Choices, Community, Recognition – the Lifeline for the Homeless in Sydney

The Homeless in front of the Redfern station
By Andrea Booth Source: NITV News The indigenous community in Redfern has been facing the homeless issues because of insufficient support and housing.

Intro of The Story


April 24th 2018, it was the first time I talked to Allan Grey. That’s when I began the journey of this story.

People who pass the entrance of Redfern station are quite used to the homeless sitting there I reckon. Whether they take a pity glimpse at the homeless during their busy walk I do not know, but I am sure not many people would stop, and crunch down, and talk to them.

Allan told me many of them are the indigenous people from the Redfern community (more background information from SBS News). Because, Allan, he is one of them.

That night, on April 24th 2018, my friend Jordan and I stopped, and I talked to him for the every first time. Later I know, he got evicted last Christmas. He’s got nowhere to live.

I tried to ask him about the reasons behind. He mumbled and did not tell me exactly. I guess it is hard. Because of his past. Because I’m not someone he trust. Not, his, friend.

(By Øliver Sooh. Talking about personal experience with Allan Grey)

I still remember the first time I saw him. It was a dark night with chilly winds. The winter was coming and the sky lost light earlier and earlier than before.  Allan was sitting on the ground right in front of the entrance of Redfern station, with just two layers of thin clothes. He buried his head down. I didn’t notice his hands before,  maybe because his hands were always in his pockets, or I did not really pay much attention to him. That time, I found out, his left hand was wrapped with bandage. Allan told me when I asked him about his hand, that his fingers were with open wounds. He did not get any proper medical treatment. His fingers got infected, and no choice had to be amputated. I petted him on the back. I smelled nothing nasty from him but sorrow.

‘Can I have a bit of coffee?’ His voice trembled.

Later we got him a coffee and a pie. Same as the following Tuesday nights.

However, it’s not just about sad stories. More importantly, it is about what we could know about how to help the homeless, about what prevent them from reaching the lifeline.

‘It’s about their choices.’

Carol Ann, a senior who has been helping the homeless for over ten years, is also from the Hope Street. She has become a trustworthy friend of the homeless. She is often called ‘Mum’.

‘Mum’ knows the names of all the regular homeless people gathering on Cathedral Street in Woolloomooloo.  Every night, she waits till 3 am to count the number of the homeless sleeping in that area. She’d would who is missing or who is new to the area.

More new comers joined the homeless in the area since the clearance of Martin Place (news information from ABC News). She has been dealing with the local commissioner and government as well. A ‘Betweener’ as she told me.

I went to the area with ‘Mum’ on the evening of June 2nd. The area is an open space under a bridge, behind the police station on Cathedral Street. It was dinner time. Around twenty to thirty homeless people or disadvantaged shown up. I became to know some homeless people there as well – Ross a Russian, Catherine a trans, and Lionel a local.



A homeless dog wandering around. Behind it, there are several bins. These bins are not for garbage, but for the homeless around the area to store their clothes and personal belongs. They lock the bins and carry the keys with them.

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(By Øliver Sooh and Carol Ann. Carol Ann talking about the teens making bad choices and the cold reality.)

Some homeless or disadvantaged people are provided with rooms in the hostel and classes. ‘There are different classes on the calendar. ‘ ‘Mum’ told me, ‘Some people are arranged in a hostel room, few days later he’s on the street. You ask them why he didn’t take the classes. Because unless they take the classes, they can stay in the room, and go find a job.’

‘Mum’ looked at my confused face, and said, ‘You know what they said, I’m not taking those f*cking stupid classes. Then they couldn’t stay in the rooms and ended up in the street again with booze, cit, and other stuff.  You see, sometimes, it’s about their choices.

‘But we also gotta tell them and help them to realize those choice they made. Bad decisions, one after another.’

‘It’s about a community and an integrated work.’

Bruce Chan is the manager from the Hope Street of BaptistCare in Woolloomooloo. He underlined several main causes for the homeless, such as domestic violence, mental issues, drug abuse, alcoholic problems, high living expenditure in Sydney, and some social and governmental situations.

(By Øliver Sooh and Bruce Chan. Bruce Chan talking about the current situation of the homeless community.)

David is another homeless guy I know. He is usually praying and sitting on the ground against a black steel bin in front of the entrance of Burwood station. I bought him some bread, cakes and drinks.

He told me he’s from New Zealand. He and his family came to Australia years ago. He told me he was in a domestic problem with his family. Now he’s on the street. He became quiet when I tried to further ask him some questions. I did not force him, and I know he’s a troubled soul with unwanted or regrettable past.

(By Øliver Sooh and Bruce Chan. Bruce Chan talking about the homeless community.)

‘They need a community. And homelessness is not always about just one issue or problem. It’s not just about housing, job or food security or mental treatment.

‘When someone shows up as a homeless, he often has more than one problems and these problems can not be settled by single one institution or organization.’ Bruce told me, ‘So it’s about community and an integrated work.’

‘It’s about recognition.’

Most importantly, trust and love in their own ways and in God’s own time are what they need. They need time to trust and be loved. They need to be recognized, to be visible.

In fact, I have been put twice on the edge of homelessness before. I intimately know the feeling of helpless and vulnerability. But more distinctively, it’s the fear and desperate feeling of invisibility. No one would recognize, care and help me.

I had some hard time in London and Sydney. I had troubles with finance when I was in London in the winter of 2015. Now every winter time the smell of warm coffee reminds me of that winter in 2015, when I was nearly homeless wandering on the streets or hallways of  accommodation companies,  which are always filled with strong smells of warm coffee or hot chocolate.

Now I’m not that desperate for now I could say. But I am still reminded of that feeling and I keep telling myself not to be devoured by that fear. I wanted to be noticed and helped. My need wanted to be recognized. It’s about recognition. ‘Cause it is more terrified than being hollow or nihilistic.’ I answered to my friend Jordan.

More Stories About Homelessness

Send me your stories or email me the situation and we can talk about it


If you need help or wanna help, you can contact Hope Street of BapstistCare at

About Øliver Sooh 5 Articles
No more let death divide what life can join together

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