Thursday, July 19, 2018

Allawah Flats

This is the last remaining footing for the Allawah Flats here in Canberra City. These blocks of public housing units were home to many of our people, who have been dispersed to other public housing properties across Canberra. They have been demolished so that many more units can be built and sold to those of us Canberrans who would like to live in the inner city, across from the Canberra Centre and close to Glebe Park.

                I have conflicting feelings about the end of this public housing precinct. When I look at this picture I remember the problems associated with grouping many of our most vulnerable members of society together. If moving from here means moving away from your dealer, then it is a positive move. I remember visiting in these flats and accidently waking our guys up because their front door was open. It couldn’t shut after the home invasion the week before. I remember the fire in Bega Flats, when the second floor flat occupant lit her apartment on fire, and the apartment of the man above her too. Jase tried to look after him that night, but he was too traumatised to sleep and spent the night walking around the lake processing what had started as a normal day. I remember one occupant told me how she had to wake up at 5am to do her washing because it got stolen from the machines if she did it during the day. I also remember the day I took one of our volunteers out for their first Streetwalk, where we would go walking around the city and these flats, stopping to talk with anyone we came across. We rounded one of the buildings and saw a skinny shirtless man trying to drag one of the big waste hoppers towards his block. After asking if he wanted any help, he informed us that he was trying to get it close enough to his block so he could throw his television from his third floor balcony into the bin.  He was very cheery and friendly to us, but very annoyed with his tv.

                I remember these problems, but I also remember the love and characters. There was the time one of the ladies we had been visiting rang me up to see if I could help one of her friends who had had a fire in her apartment. She wanted to see if we had any furniture we could give her while her flat was being repaired. There is a mum who has looked after and loved her daughter with a disability for 30 years, and even after all the heartache and struggle still just wants the best for her daughter. I remember the flat of the man who always looked after people who didn’t have anywhere to go. I remember my friend who could fix anything on a car, but struggled with people. I remember delivering Christmas Hampers amongst the flats, and getting to share the joy of Jesus’ birth with our people. I’m hopeful that when our people move away from the city they are able to enjoy their new environments. However I’m worried that living so far from services will isolate and endanger our vulnerable members of society. Some of the times Missionheart has been most useful have been the times we can tell somebody just isn’t quite themselves. When we see our people frequently we can offer help when it is most needed. We attend court dates and sit in meetings with our people. We visit them when they are sick, and we notice their mental health issues have increased in severity and encourage them to get help. We have learnt that people isolate themselves when they are not doing well, and I am worried that if our people are removed from the communities they have here in the city, then they may not be known well enough to have someone know when they are regressing.

                As a society, how do we look at our vulnerable people? My fear is that we see them like we saw their flats; as taking up valuable real estate. That smelly person is taking up a table at my favourite café. That weird looking man is sitting near my kids. That loud lady is yelling in my shop.

My hope is that we look at our vulnerable people like we look at our underutilised real estate. Our guys have so much potential. Here at Missionheart we believe that God made all people to be a blessing to their communities. Some of our people have had their beauty hidden by the overgrown weeds of trauma, addiction and illness, but their capacity for love,joy and peace remains.

I wonder what the next year will bring. For our community, I wonder who the next year will bring.

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