(Consistent heroin user at the Cross which the shooting gallery, E.R, and health only focused Medical Treatment, all seemed to fail John?)
JOHN O’CONNOR was a stick of a man, so tiny and emaciated that when he wove down the centre of Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross he looked like an apparition…
And when he died last Saturday in Victoria Street, after more than 20 years of being homeless, hundreds mourned. Yet for years he had been death-on-legs, so sick his survival past his 45th birthday in March was a miracle. His chosen poison was drugs, not drink. He would inject heroin or anything else he found in bins or could glean from others.
Mr O’Connor was reputed to have been the most frequent user of the emergency department at St Vincent’s Hospital. The Mission Beat van delivered him there about every second day. Paramedics knew him well and so did the police. They would scrape him off the pavement, where he would lie spreadeagled, oblivious to pedestrians, and gently take him to the emergency department or his GP, or the intoxicated persons’ unit in Surry Hills.
If you added up the cost of hospital bills, the ambulance rides, the outreach workers, the mental health and addiction treatment staff over the 20 years, it is likely that it cost the state between $500,000 and $1 million to keep John O’Connor homeless. Felicity Reynolds, chief executive of Mercy Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that aims to end chronic homelessness, has conservatively calculated, based on available information, that about $60,000 was spent on Mr O’Connor in the past year.
“That money didn’t solve his problems,” she said. “There has to be a better way.”