Major Brendan Nottle is walking 700+km from Melbourne to Canberra to get homelessness on the national agenda. I’m challenged to walk 5 metres.
Picture this: You’re having a brisk walk along a busy street with cars honking horns, spruikers chanting out specials and the smell of the local fast food restaurant in the air. You’re dodging the crowd and listening to the buskers in the background.
There’s a homeless man sitting on the side of the road, snugged up in a blanket, with a look of desperation on his face.
Will you walk 5 metres?
I recently spoke to a Grade 4 cohort of students at a local Primary School, and I asked them what some of the societal issues are in their local community. They rattled off a list: homelessness, poverty, mental health, family violence and addictions to name a few.
Then I asked for 2 students to come up from the front. We did a little role play. One student was portraying the homeless by the side of the road. One was walking on past the homeless man. There were two main options: ignore the man, or interact with man.
We spoke then about couch surfing. I asked every student to stand up. I described a scenario of a 17-year-old who had been kicked out of home; no doubt for a variety of reasons. She was now sleeping on her mate’s couch every night. I asked the inquisitive students, ‘Is this lady homeless?’ Half the students said no. Half the students said yes.
I then asked, ‘Does she really have a home?’ No, she doesn’t. This is youth homelessness. You may not see this young girl sleeping amongst two cardboard mattresses near the local ALDI. You may not see her begging for money on the sidewalk, but she is homeless nonetheless.
Now, Major Brendan Nottle is walking from Melbourne to Canberra (700+km) to ask for politicians to find a bipartisan approach to dealing with homelessness (read more at www.walkthewalk.org.au). As he left the inner city of Melbourne he was farewelled by the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews. Some days in and the calves and legs are sore, but the momentum is building of support and awareness of this issue.
Why the walk?
On any one given night in Australia, over 105,000 people are homeless. A third of this number are youth or young adults (12 – 25 years old). That is far too many! This needs to be addressed and it needs to get the attention of federal politicians.
It is unacceptable that in such a prosperous multi-cultural society that enjoys the benefits of healthcare, social security and Donut King that we are still wrestling with this issue! Forty-nine people out of every ten thousand Australians are homeless.
There is a petition underway to demand a national strategy to deal with homelessness. Sign it here: https://signforthehomeless.com.au/ We seek one signature for every homeless individual in Australia!
Though, what can you do? I suggest, you may not be able to walk 700 kilometres. You may not be able to afford to buy someone a house, but you can do one thing.
You can walk 5 metres
You can walk 5 metres to speak with a homeless individual on the street.
You can walk 5 metres to speak with an isolated individual at a party.
You can walk 5 metres from your car, into the politician’s local branch.
You can walk 5 metres in the University Campus to sit with someone struggling.
You can walk 5 metres in your workplace and place your hand on someone’s shoulder.
You can walk 5 metres to a coffee shop and buy someone a cappuccino.
You can walk 5 metres and smile at someone and wish them a great day.
All I’m saying is: You many feel powerless to do anything about an issue like homelessness. You may not head up a local social service agency, or have much influence to lift the profile of societal issues to the community at large. You may not know much about the causes of homelessness. You may not have any disposable income to distribute. But this one thing I know…
You can walk 5 metres.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith.
Peter Brookshaw’s previous articles may be viewed at