When people pass by the homeless, most don't even see them.

Repulsed by the smell, the sight and the shabby, the average person will turn away or look through them as if they were a pane of glass.

But in essence, all these people of the street really want is recognition - a lesson Friar Noel English has learned from those most destitute and most forgotten of our society.

For Noel, volunteering his time three days a week at Matthew Talbot Hostel in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, isn't about just clothing or feeding or even providing a bed. It is about his spiritual vow of poverty and seeing the poorer God.

"My work there is about sharing the lives of these blokes - in a way, taking the place of Christ," Noel said. "I never pity them, but rather I feel an alliance with the men," he said.

Providing beds, a meal, medical care and other services to Sydney's homeless, Matthew Talbot Hostel has been helping men who suffer from tragedy, trauma or addiction since 1938 (and at its current location since 1965.)


"The biggest misconception of the homeless is that they smell, are uncouth and unclean - but they're not really like that," he said.

"There is a real sense of friendship, a brotherhood. They even call each other 'brov' - the only difference between them and us Franciscans is that we make our vows, but they don't."

For Noel, his work at the hostel started when the Printing Press at Saint Paschal Friary, Box Hill, Victoria, - where he had worked for over 30 years - closed down in 2004.

While he had always known about the work of Matthew Talbot - the Irish reformed alcoholic whose legacy of piety has inspired countless hostels and addiction help centres around the world - Noel feels the Franciscan charism is alive and in practice at the refuge.

"It is a necessary job and good work. I enjoy having the contact with the blokes and having a yarn at lunch," he said.

"Most people see the homeless as a bane on society. No person is, we are all fellow human beings."