"Reaching out to people during a Street Outreach patrol at night"

About: Healthy Options Australia

(as a volunteer/advocate),

The team was parked near the Port Noarlunga jetty one evening looking to engage with the young people who regularly congregate at this spot.

The night was slow and we hardly spoke to anyone, when along came this elderly person who did not look quite right to me. So I sang out to them a friendly greeting and invited them to come over to the vehicle for a hot drink and a chat. The person came over and it was obvious that they were distressed about something, so we started to chat and it was revealed that they have lost their partner recently after being married for many years and they were grieving their loss. We spoke about many things, grief/loss, loneliness, feeling sad all the time, anger and guilt. When I questioned why they were feeling guilty, they replied that they were attending counselling for the loss of their partner and had met another person who also had lost their partner recently. This person had asked if they could see each other. This made the the person I was talking with feel guilty and as if they were betraying their departed partner, part of this person wanted to see the other person because they were so lonely which led to them being angry with themselves for not respecting their departed partner.

I suggested to this person that maybe the other person was also lonely and needed to just talk to someone who would understand their loss and grief and had no other motives. It was suggested that maybe it would be a good thing just to meet and over a cup of coffee both of them could share their feelings of loss and would be there to support each other.

The person immediately smiled and said "I never thought of it that way". It seemed as if a light had just been switched on, and the person's eyes lit up and their whole appearance changed and they started to thank the team for just talking to them, it seemed to us that all they needed was just some one to talk to and someone to listen to them.

I feel the team realised that we were there to engage with young people, but if an opportunity presents we can engage with anyone, no matter what age or gender they are.

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