Chris - Realities Of Life On The Street

Chris - Realities Of Life On The Street

I gained a lot of weight because I wasn't able to find the foods that I needed. I was having to buy cup noodles and stuff like that, and I just got very, very sick from it. It affected my mental health and it affected my studies a lot. It just sucked, all of it.

Issues at home

I moved out from home because I had some issues with my family. I had made friends with people that I actually could connect with, and those weren't the sort of people my parents liked. They were people who were a bit more creative, a bit more outside the norm. Really nice people, but they weren't the sort of people my parents supported me hanging out with.

My parents wanted me to hang out with the church group. The people who are going places in their lives, and well, the people I'm hanging out with are going places. They're just not going to church. I'm hanging out with the gay community, which is a community that I'm actually part of — surprise, parents — and I'm much happier, more comfortable as I am now than I was when I was living with my parents.

The Foyer

Before becoming homeless, I was living at the Foyer, and that was really good. That was very stable for me. The Foyer is shared accommodation for youths and young parents.

At the Foyer, you're allowed to have about two years of living there, and you sign papers to say that you're going to be moving out after that stage. The Foyer can't let you go out into homelessness, which is nice. Unfortunately, it didn't help me. 

What ended up happening was my time ran out there, so I had to move out, and I moved into a share house. I was looking for ages and I actually went over the allotted time I was given for living at the Foyer. I had everything packed up, and was just waiting to find a place. I finally got a share house, and it just went downhill from there.

The share house

The share house was with older people. There were three adults, and I was 19. The house itself wasn't that great. I was just sort of living there because it was the closest house to TAFE that I could find, and it was cheapish, but it wasn't cheap enough.

At one stage, my whole income was going on rent. I was given money from Centrelink because I'm studying. I remember this horrifying day when I had given my landlord rent, and then I went back on payday to see how much I'd been given, and it was under $200, and the rent I was paying was $250, and I nearly cried there at the ATM. I was just so scared.

I wasn't on the lease, so I wasn't getting rent assistance, so I wasn't able to make the rent one week. I was going to be able to make it by payday, but the person I was giving money to wouldn't listen to me. And then I lost my phone and my phone had all my schoolwork and schedules and everything on it, so I had to try and replace that, and I just got kicked out.

I was given 48 hours to get my stuff out of the house. I had to call my mum. The thing was I didn't have a phone, so I had to race down to TAFE and use their Wi-Fi and their internet to get in contact with Mum. She eventually showed up and we packed up all my stuff and got it out of the house as quickly as possible, left the key, and just left.

Where to next

I had no idea where I was going be staying. There was a moment when I was thinking, "Oh, god, I'm going have to fork out money to stay at one of the hostels, and those are $30 a night, and $10 for a deposit". And, I was terrified of having to do that because that would've sapped all my money for the week, and then I would've been sleeping out on the street for the next week.

Mum took all my stuff back to my parent's place, and I moved in with one of my friends for a month. 

It was awful. I hated being a burden on my friend like that and I didn't have the money to really help her with rent and electricity and stuff, and I was very upset having to put so much pressure on my friend like that.

I didn't have any blankets, so I had to and buy some. I had to buy so many things, and it was cold. Everything about it sucked.

Hope for the future

My friend and I are now living together in a flat. I have to be really careful with budgeting my money, so I have enough for rent from week to week. I have a tutor to catch up on my studies. I am hoping to stay in Warrnambool for another year, then I've got lots of friends up in Melbourne, who I'm hoping to start a share house with of our own — one that isn't terrifying and a bit more young-person friendly. I will probably continue a little bit of education up there as well and, hopefully, I'll be able to get a job and, you know, settle, and find a partner who's not crazy.

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Budubbi - Realities Of Life On The Street

Budubbi - Realities Of Life On The Street

I'm all about reconnecting with my bloodlines, my songlines, my massacre sites, my heritage. I'm trying to live free, as best I can.

I had a bypass 11 years ago, so I'm on a pension. I just want a better future for my children, for my immediate family and their children's children.

My ancestors are saying: "Do something, don't just be an emu with your head in the sand".

I've been parked here outside the RECOGNISE meeting, but how many black fellers do you think have said hello to me? Even though they are a part of the reconciliation — none. It's because I'm interested in sovereignty and tribal connections.

