By SALONEE MISTRY
Bob has been homeless for nearly a decade.
He has no hope or drive and has lost all desire to recover a life that is now so distant, it barely feels like it ever belonged to him.
He is incredibly shy and cautious.
He doesn’t often open up to strangers, but if you take the time to sit with Bob, he eventually begins to respond to questions and engage in conversation about who he was and how he got here.
His story isn’t dissimilar to many who find themselves sleeping rough. A series of unfortunate events, across a short span of time, saw him have a hard-landing on the streets.
The future he pictures for himself is far from ideal, but it is the best he can imagine. He has no intention of getting off the streets as they now feel like ‘home’ to him. He doesn’t desire a warm shower or a clean bed. He simply wants to be left alone.
While Bob might not remember sharing his story with Chris King, the 23 year-old will never forget him and the impact he left on his life.
Chris now works for Mobilise, a youth organisation for the homeless. He met Bob during an outreach programme where young volunteers take food, clothes and sanitary items to those living on the streets. They listen to their stories and provide the respect and dignity that’s craved by those who find themselves trying to survive without life’s essentials.
Of the many experiences Chris has had since joining the organisation in 2017, this one stuck with him and pushed him to continue caring and working for the homeless.
“As the heirs to the world, we shouldn’t put the burden [of a better tomorrow] solely on others,” Chris said.
“We are also in a period where technology allows us to unite easier, spread our message further and mobilise faster. It would be to waste our privilege if we didn’t use this to our advantage.”
Mobilise was started by Noah Yang in 2016, when he was just 20 years old. It is a movement which aims to unite the youth of Australia to develop solutions for those experiencing homelessness.
They raise awareness about the experiences and struggles of those faced with sleeping rough through social media videos, while also providing a platform for the voices of the homeless to be heard.
Believing in the ‘power behind a simple conversation’ and how unity can change lives, the outreach programmes are conducted across Melbourne and Sydney, with an Adelaide chapter starting soon.
Noah said the relationship between Mobilise volunteers and those living on the street was a symbiotic one.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about people who are homeless and I hope to change these,” he said.
“Hitting the streets made me realise that people are inherently good and have yet to find a person who would bite the hand that feeds it.”
Mobilise outreach coordinator Tim Quabba joined the organisation on Christmas Day 2017.
Tim said it had been a moving experience to connect with the people living on the streets and hearing stories, just like Bob’s, motivated him to volunteer every month.
“Exercising non-judgement is key on an outreach since in that moment you are in someone else’s space. It’s imperative that you have an open mind and heart,” Tim said.
“Hearing their stories in this way opens the conversation to deeper subjects and often gives insight into why the problem of homelessness exists.”
Cara Forte started volunteering with Mobilise because she felt making a positive difference gave her direction.
Cara said she and other young adults might not always have the financial resources to help the homeless, or even know where to begin, but Mobilise provided a starting point.
“Together, we can use our voice to fight the stereotypes of homelessness and in turn inspire others to help bring change for these people,” she said.
“If enough of us work together to be a voice for the homeless, we can influence others to use their own resources to make a difference.
“Through my experience with Mobilise, I’ve realised that we do have the opportunity to help and working with other youth has shown me how willing they are in getting involved and bringing change.”
Armed with the tagline ‘Homeless not Hopeless’, Mobilise and its team has recruited more than 200 young people to carry out multiple outreach programs across the two major cities.
“Hearing unparalleled wisdom from those who’ve experienced adversity far more than myself, from being humbled and grateful for the blessings and life that I lead, for being encouraged and motivated to continue to give back and make a difference, Mobilise has helped me grow a lot,” Chris said.
The rate of homelessness increased by 4.6 percent in the past five years, according to a report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in March.
This data was collected during the 2016 census and found one quarter of people living rough was aged between 20-30 years.
According to the ABS, more than 116,000 people were experiencing homelessness, accounting for 50 homeless people for every 10,000 Australians.
Outreach Instagram: @operationmobilise