It’s 8.30 am and I’m pushing my grandson down South Terrace in Fremantle, just up from the station. Already I have passed 3 sleepers. Huddled in doorways, in alleys , emerging from the night sleep and blinking in the morning light, or blankets pulled over heads. Some have left their posse to start their day, leaving a bundle tied up on the ground in the shadows. Others are pushing a shopping trolley down the mall. Towards the toilets maybe, or to sit on the benches placed in straight lines under trees .

Left their bundle to get some coffee ?

Small gatherings of people are in the square, coming out of the Civic Centre or simply meeting up and walking through arm in arm, chatting.

I think , what would happen if we just let those ‘ homeless’ to sleep in the corners of our street , with maybe blankets available,opening toilets early , maybe having a place where coffee is available ? Would we have more rough sleepers than we do now ?

Just as I was thinking , well there’s a general quite happy atmosphere around the square, people meeting and greeting, sitting quietly on benches or walking on, there was a loud yell from a guy striding across.Several very loud shouts and a lot of gesturing and swearing. It seemed his noise was not directed at anyone. It was just an angry cry against the universe,

I walked on with my grandson still asleep in his pusher. A few other people gathered around the angry one and the morning peace became just noise and a series of exchanges across the square .

I have just finished Alan Carter’s Heaven Sent, a novel which is set in Fremantle and revolves around homelessness and the problem of dealing with people fairly and responsibly.( Incidentally a good crime novel with his likeable main character, Detective Cato Kwong)

The book did make me think, yet again, about how I would live in the street, how I would survive. I also recognised that the street people contribute to Fremantle some of its character, it’s colour and difference. But. ….

Such a pity that homeless people can’t be just a version of myself , minus the money and possessions I have. Why can’t they be more like me. The yelling and swearing of that guy threw me.

West Australian sat 29 Oct

Yes , it could , I concede. Homelessness could happen to me . But I have to say , because that’s what I think, the possibility is low.

The pervading narrative of homelessness is ‘ it can happen to anyone’, alongside the lumping of all street sleepers into the category of helplessness . Probably some people do belong there. But the other side of the coin is the resourcefulness, the strength of a community, the caring for each other.

Packed up

I sound like I believe ‘ the poor are always with us’. Not so. I just believe that the it can happen to anyone/collective responsibility narrative is better than “ get them away from here”, but ….words make us feel better.