Sydney to Brisbane cyclists raise $100,000 for homelessness
25 September 2018
“Everyone needs a place to call home – that is what this ride is all about,” said Paul Maunder, Team Leader at Brisbane Streetlevel Mission.
Ride for Homeless is a charity fundraising bicycle ride from Sydney to Brisbane raising funds for The Salvation Army Streetlevel Mission (Brisbane) to provide street swags, independent living courses and supported housing initiatives for people who are homeless.
The 1060km ride, held earlier this month, is a partnership between The Salvation Army Brisbane Streetlevel Mission and Nanna Fitty’s Fruit Cake Cycling Club. The club is made up predominantly of Salvationists, as well as people from a variety of backgrounds, faith journeys, or no expression of faith. Club members eat fruit cake before each ride, hence the name.
Starting in Sydney, the group slept in street swags in Salvation Army halls along the way, and were assisted by a small support crew. They arrived in Brisbane on 16 September.
The team have reached their fundraising target of $100,000. Congratulations! If you’d still like to donate, click here.
Riding for home and hope
Ben Harrison was team mechanic on the Ride for Homeless. He was inspired to take part in the event because of his own journey from homelessness.
“The Ride for the Homeless and funds raised will support people who do not have anywhere to call home with the type of resources I have personally needed in the times when I had nothing,” he says.
“My passion is to help people who face homelessness and people with alcohol and drug addiction. It’s definitely my calling. It is all I can now think about wanting to do.”
Having struggled with addiction and homelessness in the past, Ben hopes his story can inspire others to build a new life.
“It all started when I almost lost my leg in a work accident,” he says.
As a marine mechanic, Ben had an enviable life in a seaside suburb. He says: “I was very comfortable. I had a race car, motorcycles, my own home, a wife, dogs and cats – a wonderful life.”
But then his leg was crushed at work.
After surgery, Ben was left with a battery and hard-drive in his hip and wires into his spine. His trade was all he knew, but he was unable to work as a marine mechanic after the accident. He was also in great pain and became increasingly dependent on heavy prescription medication.
After two years, his doctor warned of the dangers on staying on the medication long term and Ben stopped, but then his life took a turn for the worse. He began to drink to deal with the pain and the ever-increasing depression and sense of loss.
“I quickly fell into depression, then alcohol and drug addiction,” he says. (In addiction) I ended up losing my marriage, my home, even my dogs.”
Ben found himself living in his car, wasting away physically, plagued by suicidal thoughts. At one stage he crashed a car at high speed into a tree while under the influence of drugs.
“I just had a great sense of worthlessness,” he says.
After a time in The Salvation Army Pindari Crisis Accommodation and another service, Ben slept rough on the streets and in squat houses.
During his time on the streets, Ben began to visit The Salvation Army Streetlevel Mission in Brisbane, which offers meals, services for those facing homelessness; work for the dole; counselling, material and spiritual support and more. He was then accepted into “Moonyah”, The Salvation Army residential recovery services centre in Brisbane.
“I had no idea places like Moonyah (or Streetlevel) existed. I had no hope,” he shares. “I thought I had no one to help me. I came into Moonyah with no idea of the 12-step recovery program. I went into detox first and I was loved and cared for, which I didn’t believe was possible.
“I came into the program a very angry man with no will to live, but then met some amazing people. It was also amazing spiritually, and case workers were telling me I could have a life again. I started to do the 12 steps – admitting to myself I was powerless over this disease – and it was the first time I’d thought of addiction as a disease.
“Although I had a strong Christian faith in the past, it was at Moonyah I turned my will over to God. God has saved my life now a number of times.”
Today, Ben lives independently, and has stayed connected to the Streetlevel community throughout his journey.
“I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, thanks to this place (Streetlevel),” he says. “I’m 580 days without a drink or drug in my life and a great feeling of self-worth.
“I had given up on myself, just waiting to die basically. I was coming to Streetlevel for months and months before rehab. I found some absolutely amazing people there I really look up to. I love them, I love the place – it’s become my ‘home’.”
Ben now has a burning desire to help others and has studied and completed a Certificate 3 in Community Services.
By Naomi Singlehurst and Simone Worthing