My Experience on the Street

Ciaran was a participant in this year’s Filthy Rich and Homeless series on SBS. He took some time to write down his experience and share what it was like to sit down in an orange chair and chat with an Orange Sky volunteer.

Throughout my whole experience [on Filthy, Rich and Homeless], I had many conversations with people experiencing homelessness. One thing I learnt, and really took away, is that every single person you see sleeping rough on the streets has a story. The amount of stories I heard where it was something in life completely out of their control that led them down the path to homelessness was devastating. I was really interested to just hear their experience, and more importantly, let them tell it to me. 
What surprised me was how much those experiencing homelessness have to worry about THEIR safety from the rest of society. I was told by one lovely man that he sleeps during the day and stays awake at night all because he is less likely to get attacked. 

I came across Orange Sky in Newtown and I think the idea behind Orange Sky is brilliant and so powerful! I walked past and saw a van with a few people who I’d seen around the streets in the previous days all sitting around with their clothes and chatting. I decided to check it out. One of the Orange Sky volunteers immediately came over to me and was so friendly, which was so refreshing after not having a genuine interaction with someone in a couple of days. He asked me how I was, how my day was going and would I like my clothes cleaned – which was the first time someone genuinely showed they cared about me in a couple of days and felt so refreshing. 
Orange Sky is such a vital service to those experiencing homelessness and is a service they can count on every week. It is something that is stable in their life when everything else is unstable, and no matter how hard the week gets, they can go to the same spot and have a genuine conversation and get their clothes washed.

I went into the experience thinking the hardest thing would be having no access to shelter and food. I wasn’t wrong, that was REALLY difficult. But to put things into perspective on how hard homelessness is, what was even harder, was the toll it took on my mental health. That isolation and not feeling like you belong as part of society.
I think the biggest take away I got from the experience, relating to connecting with those experiencing homelessness, is treating them like a mate and no different. Next time you see someone sleeping rough, giving money is great, but how about smiling, asking them how their day was and if you have the time, sitting down and having a five minute chat. That would’ve made me feel so much better if someone took the time to do that with me. The other big take away that I mentioned above was you don’t know someone else’s story, so don’t judge. 

Hearing about Kyla who was only 13 when she was sexually assaulted by her own uncle – that was really tough for me to hear. After hearing many stories of sexual assault and domestic violence throughout the experience, I realised that for a lot of these people experiencing homelessness, they saw ‘being homeless’ as a safer option to their current living situation, if you can wrap your head around that.
People experiencing homelessness are already in such a vulnerable state dealing with mental health issues amongst many other issues, imagine on top of that being ‘invisible’ to society? It is so horrific to imagine, and just getting a slight taste of what it’s like to be invisible by society made me realise that no one should ever feel like that. Having a genuine and non judgmental conversation makes us feel worthy and feel good about ourselves. Those experiencing homelessness are already going through so much, and we can make their day slightly better by having a short genuine interaction or conversation with them.

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office


A letter to my son, Levi

To my dear son Levi,

I am writing this letter in May, 2020 and it’s during a time quite like no other! (Well I say that, but I don’t really know what our life will be like in the future.) As I write this, I am fortunate to be working from home and sitting next to me (also working) is your beautiful mother, Natasha. We have been doing this for the past eight weeks and miraculously we have fallen into a seamless routine of a morning walk, coffee and then straight to the home office for non-stop meetings and work. It wasn’t always this way.

You see, there is a virus in our community which has changed life as we know it. It wasn’t that long ago where we would all be out and about travelling, connecting and enjoying new environments and opportunities. But the introduction of coronavirus has meant that connection doesn’t quite look how it used to. Shops, cafes, bars and workplaces are for the most part closed and where we used to hug, handshake and high five, we now stand 1.5m apart and connect behind the safety of face masks and hand sanitizer.

One thing I have learnt from these past few months is just how much I miss the opportunity of connecting with those around me. Be it friends, colleagues or even strangers at the coffee shop. A simple conversation can be so powerful, and now that it’s missing, I have suddenly realised that I took it for granted. Working for Orange Sky, I should have known just how special a conversation is, for I have had so many while sitting on orange chairs at shift.

For a moment in my day, I could sit and look someone in the eye and talk about anything. Over the years, I have had so many amazing chats and I honestly believe they have helped shape my views on the world in so many different ways. While we might now have to stand a little further apart, continuing this conversation and connection is so important and I am proud to be part of the team that makes this happen every day.

I don’t know what the future is going to look like or where Orange Sky is going to be, but one thing I do know is that the power of people and connection is going to be more important than ever before. I am going to do my part by continuing to sit on those orange chairs and share stories or jokes (you’ll get to know soon that Dad jokes are my speciality!), and for a moment in someone’s day, truly connect in conversation.

Levi, if you are anything like me, I hope you always find a way to keep that conversation going.

Dad.

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office


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