kindness and dignity. It’s an embodiment of the Mercy spirit that has stayed with me long after I left the College.
Throughout my life, that Mercy spirit sometimes just gave me a little nudge and other times a big shove. Those who know me well, know that I usually like helping in the background, I don’t like to share who or why I’m helping, and would even be surprised I’ve committed to even write this, but that ol’ Mercy spirit is flaring up a little more lately and I feel compelled to encourage others to commit, even a little, to Homelessness We Care. Besides we need your stuff: travel toiletries, little bit of extra from your weekly shop, a hot meal for our SMC food run, warm socks, beanies and jackets. If you feel that Mercy spirit speaking a little louder than usual, and believe me, you don’t need to be an Old Girl to feel it, you might find it in your capacity to commit to a Tuesday evening once in a while. You will get more than you give, the spirit is strong and the camaraderie is great!
Fleur De Campi (Cason-Odorisio, class of 1986)