All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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World Homeless Day: Thirteen ways you can help the homeless

In addition to being World Mental Health Day, today is also World Homeless Day; a day to draw attention to homeless people’s needs and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness.

To celebrate World Homeless Day 2013, I have decided to share thirteen ways in which you can help the homeless, most drawn from the five-years I spent as a person experiencing homelessness. This way, you have no excuse for not helping a homeless person on this most necessary (and often forgotten) of days! :)

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My ‘home’, circa 2010 | © Addy

1.  Educate yourself about homelessness
One of the first – and best – things you can do to help the homeless is find out who they really are. They may be someone who has lost their job, someone who is suffering from mental health problems or someone escaping an abusive relationship. They are rarely, if ever, the stereotype of the alcoholic-junkie who has chosen to be homeless that many people continue to believe in.

2. Donate money
This can either be given directly to a homeless person, or preferably via a charitable organisation whose soul aim is to assist the homeless. This money will then be used to provide food, clothing, emergency shelter and other necessary items, all of which go a long way to helping a homeless person on a day-to-day basis.

3. Give food
If a homeless person is asking you for money for food, why not offer to buy them a sandwich or some other foodstuff instead? It is a misconception that every beggar is looking for money for alcohol or drugs, many are simply hungry and will all-too-happily take you up on your generous offer. And remember: if you offer someone a ‘big mac’ and they refuse, they may not be lying to get money out of you, they may simply be a vegetarian or someone who doesn’t like red-meat (see item 12, below)

4.Donate clothing
Never underestimate the importance of a clean pair of socks or deliciously warm jacket. If you’re not comfortable donating money or food, why not donate clothing (or some new pairs of socks) to your local homeless organisation. These are items that are always required and will be most gratefully received.

5. Donate groceries
Homeless charities are always looking for donations of good quality, non-perishable foodstuffs. So why not organise a bag or box and donate them to your local food bank? Better yet, if you work for a food manufacturer, perhaps consider organising a regular donation to assist those most in need.

6. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or soup van
Virtually every major town and city in the world has a soup kitchen or van of some description. Why not take a few hours out of your week to volunteer at one (or both) of these. You’ll not only be nourishing a homeless person’s stomach, but nourishing their soul with your kindness.

7. Buy the Big Issue (or if you’re in the US, Street Sheet)
These magazines are sold by homeless people in virtually every major city. As well as being a cracking read, a percentage of every issue sold goes directly to the homeless person selling them. What could be better than that?

8. Organise a fund-raising event
Why not organise a charity event through your local school or business to help raise funds for your local homeless services. Car boot sales, raffles, trivia nights or cake stalls are always well received by the community, even more so when people know their time and money is going toward such a worthwhile cause.

9. Volunteer your services
Are you a doctor? Lawyer? Dentist? Psychiatrist? A homeless person may require some or all of these services, so why not donate your time to offer your professional services to those who are most in need of it?

10. Educate yourself as to what services are available in your area
Every town and city have organisations whose specific aim is to assist the homeless. If you were to find out where these organisation were and how they helped (i.e. whether it is with food, emergency housing, counseling etc.) you will be able to pass this on to a homeless person as and when the situation arises. Remember, just because they are homeless does not mean they are aware of all the services available to them. Some may just need a helping hand to get their life together again.

11. Don’t ignore a homeless person
Walking past a homeless person and pretending they are not there is cold, callous and shows them a complete lack of respect. Simply acknowledging their presence will be showing them a level of respect that they rarely, if ever, receive.

12. Treat a homeless person as the unique individual they are
Many people continually refer to homeless people as the homeless; a term that strips them off their uniqueness as a human being. A homeless person is just like you, your friends or family members. They have loves, passions, hopes, dreams, aspirations and everything else in between. So why not treat them as the unique and wonderful human being they are?

