Dear Inner Circle,
In our old neighbourhood, my wife Lisa and I once took in a bright young man, with life in his eyes and a love of music, who had been sleeping in a nearby alleyway. Sadly, he was battling with his mental health and was raised to never talk about it, so he coped by smoking marijuana. We opened our doors, hoping our home could be the refuge where he felt truly seen and heard.
One day, when his health had deteriorated quite badly, he was hospitalised to receive some much-needed treatment. The whole street loved him dearly, and we were quite hopeful that perhaps this intervention would lead to positive change. However, just two days into his hospital stay, we received a distressing call from a nurse. Although he was in a secure unit, he’d escaped, leaving behind a letter detailing his plan to harm me. As Lisa and I hastily packed the car to spend a few days elsewhere, the people of our community rallied around us. “We’ve got you,” they whispered. When he appeared, we all managed to sit him down and calmly talk with him until an ambulance arrived to take him back to hospital.
I never felt safer than in that moment. In a world where it’s possible to constantly seek help without ever finding true connection, and offer help without truly engaging, our street stood strong, united together, embodying genuine community. When the young bloke later returned, our community gently supported him along his road to healing. The next two years were perhaps his best as he enjoyed making music and writing songs for all of us. He eventually moved away to embrace the next phase of his life in all its vitality.
I’m still in the middle of a spring break but I wanted to make an appearance in your inbox to share another incredible tale about the power of community and connection. If you’ve spent any time at Wayside over the last decade, you’ll likely have crossed paths with Joe, our remarkable Bondi team leader. You won’t be surprised to hear that on Saturday 7 October, Joe with his boundless empathy, will be walking alongside our visitor ambassador Scott, on the 28km Long Walk Home from Parramatta to Kings Cross. I’ll be there with them every step of the way, and I invite you to join us.
Like so many of our visitors at Wayside, Scott has been burdened with unspoken trauma. Growing up in hardship, he was experimenting with drugs at age nine to ease the pain of losing his mother and brother. He hit rock bottom in his teens and spent many years cycling through the system. A revolving door of addiction, prison stints, and rehab attempts, with no one to believe that he could finally lift himself out of it. But about six months ago he wandered into Wayside at Bondi with a clear vision. In his words, “I was 49 years old and sick of living as a drug addict, sick of being seen as a drug addict. I wanted to move on in life and try and make something for myself and my son eventually.” He’d heard the food was good (it is) but he stayed because of Joe and the team who offered him emotional support and no judgement.
Scott’s path, from nights spent sleeping on cardboard under the weight of despair to a hopeful new chapter, epitomises the kind of grit we see in visitors to Wayside. Written off as a criminal, a junkie, and untrustworthy, Scott has since secured a home, got his driver’s licence, a full-time job and is turning his mind to bigger dreams like coaching soccer and reuniting with his son. Scott’s transformation is ongoing, but it’s a testament to the power of our community. He now wants to pay it forward and give a helping hand to others on the streets. You can tell Scott “We’ve got you,” by donating to his Long Walk Home fundraising page here.
For the whole of Scott’s adult life, he’s had no one to believe in him. But now he’s taking steps to not just uplift himself but to give back. That’s why he’s committing to the Long Walk Home, and I hope being supported by our community gives him the self-belief he deserves.
Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle,
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor