Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Front Page - BY BEV JOR­DAN To find out more about StreetMed visit

There are smiles, hugs and hand­shakes when the StreetMed team set up its ser­vice in the shadow of Leigh Memo­rial Church in Par­ra­matta on Tues­day. For many of the peo­ple who ar­rive it is a weekly op­por­tu­nity to check on their health, catch up, and find some­one who wants to lis­ten.

Next week marks five years since Win­ston Hills para­medic Chris Cleary set up StreetMed to pro­vide ba­sic first aid and health check-up ser­vices to home­less peo­ple.

In that time, her team has seen more than 10,000 peo­ple from Par­ra­matta and Black­town to the Hills and Hawkes­bury. They check blood sugar lev­els and blood pres­sure and chat to those who come. Dur­ing the day, their ad­vo­cacy role kicks in as Chris works hard to sort out some of the myr­iad of prob­lems the home­less peo­ple they see are fac­ing. She was on the street her­self for a few years af­ter leav­ing home at 18. Now mar­ried, with a young son, the trained para­medic and SES vol­un­teer, was de­ter­mined to give back.

“I have been there and I knew there was a gap in ser­vices.” She and her team treat mi­nor in­juries, spi­der bites and re­fer clients when needed.

“No-one is ever born want­ing to be home­less,” she said. “Th­ese are the most re­silient peo­ple I know.”

Nick Cruik­shank. Is 45 and has been home­less, for long and short pe­ri­ods, since he was 15.

“I come here every on Tues­days to catch up with friends,” he said. “You get a health check and you can get some food.”

A very bad cy­cle ac­ci­dent in 1999 left him with a se­vere head in­jury and bro­ken bones. He was un­able to re­turn to work. His wife left him, he lost his son and his home. He has since used his skills to build him­self a boat to live on af­ter 12 years of be­ing home­less.

“When you are on your own you see a lot of peo­ple on ice and it’s dan­ger­ous. Most peo­ple on the street look out for each other it’s a close com­mu­nity. “

StreetMed vol­un­teer Wayne Far­ran joined the team in the foot­steps of his 15-year-old daugh­ter Claudia who was vol­un­teer­ing as part of her Duke of Ed­in­burgh Award com­mu­nity work. Both have stayed. Dad and daugh­ter help out on Fri­days at Black­town to­gether but now Wayne also comes on Tues­days to Par­ra­matta.

“I felt good that the peo­ple we in­ter­act with leave with a sense of worth.”

In sum­mer the Tues­day night com­bi­na­tion of StreetMed health checks and the Cop­tic Chris­tian Food Truck at­tracts be­tween 50 and 60 peo­ple in win­ter and up to 90 in sum­mer.

Charles is 72 and a reg­u­lar who was rid­ing the train sys­tem to keep warm be­fore he was found an af­ford­able hous­ing unit.

“My wife and I were run­ning a busi­ness but it col­lapsed in a heap. We bor­rowed too much money and couldn’t af­ford to pay it back. She took the rest of the money and the kids.”

For a while Charles was helped by friends and then ended up in cri­sis hous­ing for nine months be­fore rid­ing the trains.

“I would ride the trains to Woy Woy and Hornsby just to keep warm. They would stop at 4am. I only had to wait about an hour un­til the Blue Moun­tains trains started.”

About 95 per cent of the peo­ple StreetMed see are men, typ­i­cally be­tween their mid 30s and 60s.

San­dra Turner has been vol­un­teer­ing with StreetMed for three years. “The pa­trons know what we are there for them, some of them are very lonely. She says there are so many rea­sons why peo­ple are home­less, with men­tal ill­ness and do­mes­tic abuse high on the list. You learn not to judge, ev­ery­one has a story.”

Chris Cleary takes Nick's blood pres­sure at the StreetMed ta­ble on Tues­day.

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