Working in the Streets

The Soup VanI had been sitting there for a while before Andrew sat down beside me. The flimsy plastic chairs that we had lined against the wall provided welcome relief for Andrew as he shared of the complete exhaustion that now came upon him since he stopped using drugs.

Brought up in a rich home with both parents working in high-level medical fields, Andrew decided to drop out of life after high-school. One of three children, he names himself the black sheep of the family. It has been two years now since his dad dropped him off in this area, destined to live on the streets.

More story after the break…

When asked about work, he proudly replies that he is a “dole-bludger”, somebody that lives off the handouts given by the government for those who cannot find a job. In Andrew’s case he just does not want one. As we talk he shows himself to be very intelligent and bright even after constant drug use since he was a youngster. Drugs have always been a part of his life.

Talking freely about drugs, which seems to be one of his favourite topics, Andrew is quick to explain that he has tried many drugs but some of them just don’t give him the buzz that others claim they should. So he sticks to the few that seem to work for him… or at least stuck to them. Now he doesn’t do them. Well, the street variety anyway. A pharmacist friend fixes him up with certain other, more socially acceptable drugs which he talks about using more frequently.

Not only has he tried most of the available drugs, but he has also sold them to his friends. Most of this was done directly from his parents’ home where he was living until they placed a restraining order on him to legally keep him far from them. It does not take one long to realise that there is no love in this family. While talking, a noise causes Andrew to look around and quickly pick up a large pointed kitchen knife. He explains innocently as he shoves it back in to his pocket that he must have left there while moving some things at his home. Then he proudly announces that he has been charged by police for possession of dangerous weapons before.

Our conversation continues, but begins to cover previous territory once again. Andrew is happy to talk about his drugs but does not venture into more significant areas of his life, even when prompted. Only direct questioning revealed his age to be late 30’s and some of the family details already shared.

Andrew is not alone. Phil is another that sat near me, an old man with painted toenails and fingernails. Today he is in shorts, although they are very short and more feminine than fitting for a man. But that is Phil. He wears anything, be it pants or a dress. Billy is an aboriginal man who has been on the streets since he was 8 years old. He is now in his late 30’s and has a lot of anger and hate in his heart from the life he has experienced.

We are surrounded by about twenty people, all with their own stories. Some are open and want to talk, while others just like to sit there and observe. All have come for the food and drinks we off them, some also come for the conversation and opportunity to hang out with us. All are welcome.

This is the soup van. This is YWAM.

(Note: All names have been changed.)