“Night Patrol is not about the food. It’s about personal interaction and showing the homeless that we are together with them,” says Vivian Mourani. “They are someone’s brother, sister or friend. We want them to know that they all matter. We respect and we care for them.”
Vivian is a volunteer with the St Vincent de Paul Society in Sydney, helping to distribute meals, blankets, toiletries, snacks and hot drinks every evening to hundreds of people living rough on the city streets.
But to many homeless people, Vivian, a mother of two, is simply known as the “Egg Lady” because of her initiative to provide hard-boiled eggs as a nutritious night-time snack.
“I was looking for a healthy option to chocolate and chips,” she explains. “The great thing about boiled eggs is you don’t need to refrigerate them – in fact, a lot of the homeless people keep them for breakfast.”
Inspired by the Lebanese tradition of giving boiled eggs at Easter, Vivian asked students and teachers at St Therese’s Primary School in the northern Sydney suburb of Denistone to donate eggs, and the response was overwhelmingly generous.
“It’s very hard to explain to children about people doing it tough, so my egg drive has helped start that conversation,” she says.
While Vivian, who works as a family educator at the school, is delighted with the success of her egg initiative, she insists that the pastoral work of the Night Patrol goes well beyond providing warm clothes and food.
“Human interaction is very, very important – it’s more important than the food because we are often the only people they get to speak to all day,” she says.
Vivian cites the example of a homeless man called Romeo who greets the Vinnie’s food van in Martin Place and then jogs over to Central Station to catch up with them again after they’ve completed their run to Surry Hills.
“He’s at Martin Place the minute we arrive and has a cup of tea and maybe some food but the rest of the night he just wants to talk,” she says. “Romeo constantly says to us, ‘You are my family – I only come out for you.’ He just wants someone to listen to him.”
Vivian doesn’t think there is anything remarkable about her work with the Night Patrol which, she says, springs from her own Christian faith and a commitment to social justice. Nor does she find it burdensome to co-ordinate the nightly food runs for Vinnies, which involve two vehicles, a team of volunteers and a wide range of food and clothing items.
“It started off with me wanting to do something for charity but it’s become almost my addiction,” she says. “I know that I make that little bit of a difference to someone just by listening to them – I’m like a sister to them or a wife they never had. They love that regular face-to-face contact.”
Too many people, she says, are too wrapped up in their own lives to see the suffering around them and to lend a hand.