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Vinnies Van volunteers at the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service in Sydney’s Martin Place (The Catholic Weekly/Alphonsus Fok)

Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Meagher says he is distressed by the lack of support for people with acute mental illness who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and urged Catholics to get to know the people they see on the city’s streets. Source: The Catholic Weekly.

His comments came as the Sydney Archdiocese held its fourth annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service on June 21, which honours people who have died homeless, on the streets or in unstable housing.

“There are people living lives of great loneliness without much social support at all and they can be easily caught in a cycle of becoming ill, hospitalised, returned home and becoming ill again,” he said. 

“I have acquaintances who have ended up sleeping rough when they are unwell and not able to look after themselves. One became wrongly convinced people kept trying to break into her home and didn’t feel safe there.

“While I’m not a medical expert it’s obvious to me that the system doesn’t have enough resources to care for people with acute mental illness, such as schizophrenia, who don’t have good social support.” 

The bishop has worked with the homeless and is supportive of charities that minister to them, such as Cana Communities, David’s Place, and the Matthew Talbot Hostel. 

This month the NSW Government announced a $111.8 million package to support community mental health. 

The bishop is pleased efforts are being made, but believes that following the de-institutionalisation of mental health care from long-term psychiatric facilities since the 1960s, promised support for acute cases of mental illness in the community was not delivered. 

Bishop Meagher has befriended many rough sleepers and other marginalised Sydneysiders and urged Catholics to do the same. 

“Just say hello. Ask if you can get them a coffee or a sandwich. Have a conversation and just get to know them. It’s hard at first because we don’t know quite what to do, but don’t be afraid.” 


Bishop Meagher: Homeless need friendship, not our fear (By Marilyn Rodrigues, The Catholic Weekly)

Homeless memorial service offers a prayer for the forgotten (By George Al-Akiki, The Catholic Weekly)