Walking home through the side streets of South Melbourne I noticed a girl wandering around with a tattered suitcase. She was looking tired and exhausted. As I approached to overtake, she quietly asked if I could help her with directions. Of course I could. She then asked me for the directions to one of the welfare service institutions in Melbourne. I immediately thought the worst – she was homeless. I knew that the address she wanted to go to was the head office and not the halfway house she had in mind so I offered to call up the housing crisis support – Opening Doors (1800 825 955)- instead.
After being assessed over the phone, they instructed her to tram/taxi to their St Kilda crisis centre where she will be able to stay the night and then get assistance the next day for a more permanent accommodation. Having felt relieved at finding her shelter for the night I offered to buy her a quick meal at Hungry Jacks. With no phone, no money, the young girl had not eaten all day.
Whilst we waited for her meal to come out, a Taxi pulled up to visit the loo. Perfect. When the driver came out I asked him to drive the girl to St Kilda. Just before we parted ways I gave her my card and asked her to let me know that she was ok. She thanked me and hopped in the car. I thought that would be my good deed for the day.
Twenty minutes passed and as I was getting into my trackies to relax I received a call from the driver. She didn’t have money to pay and the crisis centre wasn’t going to pay either. So as I was the one that asked for her ride, the debt was passed on to me. A whole $18.60. After trying to explain to the driver that I didn’t know the girl, that she genuinely required assistance, and to ask the driver for a bit of compassion, I was blasted with words I won’t put in this blog and threatened to be reported to the police. $18.60 to help a girl on the edge of sleeping rough.
In the end I agreed to foot the bill and he arrived within minutes. The driver then instructed me to ride in his taxi so he could return the suitcase he held hostage. I could not believe what he had done. The poor girl with nothing had just had the last of her possessions taken from her over a measly $18.60. I took her suitcase and paid the bill which had been taxed an extra $10 because he had to come to me for the money.
After he left, I went immediately to the Salvation Army Crisis Centre. When I arrived I saw the girl being looked after by the very supportive staff. It was a wonderful feeling to see her in the right care.
As I debriefed my night with my fiancé, I could not imagine what might have happened if I didn’t give her an extra moment of time and just pointed her in the direction to nowhere. We are all given opportunities to make a difference. Choose compassion.