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.

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