Maeve’s Work Experience

At the start of 2013 when my Career Pathways teacher started telling us about the compulsory week of work experience I was both excited and nervous. When I think of work experience, I think of trying out a job that you like and that you may end up doing for the rest of your life – which seems like a big choice to be making at age 16. We were given examples of previous student’s choices: girls who had gone to law firms, hospitals, schools and vets. These all seemed really great, but none of these were in the job area that I was looking for. I would like to work within an organisation that is community-based and that aims to empower people; this is what I saw that Urban Seed did, and what attracted me to apply. So, at the start of December 2013, I was lucky enough to be accepted for a week of work experience at Urban Seed.

When finding my way up Collins Street on the first morning of the week, I passed the regular high end boutiques that include Chanel and Dolce & Gabana. The city workers walked quickly by me while looking at their phones and drinking their coffee. It was an atmosphere that all felt quite lonely. But once I walked through the doors of the Credo Café there was warmth, community and welcome – and this is what I received every day.

For most days of the week, I was on cooking and cleaning duty at Credo. This was a fun experience that enabled me to meet some of the staff, volunteers, Residents and regulars that are apart of Urban Seed’s community. It also gave me the opportunity to understand how non-government organisations, like Urban Seed, run their operations. Prayer and lunch time were my favourite parts of Credo. It was great to see the many ways that people were able to show their appreciation and thanks to God. Lighting candles, singing and playing musical instruments were all great things to be a part of.  

I love food, but this was not the only great thing for me about being at lunch. There were many different people who came each day, from many different situations, all whom I would have never had the opportunity to talk if it wasn’t for the community at Urban Seed. The conversations I had with some of the regulars ranged from what European countries we had travelled to, to why there was conflict in the world. They were all fantastic people to talk to and share a meal with.

I was fortunate enough on my last day of work experience to be invited to come along to the final Women’s Group meeting of the year. It also turned out that we were travelling to Brunswick Savers to celebrate this, which is one of my favourite places to shop. So not only was I excited to meet the women who are a part of Urban Seed’s community but I was also looking forward to finding a bargain. I was able to do both!

My overall experience at Urban Seed was a great one and I would like to thank everyone one who made it so great. If I was to work at a place like Urban Seed in the future, I wouldn’t be nervous anymore – I would be excited. 

an empty chair at credo

It was just a week ago today that we learned the sad news that a member of our credo community had died.  Laurence Richards – Laurie – was a part of the Credo community for many years and will be greatly missed. He had a great heart and was always keen to help with the mopping and often opened up his home to people who were sleeping rough, even though it sometimes got him into trouble.  He had a wicked sense of humour and always had a great story to tell about.  

Back in the day Laurie played a big part in Melbourne’s music scene.  Beat magazine has written him an obituary here.  One of my last memories of Laurie was a very special moment in Credo.  We were just about to eat and say ‘Grace’ when Laurie piped up; “Can I interrupt? I just want to say this place, is the best. It’s my favourite place.  Thank you.  I wont go on or I will embarrass myself.”

I am glad to have shared a home with Laurie, and I am glad he found a home with us.  There will be an empty chair at our table.    

[Here’s an interview with Laurie from 1981 in The Age]

Stereotypes and the single story.

Stereotypes; good, bad or indifferent? We think a lot about stereotypes at Urban Seed; wanting to breakdown the stereotypes of how we view homeless people.

The thing about stereotypes is that they are not necessarily wrong, just incomplete. You see to a certain extent stereotypes can be helpful, as they help us make sense of the world. When we see someone in a school uniform we know they go to school. When we see someone in a hard hat and steel cap boots with a fluro vest we know they are a builder. The issue becomes when we take this stereotype further and end up making a judgment or prejudice from this.

As Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says:

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

In her powerful Ted talk she warns us about the danger of a single story. When we only have a single story we end up with an incomplete picture and therefore end up judging.

What single story have we heard about homeless people?  Do we need to hear another one?

It’s hot!

It’s been a hot summer with more to come.  And although the heat is pretty tough on all of us, it is probably toughest of all for people whose home is the baked pavements of the Melbourne CBD. As the temperature nudged the mid-40s the other week, an Urban Seed staff member ran into a friend who was camping out. This was a beautiful, generous woman, who always struck up a conversation whenever the staff member went by. Today the friend looked pretty worn down, and as they talked, made the comment that having a big bag of ice would make her life a lot easier. The suggestion sparked an idea, and the next day a few Urban Seeders got out the trolley that was normally reserved for blankets and coffee, and filled it instead with water and ice. They pushed the trolley around the usual ‘blanket run’ route,striking up conversations with familiar and unfamiliar faces alike, and offering cool relief.

Read more about Urban Seed’s Ice Run here.

Did you know?

Heatwaves cause more deaths in Australia each year than any other natural disaster.  

VCOSS has undertaken some research into the issues and way vulnerable or at risk Australian’s have to face the heat here are some of there findings:

  • Vulnerable people living in public housing properties, rooming houses and caravans that were described by staff as ‘hot boxes’ and who had no access to cooling or cool areas.
  • Lifts out of action in high rise accommodation because of heat-related power shortages.
  • Vulnerable people having to walk in extreme heat due to inadequate public transport and risking fines because they could not afford transport costs to medical or other appointments.
  • Landlords who did not allow air-conditioning or fans because of operating costs.
  • Lack of monitoring for vulnerable people, such as those with mental health or alcohol and drug issues who risk heat stress or sunburn and sunstroke by wearing inappropriate clothes or being out in the sun.
  • Lack of access to drinking water, particularly for people who are homeless and sleeping rough, as well as those living in accommodation that restricts access to kitchens and bathrooms.

Given all this, it was sad to see that Melbourne’s homeless were being moved on.  But it is heartening to see that Melbourne’s Lord Mayor is wanting introduce an extreme weather policy for the vulnerable.

Empathy vs Sympathy

Shame and empathy researcher Dr.Brené Brown explaining the difference between empathy and sympathy.

“The truth is, rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.”

Salvation Army Homelessness Report

The Salvation Army just released a report on their recent research into homeless in Australia. The study found the following:

  •   155 Salvation Army homelessness services operate across Australia.
  •  More than 310,000 accommodation days were provided between 1 July 2012 and 31 December 2012
  •  53% of women accessing Salvation Army SHS women’s services identified domestic and family violence as their main presenting issue.
  • 44% of clients accessing Salvation Army SHS services identified housing affordability or housing crisis as their main presenting issue.
  • One in five (20%) of clients accessing Salvation Army SHS services who provided information on their mental health have been diagnosed with a mental health issue.
  • One out of every eight clients who accesses all Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) in Australia accesses a Salvation Army service.
  • 17% of Salvation Army clients identified financial difficulty as their main presenting issue.
  • 25% of clients accessing Salvation Army homelessness services have been homeless for more than six months.
  • Over 80% of Salvation Army SHS clients identified government support payments as their main source of income.