ON many a Friday night, Jeffery Green wheels himself through his front door and says to his housemates: “Guys, who wants to go out for tea? My shout.”
He lays out his earnings from selling The Big Issue on the streets of Melbourne on the kitchen table, counting the week’s tally with pride.
His income is modest but the Bulldogs fan doesn’t care – he just wants to share what he can with his mates.
Jeffery, 54, who suffers cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, lives in supported disability accommodation in Moonee Ponds with four other men and women.
The home is run on a shoestring and he’s known to chip in for milk and bread when it runs out.
“He sells The Big Issue to keep himself busy and have a social life,” says his brother Colin.
“It covers his expenses, trips to the football and movies, and he’s happy. Even if he wasn’t making a dollar, he’d still come out and do it.”
But Colin says without the services of Western Health, Jeffery wouldn’t be able to hit the streets to sell the magazine six days a week, for as many as eight hours a day.
He’s been in and out of hospital countless times over his life with a raft of health issues, patched up and sent out again with an enduring smile on his face.
In the past five years alone, he’s been admitted 15 times with ailments including leg wounds and infection from the cellulitis in his legs, chest infections and respiratory failure, kidney problems and injuries from repeated falls.
In his most serious episode of respiratory failure yet, he nearly died and was rushed to emergency after in-home carers noticed he was turning pale.
“He was delusional, he put on a real turn,” Colin says.
“It’s extremely serious but he doesn’t realise how bad it’s gotten. Being out in the cold all day is also causing major breathing difficulties and triggering his asthma.
“Western Health have been marvellous through the years with all the issues he’s had. They get him healthy, up and about with rehab, and keep him mentally stable.”
In Australia, about 34,000 people have cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition which affects posture and the ability to move.
Until he was 38, Jeffery could walk on crutches, but they eventually wore out his shoulder blades and forced him into a wheelchair.
“He would walk on his crutches for up to 4km a day, he’d walk so much that he’d wear out his shoes,” Colin says.
“But he doesn’t have much feeling down there and didn’t realise there were holes forming in his toes. He had to have four toes removed from one foot and three from the other.”
Colin admits he is concerned about the amount of time his brother spends on the streets alone, particularly in the depths of winter.
But he knows how important it is to him and says the sellers look out for each other.
He’s been selling The Big Issue for the last seven years after 27 years working at Yooralla, packing boxes with items like nuts and bolts.
Jeffery says on the whole people in Melbourne are friendly, and some buy him coffee or stop for a chat.
“The public are good,” he says.
“I’ve met quite a few people in my time.”
But he does have some advice for passers-by.
Firstly, he doesn’t take EFTPOS.
And secondly: “Change your attitude in the mornings.”
“Some of them are a bit grumpy,” he adds.
The Greatest Need Project is an online story-sharing website with two major goals – to help patients facing significant hardship and disadvantage, and to facilitate research, at Western Health.
As a patient, Jeffery Green is sharing his story in bid to help those at Western Health who need it most.
By making a donation on Jeffery’s behalf – and sharing his story on social media – you are making a difference too. Thank you.