13. Talk to them
Quite possibly the simplest item on this list, but is still the one many people forget about. A homeless person is not only starved of food and shelter, they are also starved of human contact. The simple act of talking to them will most likely make their day in ways you couldn’t even begin to imagine! :)

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This moment – which saw me realise a life-long dream of hugging a wombat – was taken the same day as the photograph above. It would never have happened without the kindness of the wombat’s keeper, who treated me like a unique individual instead of just another one of ‘the homeless’, | © Addy

A selection of other articles I’ve written about homelessness:


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(The 21 Challenge) Day 1: I Hate Running

For the next twenty-one days I have challenged myself to do one new thing every day that scares me to help raise support for at risk homeless youth.

You can support me here…go on, it will make you feel all gooey inside. 

Today’s new thing: running.

Now, this may not seem like much to most of you, but the thought of slipping on a pair of runners and jogging through the streets of my home town scares me to the point I’d rather come face to face with my very own Saw puzzle than be seen exercising in public.

Why? Well, I’m glad you asked, for I have prepared a nifty list to explain:

Ten reasons why running scares me…

  1. Because – alas – I do not look like the gentleman to your right. I have quite severe body image issues – thanks mainstream media and the ludicrous expectations of some females – so being seen doing anything even remotely energetic fills me with the sort of anxiety that leads toward crippling, foaming at the mouth panic attacks.
    Besides, given my rather atrocious luck, if I were to run through a river I wouldn’t look as ruggedly sexy as this man does. I would either end up falling headfirst into the freezing water due to my lacklustre co-ordination and/or be eaten by a rogue crocodile.
  2. Because I have the lung capacity of a newt.
  3. because of my British heritage I have never quite adjusted to the Australian heat and thus, even on a rather mild 2 degree morning, will break a sweat by even opening the front door.
  4. Because said sweat messes up my (albeit) too long but alarmingly luscious hair.
  5. Because I don’t know this area very well and get lost a little too easily.
  6. Because I cannot exercise without music. This doesn’t sound like too much of an issue until you take into account I sound far more Bill Shatner than Gotye – and there are laws out there governing disturbance of the peace.
  7. Because I run like a girl. By that I mean I’m much faster than most men, my hips wiggle in a hypnotically attractive fashion, I should probably invest in a sports bra and workmen turn their heads and grunt disgustingly sexist remarks about what they’d like to do to my posterior.
  8. Because when I run I look like a constipated otter trying to move on only two legs.
  9. Because it reminds me of the time at school when I threw my all into winning the 200m sprint during a gym class. Surrounded by fit attractive boys and with gorgeous hot girls watching I ran…and ran…and ran…and ran…until I crossed the finishing line and promptly vomited behind a bush. It’s annoying I always remember this over the fact that I won.
  10. Because in addition to suffering from body image issues I suffer from social anxiety and despise to the point of soul crushing fear being seen in public. There’s a reason I liken myself to the majestic Tiger Quoll.

So when I rose at this morning at 4am, I was, to say the least, a trifle anxious. My reasoning for such an early start was simple: most people are far too sane to be roaming the near freezing streets at such an ungodly hour so I would have them to myself.

Slipping on a ‘No Fear’ T-shirt (purely for ironic purposes) and my AFLesque tight shorts I did a few warm ups as I checked the music on my MP3 player and ran my pre-planned route through my head: a few side-streets would take me to a park, from there I’d head to Lawrence Street, down Lawrence Street, up the train line, Thomas Mitchell Drive, then circle back home where I could die a rasping, suffocating death.