With proposed constitutional reforms, once we became secretaries we lose our sovereign rights. We become Australian citizens. We'll be just the first people to come here by boat. We won't have land rights anymore.

For the first time only this year, I drove all the way from Maclean, which is my grandmother's country, all the way to Bellingen, with this flag on my car and I don't know if it is respect, but it was good to see that I had safety all around me. 

No-one followed me too close behind, no tailgating near me.

I want all of us to be free to move about without the arrogance of telling people where to go. This is beyond saying "I'm here first, I'm here second, I'm here seventh generation". This government is allowing the country to be totally destroyed.

My brother was killed in Vietnam. He did the right thing by the military and I'm proud of the vets. I can go into any RSL and share in that respect for my brother's bravery, but to walk outside of that and became part of society ... well, it's become a dog-eat-dog world.

I'm so proud of my people. We have a spiritual connection to the land beyond the wants of it, but we are being enticed like the American Indians to have what the whites want us to have.

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Jasmine - Realities Of Life On The Street

Jasmine - Realities Of Life On The Street

It was extremely cold and terrifying. I didn't want to sleep. You have all these thoughts coming through your head. 

"Are there people around? Am I safe?"

Then there are the physical issues — it's uncomfortable, freezing, unsafe, and it's not sheltered, leaving you unprotected and vulnerable.

How I got there

It started when I was in year nine. My mother was suffering from mental illness, which meant I could not live at home. I moved in with my uncle and aunt, and I stayed with them for two years until they thought my mum was well enough to look after me, which she was not.

No-one else could see that.

I was homeless for just under a year, as I was trying to do my HSC.

The very first night I stayed at the headlands, other times I slept in a park or at school, and later on, on friends' couches.

I pretty much had my school backpack with my school uniform, a spare shirt, a jumper, and a pen.

It was hard to come out to my friends and say "I currently don't have a roof over my head". At first I denied it. I'd say "I had a rough night, I didn't sleep, everything's fine, I was just in a rush."

Looking back, I know it was silly I didn't tell anyone. Of course there are people out there who want to help, and if I had said something earlier I would have received help sooner, but I had this sense of pride, and told myself: "I'm fine, I can do this, I'm strong. I don't need help anyone else".

It's about stigma 

Stigma is such a killer because it stops people from reaching for help. It's literally killing so many people.

There were definitely times I lost hope.

I battled with depression and anxiety through those times, which just amplified how hopeless I felt.

I constantly asked myself, "How did I get here?" and thought "Obviously I can't be worth much if I'm in this position".

Looking back, I know now that's not true, but it's how I felt at the time and I'm sure a lot of people have.

Support services

There were a few teachers who would try to speak to me about their suspicions, but at I would brush it off because I was still denying the matter and I wasn't ready to accept help.

I told my science teacher, she took me to the school counsellor who helped me accept that it was OK to ask for help. I then went to my favourite office lady, who was very supportive and connected me with headspace.

Headspace was amazing and could even drive me to and from appointments. It was through headspace that a youth worker connected me with the Jetty Bunker Youth Refuge.

Not once did I find a worker there who wasn't there for the kids. Every single worker in that place was so youth-focused and just wanted to get you on the right track and ready for the real world.

Just to have all that support, and to know someone cared, that's what motivated me to realise I had to get out of this situation.

I stayed at the refuge for three months and was lucky to get into youth housing, which put my name on a lease, making it easier when my lease was up, to get accepted into another place. The owner was so proud of my aspirations and achievements, she offered to change the lease to two years instead of one as she knew I had my heart set on going to university the following year, before I got my own house with a proper real estate.

Fixing homelessness

I believe prevention is the key to ending youth homelessness.

We need to be educating high school students and late primary school students with exactly who you can go to, who is available, and how you can access them.

Where I am today

I'm currently studying in my third year of early childhood and primary teaching.

To be honest, I don't think about those days very often, I tend to put it at the back of my mind. Sometimes I have a really hard week at uni questioning why I'm even here and whether I should quit. Then I think back to everything I've been through and realise I've come this far, why stop now? 

If I quit now then everything I've been through would be for nothing.

