Matt* arrived one night exhausted, irritable and anxious. He did not want to talk. He simply wanted to sleep. Matt had been sleeping in his car for a week, which he said was uncomfortable. The following morning when he woke at 6 o’clock and requested to be let off the bus, I was greeted with a huge smile as he expressed his huge gratitude for a comfortable night’s sleep. Matt was now up for a chat and told me he was able to stretch out to sleep, which he couldn’t do in his car, and that he slept soundly because he had no fear of being attacked or moved on. Most importantly he said he felt like a million dollars and fully ready to go off to work for the day. This is one of many humbling conversations I have shared since becoming a Sleepbus volunteer.
Sleepbus provides safe temporary overnight emergency accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, enabling them to have a sound night’s sleep. The service began in Maroochydore in early 2022. It currently operates Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. There is great need for a nightly service; however, Sleepbus is run entirely by volunteers and currently there are insufficient volunteers to provide such a service. This Sleepbus is the only one of its kind in Queensland.
I became involved with Sleepbus in September last year after listening to an interview on the radio with a Sleepbus volunteer. My husband, Chris, and I relocated from Sydney to Buderim in 2022. After arriving I prayed that the Holy Spirit would lead us to a form of ministry where we could serve others. I believe it was God’s spirit and my sense of Christian social justice that led us to become involved with Sleepbus.
I volunteer at Sleepbus as an overnight caretaker. This entails sleeping overnight on the bus with our guests and responding to any of their needs during the night. I have a secure cabin. I am responsible for setting up the bus with the support of night service volunteers who are at the bus until it closes at 10pm. I oversee the guests settling in for the night, then in the morning facilitate the guests getting up before closing the bus.
Currently there are two other parishioners from St Mark’s, Buderim who regularly volunteer. Chris Cooper, my husband, who is a night service volunteer, serves between 8 and 10pm. Night service volunteers support the overnight caretaker and assist with helping guests and companion animals into their pods for the night. They also chat with our guests. When I am on duty, Chris returns in the morning and assists me with getting the guests up and closing the bus. Judy Clarke is also a St Mark’s parishioner. She volunteers behind the scenes of Sleepbus with housekeeping, pod cleaning and changing the bed sheets.
I am a cradle Anglican with an Anglo-Catholic faith that instilled in me a strong sense of Christian social justice. I was raised to see Christ in everyone and so Matthew 25 strongly resonates with me. When Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did not to me.” Volunteering with Sleepbus is my faith in action as I serve Christ through serving people who are homeless.
Since volunteering with Sleepbus, my previously stereotypical image of a rough sleeper being an older man dependent on alcohol has been disproved. I was initially astounded that most people I encounter experiencing homelessness are under 40 and a mix of genders. Some are escaping domestic and family violence, whilst others are homeless because of the lack of affordable housing. Some work. Due to being homeless, all sadly face discrimination.
There are more Sleepbuses destined for Queensland – for Redcliffe, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg. In the near future, there will be a pink Sleepbus specifically for women and children commencing in Nambour. All these Sleepbuses will be in the geographical area of our Diocese. I am keen to encourage as many parishioners as possible within our Diocese to reach out to Sleepbus and serve Jesus by serving “the least of these”.
If you would like to volunteer with Sleepbus, please visit the Sleepbus website.
* Pseudonym used to protect his identity.
Note from Jennifer Clark, ACSQ Domestic and Family Violence Project Officer: This is another great example of local Anglicans responding to the current housing crisis. We know that there is a strong link between domestic and family violence and homelessness. The Anglican Church Southern Queensland (ACSQ) is committed to the rollout of the Ten Commitments as our Church’s response to Domestic and Family Violence. This includes encouraging links with local support services.
The following 24/7 telephone services have a long track record responding to people experiencing domestic and family violence:
- DV Connect 1800 811 811 helps Queenslanders wanting to escape domestic violence.
- 1800RESPECT is a national service providing information, referrals, and counselling.
If you, or the person you are assisting, are in immediate danger please call the Police on 000.