Easy.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ten reasons why running still scares me…

  1. Because I was reminded when I reached the end of the drive how out of shape all this mental health/homeless malarkey has made me. Note:it is approximately ten feet to the end of my drive.
  2. Because I have the co-ordination of a drunk giraffe trying to walk on black ice. Approximately five minutes after leaving the house I successfully managed to fall over a rogue tree root and sent myself hurtling into a storm drain.
  3. Because even at such an ungodly hour there are still people roaming the streets. Not good for the socially anxious, especially when they catch you in your rendition of power ballad classic Holding Out For a Hero.
  4. Because (a) I’ve had dog phobia since I was chased up a climbing frame by a rottweiler (read: corgi) when I was five, (b) I am not yet faster than a dog and (c) their tongues are sloppy!
  5. Because even though running is (apparently) good for your bowel movements, these can occur at inopportune moments. Especially when there are no bathrooms near where you live and you suffer from IBS. Thank God for trees is all I say!
  6. Because as I veered onto Thomas Mitchell Drive, covered in dog drool, I failed to navigate the railway crossing properly, caught my foot on the track and ended up arse over foot.
  7. Because I’m a stubborn fool who doesn’t know when to quit. With a massive gash on my leg dribbling blood onto the sidewalk, I recklessly ignoring the pronounced limp that made me look like I was auditioning for The Usual Suspects and kept running.
  8. Because I’m a masochist. After running straight past the end of my road following a surprising surge of adrenalin and/or endorphins I refused to turn back. Instead, I went up the hill, turned left, got profoundly lost, and ended up adding at least 2 kilometres to my run.
  9. Because I’d forgotten what running can do your nipples.
  10. Because I have the memory of an amnesia affected goldfish and forgot to buy milk; cue dry muesli as my ‘reward’ upon (finally) returning home from this monumental achievement.

So, to summarise; I fell over, was heckled, mauled by a sloppy dog, injured my leg, got profoundly lost, chafed my nipples atrociously and ate dried muesli for breakfast.

Could have been worse!

Now, only twenty more days to go in this 21 Challenge; how can I injure myself tomorrow?


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Eleven (Slightly Odd) Ways to Reduce Stress

In honor of the fact that it’s Lifeline’s Stress Down Day, I present to you eleven (slightly odd) ways in which you can reduce the stress in your life.


1. Watch an episode of Glee (or if you have the time, enjoy a Glee marathon)
As I perused my Facebook profile recently I noticed someone made the following comment in regards to this show “Everything about it just makes me happy,” and they are absolutely right. Rigorous scientific study has shown that if you do not feel happy whilst watching this show then you officially need to throw on a tin suit and skip off to see the wizard.

If you doubt this perfectly valid way to combat stress, I dare you to watch the clip below and not feel your troubles just slide away like hot butter from a knife:

2. Just pick up a pen and start writing…
To be honest it doesn’t matter what you write with nor does it matter what words you do, all that matters is that you write whatever you feel like writing – even if that’s repeating the word “wibble” across an entire sheet of A4.

Sure, the “wibble” approach wouldn’t work quite as well as jotting down your feelings so that you can gain some perspective on what’s bothering you, but it’s such a brilliant and random word I don’t think anyone could say it aloud without cracking a grin.

Repeat after me:

Wibble,

See?

3. Learn how to say “no”…
One of the shortest words in the human language and worth only a couple of points if played outside of special squares on scrabble. Yet it’s one few people ever use. Day in, day out, people agree to take on more things rather than admit that they just don’t have time to do them.

We’re not superheroes, so sometimes we need to casually turn things down if taking them on means overloading our minds to the point of collapse.

4. Dance! Even if you end up looking like Matt Smith in The Big Bang

This tip taps into the innate love of dancing that all human’s share. Whether you’re doing the slightly uncomfortable daddy-two-step-shuffle or pulling off an intricate routine of ‘Single Ladies’, the mere act of dancing releases all forms of stress and frustration. It is in fact akin to getting totally inebriated.

So, if you have a tendency toward being embarrassed, pop off to the toilet cubicle and have a bit of a bogle to Aswad where no-one can see you.

If on the other hand you’re one of these really annoying extroverted souls, gather together a flash mob and whip out your best routine in the middle of your local shopping centre.

