Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Would You Do?

For the past few nights there has been a man sleeping in his car across the road.

The first day I noticed because the car was parked immediately outside the house and towels or sheets were hung up in the windows. At first I thought it was just full of crap like my car, but then I realised that the towels were makeshift curtains, and there was someone asleep in the passenger seat.

As I was packing bags into my car, I saw a large man get out of the car, do up the button of his jeans (I don't think he was doing anything dodgy, he was just more comfortable sleeping with them undone). He walked around to the drivers side of the car and removed the curtains.

After he started the car, he reached behind him and then carefully put an akubra hat on, adjusted it, and drove away.

That night the car was back again, towels and sheets wedged in the windows.  He did not cause any fuss, made no noise, left no rubbish and drove away the next morning.

The last two nights he has been back, but parked around the corner, still in full view of the house. In front of many houses.

I have had so many mixed emotions about this.

My first fleeting reaction was 'that's strange. Don't often see that around here' quickly followed by 'I wonder if he wants a coffee.'

But I haven't offered him a coffee. I have been reluctant to approach him at all. I haven't done anything - for him or against him.

I have one half of my brain telling me that he is homeless or friendless, possibly from the country, maybe he lost his job, a relationship broke down and he has been booted out of the house, maybe his rent was increased too much, maybe he is just waiting for something.

Then the other part of my brain kicks in with the 'don't get involoved', 'you're home alone during the day with small children', there may be a very good reason why he has been kicked out of his house, he may be sick, he may be dangerous, oh my god Not In My Backyard (or front yard, as the case may be).

Get a grip Shannon.

I am concerned that I am actively participating in a world where we can watch people suffer and die and not get involved.

I am not prepared to offer a strange man my spare room. But I do not wish to call the police.
Should I call a local Samaritan agency and tell them where he is. Do I wait for a few more days?

Where does he go during the day? What are all my neighbours thinking?

Am I being reckless if I approach him? Am I being callous if I don't.  Do I just mind my own business?

What would you do?


  1. This is a tough one. I probably would want to offer him a coffee as well, or even a meal but I know my husband would be furious with me as he would see it as putting myself and my daughter in harms way. He is not without compassion but he also knows that there are dangerous people out there. Sad that this is how we think but it is best to be cautious. Is there a local good will grou that might be able to help him, maybe you can offer him a care pack (packet soups, instant coffee, blanket etc) donated to them for this man. I understand ur dilemma. Fran

  2. Have you chatted to your husband about this man? My partner is usually the one who approaches people who look like they may need help, eg someone broken down on the side of the road. If I'm alone with my son I never do. Yeah I think that's what I would do, send him out to suss it out if the man is there before he goes to work or when he gets home

  3. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Send your husband or call the Samaritans in. I also understand your dilemma...

  4. I don't resort to 'sending my husband'...this is the kind of situation I thought I could/should handle myself. Close to your house are some cricket nets....one week last winter school holidays I was noticing increasing bags and assorted 'stuff' and then two women who looked like they had set up camp. Then it was the 1st day of school being back and as I drove by into work very early in the morning I noticed them struggling to get all their belongings into a shopping cart. Well one woman was, the other looked too unwell. Off I went to work, and was back home just as the kids were getting into their raisin toast (it was a Tuesday - raisin toast delivery day). The sweet aroma and sounds of a happy cosy warm family abounded and I couldn't shake the image of what I had just seen. In our 'nice' suburb. So, as I drove by an hour later I stopped. And offered ....warm buttered raisin toast and a thermos of tea. It was in no uncertain terms, rejected. I was feeling utterly useless...I offered a $50 note....unsurprisingly it was refused (I know - I am embarrassed that I offered but I felt so useless)...so I offered to call crisis care. Offer declined. I realise homelessness is a very very complicated situation. One western 'burbs person in their warm western 'burbs existence cant really solve it. But to not have tried felt so cold. Now I have decided I should just resort to the donation to organisations equipped to deal with these issues. Don't forget people - this weekend is the Red Shield appeal! m

    1. You're so right, it is complicated but good for you for doing something, anything. It would have been hard to keep offering despite being rejected, but you tried.

      How many other people drove by that day (that week!) and did nothing. I am uncomfortable in writing it, but I know those nets and I drove by. I don't think I even noticed them, more to my shame. I only noticed when it was right outside my house.

      Thanks for the Red Shield tip, and thanks for your story.


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