‘A smile means more to me than a dollar’: St Georges Terrace stalwart bids farewell to life on the streets

The signs are always the same. A positive message of hope in bold, colourful letters, written on a small cardboard cutout and left to rest on the stone wall of a Perth CBD business tower.

Some days, the signs remind people good things are around the corner, others call for social change and an end to racism.

Simon Sherlock has been living on the streets of Perth on and off for nearly two years.
Simon Sherlock has been living on the streets of Perth on and off for nearly two years.CREDIT:MARTA PASCUAL JUANOLA

But the effect is always the same; like a trail of breadcrumbs, they lure suited up executives to a ledge between a gym and a cafe, where Simon Sherlock doodles away during the morning rush.

The 45-year-old has become a well-known face along St Georges Terrace and a compulsory stop for gloomy commuters looking for a quick morning chat.

Now, putting an end to nearly two years living on the streets, Mr Sherlock will trade the CBD for a busy commercial kitchen up north, where he will revive his career as a professional chef.

“I used to be a chef on Rottnest Island, in one of the restaurants there, and I fell off a cliff head-first at The Basin,” he said.

“That was the start. I’ve always had a bit of depression but that was the start of my anxiety. I never ever thought I’d get anything like this. I had post-concussion syndrome, fear of dying, anxiety, a lot of things. I went up to hospital three times and they turned me away three times. On the third time I was sent to Bentley Hospital. That was the start of my homelessness.”

For months, Mr Sherlock went from shelter to shelter, sleeping rough along St Georges Terrace and in South Perth, and begging for food and pocket change.

Then he started making his signs.

Commuters walk past a sign on their way to work.

Commuters walk past a sign on their way to work. CREDIT:MARTA PASCUAL JUANOLA

“When I started I had ‘hungry and homeless’ but then I worked out I could pretty much write anything on my card and I’m going to get a dollar because a lot of people won’t engage,” he said.

“They’ll throw money at you, they just want to get rid of you because there’s still a lot of judgment. My thing was, I want to surround myself by people I want to emulate, by nice people. I thought, what can I do to make people happy? So I started doing my cards and whatever is in my heart I just put on a piece of paper. If I get a dollar, I get a dollar. It’s never been about the money.

“When coronavirus came, everyone was going to the supermarket, I had a big card that said ‘be nice to me, I know where all the toilet paper is’ just to make people laugh.”

His signs, often with messages like “today is like you, beautiful”, and “I have a new religion, it’s called love”, have become a common sight for commuters and aside from bringing smiles to passing faces, they have also helped Mr Sherlock keep his anxiety at bay.

“To get those smiles it helps me, and I can see that it helps a lot of people,” he said.

“A smile means more to me than a dollar. It fills my heart up with love. I feel I needed to just give people the message of hope because that’s really important. Without hope you’ve got nothing.”

Mr Sherlock has reasons to be hopeful. For the last few weeks, he has been living in a heated shed, has had help to get a passport and a bank account, and has secured a job as a chef.

Friday also marked his final stint at the Terrace, where he said he had received more love than anywhere else in his life.


Simon Sherlock sitting along St Georges Terrace.
Simon Sherlock sitting along St Georges Terrace. CREDIT:MARTA PASCUAL JUANOLA

“I’ve never experienced people love me for who I am, I’ve never experienced so much love,” he said.

“Over Christmas, I got 14 Christmas cards, I had Santa Claus come visit me and the money that I got I used to stay off the streets for a few days and gave a few dollars away to others.

“You can be rich in life and you can be rich in money.”

Mr Sherlock is rich in the former.

 This article first appeared in WAToday
Font Resize