When one of our much-loved visitors passed away recently, his loss was felt through every corner of Wayside. Former Wayside Community Educator Marcus Ross, tells us a story about Alby, the power of community and a pair of Manly football socks…

About five years ago, on one of the first times I walked into Wayside, I saw a guy who I took one look at and was petrified of. His name was Alby and he had been sleeping rough for over a decade at that stage. He had tatts all the way up both arms, long hair and his teeth weren’t in the greatest condition. He seemed kinda gruff. At that time, he was the sort of guy I would probably have avoided hanging around.
Artistic representation of Alby's socks is by Marcela Ordonez
But over the years I got to know Alby and we ended up being part of the same community. When he’d see me come in at the start of the day he’d often call out to me. His favourite thing to say was “Hey, X Factor”, because he always thought I was inappropriately dressed for working at Wayside and more suited for a boyband audition. Then I’d go over and we’d have a bit of a chat. That being said he had his own very specific way of dressing. Everything was always accessorised with Manly football socks.

Not everything at Wayside moves quickly. We’re a bit antiquated like that. We have a belief in having a community that has no ‘us and them’ and it means that respect and trust must go both ways. And sometimes we have to respect that people will make decisions that we don’t agree with, decisions that we think are bad ones. But that just allows us to be able to celebrate the good decisions more. Over the past year Alby made massive gains. A major part of that was because he was part of our Aboriginal mob at Wayside and was being supported by our Aboriginal Program Manager, Monique Wiseman. He got into stable housing for the first time in about twenty years. He was an active part of our community.

The really strange thing about community is that as hard as it is to grasp at while it’s there, you are always acutely aware of its absence when it’s gone. When we lost Alby we lost a member of our community.

In a strange way this brings me back to his socks. The Manly football socks.

When Monique was clearing out Alby’s house, she came across his socks pegged on clothes hanger. The socks represent so much in terms of what community means. There are sayings of “pull your socks up” and “pull yourself together” and I don’t think they could be better represented than by the image of the socks. Those socks were worn so often and when he was on the streets they were washed so rarely that Monique used to say they’d be able to walk by themselves. But there they were, in Alby’s house, freshly washed by him and hanging on a makeshift clothesline.

For everyone at Wayside this was the perfect example of someone who, despite what his life was previously, had managed to pull himself together. He had managed to pull himself together because he felt like he was part of something. He was part of that intangible but so important feeling of being together with others in a community. And if this feeling of community is all Wayside offers, we think that is enough.

The artistic representation of Alby’s socks is by Marcela Ordonez.

You can help support Alby and many others like him by making a donation to The Wayside Chapel.

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