A shopping trolley stuffed with the belongings of a homeless person; a common sight on the streets of Melbourne.
To say there is a homeless problem in Melbourne is a little misleading.
The homeless aren’t so much a problem as they are a fixture, an accepted part of the urban streetscape as unremarkable as a garbage bin or a street sign or a potted plant – and just as easy to disregard.
Everyone is well-trained in the art of ignoring the homeless, especially when they ask for money or food or some small acknowledgment they are actually there, the denial of which makes them feel invisible to the passing citizenry.
Here are some interviews with homeless people to spotlight their experiences. The videos have only been very lightly edited and run at length.
Easy as it would be to editorialize and pontificate on their behalf, it is perhaps best to let them tell their own stories.
And tempting though it is to indulge in some first-person journalism and wax lyrical about what the experience was like speaking to the Melbourne homeless, that’s not going to happen here. Another time, perhaps.
All interviews were conducted with the consent of the participants and without using food, money or any type of reward as a lure. (Note: Jamie asked for $10. He got five and a packet of biscuits, all for the group.)
Food and money was often proffered after an interview as a gesture of thanks. This was sometimes refused, always politely. Food and money was also given to some after they had declined to speak.
Plenty of organizations are dedicated to helping the Melbourne homeless. Those mentioned include: Launch Housing; The Open Door (Salvation Army); 300 Blankets; and ADRA – Adventist Development and Relief Agency. There are many others.
For more information on laws about begging Google “Beg Alms Victoria”.
Here are the interviews. Caution: some involve descriptions of assault, rape, familial discord, abuse and abandonment.
Kaybee, James & Maddie
Feeding the homeless
Craig (interviewed October 2021)