Safety for down and out

Orana House supervisor Mark Sytsma.
Orana House supervisor Mark Sytsma.

JUNE’S in the kitchen making rock cakes.

A couple of long-term residents are having a yarn on the porch outside their units.

There’s no one in the games room because most people are out today, but Nikky’s chatting with June while he washes up.

Things are quiet at Orana House.

When the lights are flicked and the gates locked at midnight, it’s anyone’s guess what the night will bring.

Just as there’s no typical resident at City Mission’s crisis accommodation – clients range from young professionals to men fresh out of jail – there’s no typical overnight shift.

Some nights there will be someone who needs a safe place to sober up, so the police will call.

Other nights, the police are called instead.

Mental health issues are common among clients of the service, says Orana House supervisor Mark Sytsma.

Or it could be a situational crisis. Often, the men have low literacy and numeracy skills.

At any time, residents could range in age from 18 to 70.

But they’re all given the same message: no drugs and no alcohol. Flouting these rules will see you out the door.

When Mr Systma’s shift ends at 4pm, he reminds residents he’ll be back in the morning.

‘‘Don’t drink coffee and go to bed at a reasonable hour,’’ he says to them.

‘‘I’ll be back at 8am banging on the door – that’s how society runs.’’

A good night at Orana House will be quiet. The person working the overnight shift would like to be twiddling their thumbs.

If they’re not, they might be checking in on a person staying in the place of safety – one of the two sobering-up rooms.

They’re on call to help when panic sets in among residents, usually around 2am, when the dark brings nightmares and reminders of memories better left suppressed.

‘‘The beauty of the morning shift is if someone needs to talk there’s someone there to talk with them,’’ Mr Sytsma says.

‘‘We’re not counsellors, but we’re good listeners.’’

Long-term residents are allowed but not encouraged to go out in the evening. Guests are not permitted through the night.

Hard, unforgiving nights must be forgotten in the morning because that’s the reality of life, that’s how things work.

Mr Sytsma will be there at 8am to remind everyone of that.

The City Mission is one of four charities supported by The Examiner Winter Relief Appeal.

Organisation community relations manager Brian Roach said City Mission always welcomed funding.

‘‘In tough times, the demand for services increases but financial support drops off,’’ he said.

Donations to The Examiner Winter Relief Appeal can be made at the newspaper’s Launceston, Hobart and Devonport offices and at businesses displaying a Winter Relief Appeal tin.


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