It is a harsh reality for many people as the sun disappears under the city skyline in Melbourne, a reality that our Night Nurses are all too familiar with. This is what really happens in the dark, after dark, on Melbourne's streets... 

People often ask me “what do you do?” My response is always the same, “I am a nurse. I help the homeless community”. This generally leads into a whole conversation about what that looks like, who exactly do I help and “wow, that must be so interesting”. And yeah, I guess it is interesting. On the other hand, I have also been challenged by throw-away responses like “well, they’re all the same”. That could not be more ignorant or wrong - the only same thing about each patient we meet is the fact that they have no stable housing and our system has failed them.

Many people fail to realise that the patients I come across on every shift are real people; so real that it would break anyone’s heart if they too, took a moment to listen.

Some of the things I've come across no person should ever have to see, things that no person should ever have to experience. I have seen people being spat on by passers-by or having food thrown on them for no reason. I have met refugees just trying to find basic, but critical, medical care. I’ve even met mothers with their toddlers walking the streets, with nowhere to go, after escaping horrendous family violence situations.

I have delivered CPR on the street to people with medical conditions who went from being fine one minute to fighting for their life within seconds and arriving just moments after someone has tried to end it all because they were left with no hope or support.

This is where I do my job best.

The type of care myself and my colleagues in the Night Nurses Outreach service provide is for the individual. We help people who need medical attention and emotional care, often in their darkest hour, because of a failing system. We have no fancy equipment or medication on us, not even a doctor. What we do have is a backpack filled with basic medical supplies, our collective experience as nurses and compassion.

Sometimes we might only see a patient once or twice and we hope that this means they’ve found some positive outcomes. For others, they rely on us for regular care. People who have no other connections and have been waiting for housing for as long as I have been walking the streets. For these people, we may be the only familiar face they see all week.

I have walked the street for 7 years now, in the dark, the cold of winter, the searing heat of summer, on festive holidays, in the middle of major events and now, amid a wide scale pandemic.

Why? Because, every single person in our community deserves access to medical care.

Every night I go home knowing I have shared hope and provided comfort and medical care to a community that is being left behind. A community that has fallen through the cracks and will fall further if services like ours and organisations like Youth Projects could not operate.

Our Night Nurses hit the streets at sundown from Wednesday through to Sunday to provide medical care to people in need. This service integrates with The Living Room to provide ongoing health and medical care for people.

Please consider helping our night nurses stay out longer to help more people during the current crisis by donating to our COVID-19 Rapid Response appeal today