Alternatively, if you have no idea how to dance at all, here are some you could try:

5. Pretend you’re the Doctor…
This may not work for everyone, it will really only work if you’re a fan of the greatest television series of all time (so if you’re not, what the hell are you thinking?)…but it might be worth a shot if none of the other tips work.

It’s simple, if you’re feeling stressed, just re-enact your favourite Doctor scenes and pretend you’re saving the universe from total extinction.

Just be sure not to be doing this in public otherwise you:

(a) Run the risk of people believing that there is an actual Dalek invasion under way, which will cause all manner of stress to these people.
or
(b) Run the risk of creating more stress for yourself as people watch on in scared confusion at the lunatic in front of them.

Note: you could replace “the Doctor” in the title of this tip with characters you may love and admire, for example: ‘Pretend you’re Jane Lynch’ or ‘Pretend you’re Han Solo’ or even ‘Pretend you’re one of the Aliens from Toy Story’. But why on earth would you want to do any of those when you could just pretend you’re the Doctor?

6. Talk to Someone…
So obvious that it’s barely worth mentioning, but quite often it’s the obvious which people overlook, so I will. There is nothing better for combating stress than sitting down for a nice hot chocolate and a spanish donut with a friend.

Granted the hot chocolate and spanish donut are optional, but they will help with the whole ‘combating stress’ part of the equation. No-one can eat a spanish donut without feeling blissfully good afterwards.


7. There’s always the obvious – sex…

With this one, you and your honey strip naked and then…you know what, I’m not even going to explain this for it could get icky. Rigorous scientific studies have shown that sex helps with every stressful thought you could possibly be feeling – as long it’s consensual! If it’s not, don’t ever talk to me.

8. The ‘No, not yet, please not yet…fine, you %$*&)#@!I’ll scream into a pillow while you fall into a blissful satisfied sleep’ Method...
A tried and true approach practised by girlfriends and wives the world over. It’s simple (and less likely to result in bruised/dismembered body parts):

  • Pick up a pillow.
  • Press it firmly against your mouth.
  • Scream as loud as you can.

Note: Be careful not to scream for too long otherwise there may be unintended suffocation, which wouldn’t be good. Nope, nope, nope.

9. Crack out a bath bomb and have a soak…
Good for girls and boys. If you’re feeling stressed there’s nothing like a nice hot bath to ease your troubles and woes away. Fill the tub, whip off those clothes and throw yourself into a bombed hot bath. There’s nothing like sitting there as the effervescence fizzes away filling the soothing water with a beautiful aroma. It also  feels funny when close to your skin, so that’ll help with giggles, but I won’t go there.

Once the bomb has fully evaporated just lie back, maybe nibble on the strawberries dipped in chocolate your boyfriend is feeding you (if he’s not, he should be) and feel the tension drift away.

10. Have a massage…
This tip works wonders if used immediately after suggestion 8, so once you’re done in the bath get your boy/girlfriend to give you an all over massage and then lie in blissful contentment for the rest of the night.

11. Embrace your inner child in a field of fallen leaves…
This one is brilliant and guaranteed to work every time. If you’re feeling a bit stressed head to your nearest park where you’re definitely going to have a sea of fallen crunchy leaves to jump/run/fall/crush/play with and then have at it! Forget all your adulty woes and troubles and reconnect with your inner child, go mental with those wonderful crisp leaves just ripe for the crushing.

Note: This tip will really only work in Autumn.

Note: Please, for the love of all things small and spiny, watch out for hedgehogs! They love hibernating in big piles of crunchy leaves just as much as you enjoy jumping/running/falling/crushing/playing with them. A flattened hedgehog will only result in a great deal more stress, a flattened mammal and a lot of hedgehoggy goo on your once awesome pair of shoes.

Further Information:

‘Lifeline: Stress Down Day’ Official Website

‘Lifeline’ Official Website

Lifeline Australia Telephone Number:
13 11 14

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