The Long Pause

Dear Inner Circle,  

A Wayside team member was deep in conversation last week when, in more a statement of fact rather than a plea of desperation, was informed “I don’t think I’ll make it through another winter.” Adding in long run of cold nights to his late-stage emphysema and living in his car led this incredibly resilient man to his self-prognosis.  

Sometimes we get passionate messages from people asking us why we don’t house everyone. It’s an admirable sentiment, and assumes we have the access and power to make housing happen in a heartbeat. You may wonder why we haven’t supported this man into stable accommodation, but not everyone wants to live in a house. The chap in question is from the Stolen Generation and the concept of him seeking out state housing does not sit well with him. He’s lived in his car for a very, very long time and visits us nearly every day. He’s fair and firm and robustly refuses any support for accommodation. Rarely does he ask anything of us, and often he touches others with his wit and wisdom, caring for people with his unique and sobering perspectives on life.   

Many of us have had the odd night in a car, so to say living in one takes a toll, is a pain we can in some way conceive of. The only time he has in memory asked anything of us was recently when he had an incident that caused some minor damage to his car, which led to some serious discomfort, not with his body, but with his insurer.  

He had proudly been with the same insurance company for 40 years and they, quite naturally wanted him to leave his car overnight so they could assess the damage, which they felt, quite naturally was a reasonable request. It took a quick phone call from us to the insurer to explain that was not possible, as all his medical equipment is in the car, his place of residence. 

Then there was an unforgettably long pause, and the insurance agent on the end of the phone blurting out, “Did you say he lives in his car?” The shock of this revelation led to some confusion as to know what to do next, but to their credit, they were able to quickly agree to a cash settlement so the repairs could be attended to immediately. A door panel that doesn’t let in the cold air just might prove the difference.  

For many to leave our home while work is being done is a mere inconvenience, not a matter of survival. Last week I bumped into someone who had ended back on the streets for this very reason. Not knowing where or how to book a room, he drifted into a park. Because we are in constant contact with him, our people quickly noticed his deterioration and were fortunately able to arrange things to arrest the slide. Years of progress almost undone in a week if it wasn’t for the keen eyes of our community that loves him. It’s the small requests that aren’t so small at all that can make or break a precarious existence.

For those who have donated to us this winter, I cannot thank you enough. Tomorrow is the end of the financial year – so there is still time, if this is something you are considering. Please know that it is your support that enables us to be there through all the seasons of a person’s life. You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

 Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle,


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

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