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A black and white photo of a man kneeling down in a train station. He looks at the camera with gentle eyes, and holds a sign saying 'seeking human kindness'

by Chaplain Ross Jones

People who have experienced the tragedy of being without their accommodation feel the sense of being invisible, of being a non-person.

We have all seen it or done it ourselves. Been aware of someone seeking a handout and choosing not to see them. Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen raised this with a penetrating question: “Why is it that we keep giving dimes without daring to look into the face of the beggar?”

Writer Charles Ringma reflected on this statement and said that we in our media covered world today cannot but be aware of the poverty around us, overseas and within our own neighbourhood. The permanently unemployed, those with disabilities, those who are struggling mental ill-health, those with drug and alcohol dependencies… we make our limited response by giving the extra dollar over and above the welfare dollar taken from our taxes.

The issue is that their faces remain that of strangers. We only know them by the stylised image conveyed on television, crafted for a compassionate response. They do not sit at our tables. We have never clasped their hands in true companionship.

When we do engage in a personal encounter, we find that as we clap the other person’s hand in friendship we have been moved by conscience to authentic interaction, for we have shared in a journey of life as we each embrace a fuller life together.

This is our privilege of service at St Bart’s, for in our journey with those seeking long term stable accommodation – their own home – we too have grown within ourselves.

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