Bayside Ďangelsí caring for those in greatest need
2 March 2016
I have no money – none! If I wanted to go and buy a one-dollar ice-block, I simply couldn’t. I’m basically just so blessed that I’m being fed and kept alive by the Bayside Salvation Army community.
Ryan’s story has no fairytale ending. He is alive, but he is also in great pain and is totally dependent on the kindness of others.
As a New Zealander who came to live in Australia after 26 February 2001 and didn't take out permanent residency, Ryan has none of the reciprocal rights that Aussies enjoy in New Zealand*.
Ryan is one of many Kiwis who came to Australia after this date, fell on hard times and discovered there was simply no financial safety net. Even many charities linked to government funding cannot help.
After working in Australia for well over 13 years, Ryan started suffering from crippling, chronic pain, and doctors thought it may have been linked to the paints and chemicals he had used as a spray-painter in the automotive industry. He left his job and moved to a warmer climate to try and recover his health and look for a job outside the industry.
“It proved to be far, far more difficult to find work that I imagined it to be,” he says. “I was pretty much going from little job to little job and not finding anything solid. And I had so much pain ... they eventually tagged it as chronic pain syndrome. Then I developed an enlarged prostate and that is wreaking havoc in my body, so every day is (and has been) a battle!”
Ryan had always worked and never sought support. Eventually, though, Ryan became so ill that he tried to apply for welfare support to tide him over while seeking specialist medical treatment. But he was shocked to find doors closing in his face. He says that the spiral to homelessness and extreme poverty was breathtakingly fast.
“One day you’re working, you’re fine, you’re happy, you have a roof over your head and a life and then really with one click of a finger, that can be taken away,” he says. “I was struggling with health issues every day and by this stage I couldn’t even manage little jobs like lawn mowing. I had a van that I was living in, but I couldn’t afford to put fuel in it. I couldn’t afford to buy my medications.”
One day, a worker with a local homelessness organisation found Ryan and suggested The Salvation Army at Bayside might be able to help.
Church members and the Doorways team rallied and Ryan was able to base his van in The Salvation Army car park and access the building’s amenities, until moving in with a church family. He says of the service and corps: “They’ve been feeding me, clothing me, helping me out with doctors, getting medications. Rhona (Doorways worker) has been just amazing."
Ryan says he is now volunteering when his health allows, to help others who come to the service and has been shocked by the deep level of need in the community.
He says: “I think because Bayside is a church, there’s a really good feeling of community spirit. They’ve been like angels. I can’t speak highly enough of them. Without them I don’t know if I’d still be around because I was getting to that point that after five years of pain every single day, you kind of lose that whole motivation to keep going.”
* All New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 and who want to access certain social security payments, obtain citizenship or sponsor family members for permanent residence may only do so after applying for, and being granted, permanent residence through the migration program.