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The price of love is sorrow

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Dear Inner Circle,

Nothing Wayside might do will disguise our lack of affordable housing to date. Property prices make the problem not only impossible for young people and people without family wealth, but they make the problem exceedingly difficult for governments too.

The NSW Government has just emptied a block of 70 units in the Sirius building that had the best views in this city. The value of this block at today’s prices must be astronomical. I can see why governments worry about having an asset that could bring in rivers of gold but only receiving a tiny fraction from people whose rent is heavily subsidised. I know that the plan was to sell the most expensive property and use the money to provide additional affordable housing. Yet there is an irony in buildings left vacant while people sleep on the street. These buildings are owned by private individuals, governments, businesses and sadly at times, churches and charities.[vc_row columns_on_tablet=”keep” padding_top=”0″ padding_bottom=”0″][vc_column h_text_align=”left” h_text_align_mobile=”left” v_align=”v-align-middle” use_background=”” width=”1/1″][tm_image image_id=”251″ link_image=”none” textarea_html_bkg_color=”#ffffff” caption_type=””][/tm_image][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row columns_on_tablet=”keep” padding_top=”50″ padding_bottom=”50″][vc_column h_text_align=”left” h_text_align_mobile=”left” v_align=”v-align-middle” use_background=”” width=”1/1″][tm_textblock textarea_html_bkg_color=”#ffffff”]It’s easy at one level to get cranky at governments and say they “created the problem”. But the situation is more complex and many decisions have unintended consequences. Investors who push rents to “what the market will bear” are causing many to share houses, share garages and even share rooms and for some, share the footpath. Investors are well protected from criticism and yet they are part of this problem. I heard of someone who bought a bed-sit off a plan just around the corner from us for $750,000. When the building was completed, the owner sold before he even moved into the building for $1.2 million.

The State Government and the City of Sydney have been working in the most extraordinary way with those who are living in Martin Place. The Department of Family and Community Services have had staff out in big numbers, going from tent to tent and seeing how they can help people to better accommodation. Over 70 people have been housed from Martin Place. I have seen first-hand how people are treated with the dignity they deserve. Never the less, the public space remains occupied by the tent city.

The Department of Family and Community Services has asked Wayside if we would extend our hours to 11pm closing each night. For the past 50 years, we’ve been offering a safe place for people who live on the street. We have no space for sleeping but we offer a warm shower and some clean undies. We offer home cooked meals at low cost from our beautiful café. We have skilled staff who are well-used to helping people sort out accommodation or issues with addiction or finding the right channels for those with mental health issues. Most of all, we offer a community of no “us and them”. The Department expressed the view that they’d like us to think about operating 24/7. Such a move would require careful planning and community consultation. Notwithstanding our clear position, everywhere in the press this move was announced as 24/7.

Meanwhile, Wayside continues to be Wayside. At a funeral yesterday, hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to a good man and to stand with his widow and children. At another, just a father, a mother and their deceased infant who never even made it home from hospital. Such a little coffin and such big hopes shattered. Such love and such sorrow. I’ve spent this week with people in pain and yet I’ve seen raw beauty. Parallel lines don’t meet often but when they do, everyone is changed. I’m a different man at the end of this week than at the beginning. Carried in a tsunami of thankfulness because some allow me to be a tower of weakness.Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Graham

Rev Graham Long AM
CEO & Pastor
The Wayside Chapel

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