Homelessness has many faces

The first thing I noticed was his Mercedes. It was only when he got closer that I realised he was also wearing a pretty expensive-looking suit.

We don’t see the likes of — well, let’s call him ‘John’ — coming to our soup vans every day.

When you’ve been visiting the streets of Melbourne serving food to many of the city’s hungry, lonely and dispossessed for a couple of decades you do get used to seeing the same old faces.

But John reminded me of a very important lesson. That homelessness hasn’t got a ‘look’ — and the word ‘homeless’ never describes the person, only their circumstance.

It’s a big idea. Perhaps that’s why some people struggle to grasp it. But as a soup van operations manager I see it every night.

The people we see are experiencing homelessness in one way or another and it’s clear that with homelessness there’s no one size that fits all.

It could be an older person, a couple in a car, a woman in a domestic violence situation or someone with mental health, trauma or substance abuse issues.

Of course, the main thing we serve is soup, because it gives people a great deal of comfort, and every night we have a wonderful team of volunteers chopping up vegetables to make 70 litres of soup.

We also create thousands of sandwiches a night.

If that sounds like a great deal of food that’s because it needs to be. There are people right now in all our capital cities who are experiencing food shortage.

We have some people who come to us and say that once they’ve paid their utilities and rent there’s very little left over to provide meals for the whole week. So we might see them two nights a week.

Others we see every night of the week, because they come for friendship and social connection. Continue reading

  • Danusia Kaska is Vinnies Soup Van Operations Manager for Melbourne.
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