This morning made my way to Melbourne Town Hall at 4.15am for the StreetCount – it’s my third year now.
80 volunteers canvassing the city 4.30-7.30am counting those experiencing primary homelessness or “sleeping rough”
23 people were interviewed and 36 observed, down on the c. 100 of other years. A sign of improvement or do people avoid the count?

Indian Store manager at Macca’s on Swanston Street really engaged with us, pointing out people as they came in – “You need to talk to him.”  He knows who the regulars are – “he’s been here 6 months now”.  They are part of the rhythm of his work, the store is open 24 hours and they clean at c.6am.”Oh, they all leave while we clean and then they come back – give it twenty minutes. He asked us what the survey was for? what it was supposed to achieve? “I have offered to find them a job, I can find them a place to stay if they are willing to share but they say ‘I am okay’, I do not know how to help them if they do not accept my help. I will pray.”

I didn’t know what to think of such generosity and perhaps the punters don’t either…

Of the 7 counted by my partner and I, two were asleep, two we interviewed and three declined to participate – of these, only one wasn’t in/near Hungry Jacks/Macca’s.  It makes me think twice about  representative capitalist power of the 24 hour- junk food joints, for the person missing the last tram or who just has no where else to go these fast food meccas offer a haven of warmth and safety.

One man we interviewed in Hungry Jacks flinches as the street sweeper goes by, “it’s so noisy… I haven’t slept…”  This man is 55, his health is deteriorating – Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoeia, high blood pressure and a heart condition. He was discharged from the hospital at midnight and has hung out here for the intervening hours.  Some have turned away from the formality of our fluro vests and clipboards before we even say hello but this man is eager, hungry even, to speak with us and share his story.  He has been married, had kids, was on the school board for 5 years and ran his own small business – his grief is palpable as our questions probe the reasons behind his circumstances – the questionnaire doesn’t ask particularly personal questions: age, type of shelter, how long have you been there… but this is his life.  He cannot understand how his life came to this. He does not understand how a society he has strongly felt a part of and contributed to now feels so far removed. I don’t believe I understand it either. “What is there for my demographic? It is easier for a woman to get housing, or if I had a drug or alohol problem I could get help tomorrow… I am none of these things. I pay my rent. What help is there for me?” A food voucher for $30 quarterly, a night of accommodation at the Gatwick – these are piecemeal placebos for the people searching for home.