Kathy won't ignore the homeless

Kathy Pitropakis had a light bulb moment in Year 12 when Young Mercy Links coordinator Bernadette Inman challenged the Mercy College students in Coburg to think about the need to help people who suffer in silence.

 On a follow up meeting Bernadette asked Kathy to think about the people who were homeless in the community that we walk past on Melbourne streets.

“Bernadette asked me to imagine what it would be like for the people living on the streets to be ignored by hundreds of people day after day. People just walking past them as if they are invisible and don’t even exist,” Kathy said.

In her own way, a few months after finishing Year 12, Kathy stopped her unintentional ‘ignoring’ of the homeless and began spending every second Thursday with them at McAuley House. She started volunteering with the Young Mercy Links regular pampering team that visits the women at McAuley House, chatting to them, offering some companionship and a facial of course!

“Most of us are so busy in own bubble that we don’t even stop to think that we are ignoring people who are homeless all the time. I don’t think most of us mean to do it, we just don’t take the time to stop and think,” said Kathy who is in the second year of a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Drama) at Deakin University.

Each fortnight Kathy and other Young Mercy Links participants do stop and put whatever else they are doing on hold and focus totally on the women at McAuley House. They talk about television shows, movies and lots of light topics. After a while some of the ‘regular’ women will share what is happening in their lives and Kathy listens with mercy and care.

“After a while when you give a facial to the same lady week after week she will talk a bit about what is going on in her life or what has happened to her. I just listen to her and I feel sad that a person has had to suffer so much sadness. It isn’t right,” Kathy said.

Kathy shares the women’s love of the new McAuley House with all its light, space and artwork. It’s been a topic of discussion on recent visits as the women talk about their newly-acquired privacy and en-suites and what that means to them. In between talking, the women are offered facials and massages.

“I love giving the facials and watching the pleasure it gives the women when they can just sit there and be totally pampered. I see them smile as I am giving them the facial. It’s our way of making sure that these women are not invisible and that they know they matter,” Kathy said.

Kathy, who is almost 19, also volunteers on a soup van in North Melbourne each fortnight as part of the Young Mercy Links team. The volunteers provide food and hospitality to people who are homeless or in nearby rooming houses. She’s determined not to walk past the homeless, the people in need.