Volunteer at McLean Lodge - Wintringham, Flemington

At Wintringham Bryan started something. He brought in the packages and funding to care for the elderly homeless because they were just dying like flies.  Because of their previous life on the streets their health was really bad from not having access to any care and they were often older than their years were. His idea for Wintringham started from the injustice Bryan felt. When prisoners get released the community doesn’t want to know about them. A lot of prisoners when they’re released are in their 80’s and the prisons don’t know what to do with them. What many of them need is to get into care.

Down at the night shelter I just started as visiting - volunteering. I wondered what I would say to them because they weren’t people anywhere in my background.  They were genuinely homeless people and a lot of them didn’t want to wash and they would fight the carers over that. But after a while I realised all they wanted was someone to sit with them. And stay. And listen.

It was fascinating and the people themselves were just so uninhibited. It was 1985 and they had been taken off the streets and put altogether and there were 300 people and 15 of them were women, and in amongst that were families and young kids too. They used to go down to the dances down there at Gordon House past Polly Woodside. It was all factories that were still operating. I’d get off at Spencer Street and walk down and it was dark and stuck out there – it was meant to be shut away. It was 12 storeys high right on the river. People had their own rooms that they could lock themselves for the first time.

Jimmy Kennedy was pretty much the king down there and he was a bottle-o. He would collect all the cans and the bottles from the rooms and I think he had about five world vision kids that he sponsored with the proceeds. He was a resident. So that was what it was like: people lived there and created their own meaning. Like Jimmy.

Dorothy at Wintringham.jpg

“These people were genuinely homeless and I wondered what I would say to them…All they wanted was someone to sit with them. And stay. And listen.”