Fortnightly we do a blanket run – load blankets, a thermos of hot coffee and some bikkies on a trolley (in summer we switch to ice blocks and juice) and wander the streets and laneways of Melbourne on Sunday nights from about 9pm.

When we first started to do the run and we weren’t sure where we might find people, we’d often reflect on what we might look for ourselves in a place to sleep and then look for places that met those criteria – somewhere dark, sheltered from wind/rain, private…  it was interesting to learn that actually well-lit and populated places are much safer, for everyone actually but especially for a single woman. This was important in coming to understand why the issue of homelessness can feel like a ‘visible’ one. We did not end up needing to look very hard at all to find people to share hospitality with.

Three runs in a row we walked past a woman sleeping on the mat out the front of a jewellery store on a main street in the CBD.  Each time we saw her we offered her coffee or blankets and she didn’t speak – either mutely shaking her head or ignoring us completely.

The fortnight after that…?  We sat together for twenty minutes over a cup of coffee.  She told me her name, offered me a cigarette and told me a little about her three imaginary friends who were sitting with us.

The fortnight after that…? Just a silent head shake “no”

After that…?

I haven’t seen her since.

This isn’t a story about sharing the ‘good news’.  She didn’t start coming to the free lunch we run.  I didn’t advocate for her on any issue or find her housing or work or bring about reconciliation with her family.  I have no idea if she even needed any of that.

It’s hard sometimes not knowing what has happened to someone.  I noticed you were gone and I hope that you’re ok.