When Being Top Of The Ladder Isn’t A Good Thing

When Being Top Of The Ladder Isn’t A Good Thing

At this time of the year followers of the various codes of football across our country are probably focused on where their team sits on the competition ladder. Are they a contender? Are they languishing at the bottom of the ladder? Are they sitting comfortably on the top? Maybe sportsball isn’t quite your cup of tea, but I’m sure you have people in your sphere who seem very passionate about these things and who closely follow such ladders.

The recent release of the annual NSW Street Count (a count of people sleeping rough) sees our own Byron Shire LGA top of the ladder for the second year running, having moved past The City of Sydney for the first time just last year and remaining in top spot again in 2024. This is not a ladder that any community wishes to sit in top spot on. This is not a good thing. 348 people, the largest cohort of rough sleepers in the state, were counted in our town and region and this was an increase of 16 percent from last year. The statistics gathered during February of this year also highlight another grim statistic – a 26 percent increase in those sleeping rough in just 12 months across our state of NSW. This is a massive issue for our local and wider community.

We cannot escape this reality, as we see this every day at our own Byron Bay building, with often two or three people sleeping under our verandas each and every night. I wonder how we feel about this as a community? Have we fully appreciated what this means? How do we respond to this information…because surely we must! Where do we start?

Rising interest rates, higher living costs, no affordable housing and no temporary accommodation options for those in crisis in our region all combine to make the situation feel hopeless and as members of the community I’m sure many of us feel helpless to make any difference.

Well for us here in Byron, as we acknowledge the reality of our undesirable position on top of this NSW Street Count ladder, maybe instead of seeing this as a problem to be solved, we can see it as an opportunity to love. Unconditional love is one of the core values of our faith community and in this current situation in our local community we have countless opportunities to walk in love. John Wyatt once wrote that, ‘suffering is not a question that demands an answer. It is not a problem that demands a solution. It is a mystery that demands a presence.’

As we engage with the reality of the current situation for such a large cohort in our neighbourhood who are suffering, a reality that seems to have no answer or solution, may we engage in acts of unconditional love and be a peaceful and loving presence. In this way we can bear hope in what appears to be a hopeless situation and maybe there will be a day when we will no longer sit on the top of this particular ladder in Byron Bay.

Phil Dokmanovic is Minister at Bangalow Byron Bay Uniting Church.

This piece first appeared on the Byron Shire Uniting Churches website. View the original here.


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