Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
Source: Advertiser, The (Australia)
Author: Debbie Rumere


I WAS walking down Thundle Mall at 10am on a Friday, a few weeks ago,
when I saw a most distressing sight. A young man, very dishevelled,
alone and in a half-bent posture, was shuffling along the mall.

He drew a lot of attention from the usual Friday-morning Rundle Mall
crowd because he did not look like the regular homeless people who
walk up and down the mall. He looked far more distressed and was very
weak and sick. Everybody stared but nobody seemed to care.

I decided to help him in retaliation to everyone else's apathy. I
thought: "I shouldn't do this. I'll be in trouble. Maybe he'll rob
me." But I took the risk.

Later, I found out that he had got off the bus that morning from
Melbourne and had been on the streets for four years and developed a
serious drug problem.

I reflected on this incident for a long time in the hope that
something will be done about the hopelessness that many young
vulnerable people feel today.

Our young men may no longer die in wars overseas but they are dying in
our streets from drug and alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, many people
are ignoring this problem, pretending it's not there.

Who is responsible for this social problem? When I mentioned the word
police, the young man became hysterical.

Are health professionals, non-government and church groups,
responsible? If so, are they co-operating with one another? Moving the
St Vincent De Paul Hostel in Whitmore Square where this young man was
staying will be counterproductive in alleviating the problem of our
homeless people.

There are many support services in this central location - the
Detoxification Clinic and St Luke's Mission - which make it easier to
give assistance.

Maybe I took a risk in helping this young man but I am hoping that
some people will read this letter and will do something about this
serious social problem, and hopelessness and apathy will be replaced
by compassion and hope.

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