I'd love to be somewhere rural teaching primary school children, instilling those kids with the best education that I can. They are our future leaders after all, so we need to teach them well.

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Sandra - Realities Of Life On The Street

Sandra - Realities Of Life On The Street

I initially became homeless due to domestic violence, about a year ago. It's left me with nothing and I had to hand in my animals today. There's a program by the RSPCA, it's called Living Rough, for homeless people. I've had to put my animals in there. My cat's been there a few weeks, now the dog, and I still have to find somewhere for the bird.

You sign a two-week contact with them, every two weeks, to say you are not surrendering them. You can visit them, but I don't have any transport to get out there because my car is out of order.

That was a hard thing to do. I've had the dog in the car with me all the time and now I've had to hand her over.

It is $10 dollars a day, the program, and apparently you can pay it back. She is already de-sexed and micro-chipped and they'll vaccinate her, but $10 dollars a day is still a lot of money for someone on a low income.

I only get Newstart, with a doctor's certificate, so I don't have to look for work. I get $397 a fortnight and it's going to cost me $140 a week for my animals.

They can't stay at the motel.

I got blacklisted from private rental because my ex-partner was violent and smashed a flat. Even though we repaired it all, it was in my name so I got blacklisted for it. Even though he was charged, it still came down to me.

Housing department are telling me I have to go for a rental up to $200 per week: it's just so unrealistic. I can't get my head around it. It impacts on my depression.

Apparently there are only four residencies in the Shoalhaven for the homeless and they are all full. Department of Housing want me to go to Wollongong.

You have to sign an agreement before they'll put you in a hotel, that you will look for somewhere to live. I go to real estates, but there aren't any houses in my price range so it's a housing shortage.

My depression and anxiety is pretty bad at the moment, I can't seem to settle for very long. I'm trying to do with it without Valium or anything addictive, so it's tough times.

I crochet to make myself feel better. It keeps my hands busy and my mind from thinking too much about what's going on. My Nan taught me how to crochet, that and cooking.

I'm a chef by trade. At the moment I am too unsettled to work. You need somewhere to live so you can function for work. You need to be able to get up in the morning and do everything you need to do and go to work and be normal. I haven't even looked for work yet because being homeless is a priority.

Once you are homeless everything falls apart around you.

Contributed with assistance from the Shoalhaven Homeless Hub.

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Leroy - Realities Of Life On The Street

Leroy - Realities Of Life On The Street

If you don't have your own place, if you're out there doing it rough with nowhere to sleep, you've got to have a shower. You need to have a wash.

If you can't get clean, there are all these other issues that go with it, like low self-esteem, because you don't feel quite able to do things without people staring at you — judging you — because you look dirty.

We can't do our washing, basic things like that, as it costs a lot of money. You add up the cost of going to the laundromat for a fortnight — all of us are on Centrelink — that's pretty much half our wage.

If the council can come on board and even have a chat with the police, some of these organisations like Aboriginal Medical Service, the men's group, the women's shelters, if they could get together and host a little forum. We could get a couple of people to represent the homeless people to speak out their concerns.

We've told council that staying at the showgrounds is our only option. If we were to go and camp at the beach, that's all very well and good, but we've still got to live. We've still got to find work. We've got no transport, some people can't even read and write, or they don't have a licence.

These are some of the obstacles that we face.

Discrimination is the biggest hurdle. We are just trying to live. We can't make up people's minds about how they feel, but we would like them to understand.

Council has a lot of volunteer workers, some of whom collect camping fees. I don't see why they can't come up and open the showers, before hours. If we respect the showers, keep everything clean and work in partnership with them, I don't see why there's an issue.

They only use those showers once a week for football. People seem to think that because we are dirty we are disgusting, but that's discrimination.

It's good that we have access to doctors, dentists, that sort of stuff. That's what we need and it's everybody's right to have that. To have all this water here that's not being used, well, we'd only need it to be open four hours, and we don't mind if we have a shower every two days.

We'd prefer to shower every day, but we need to meet them halfway to find a solution that makes it easy for them.

I've got six children. I lost my wife, went through depression, started drinking a lot and that fed the depression. 

I'm trying to get out of that, but at the same time I'm facing obstacles that make it difficult to meet the needs of being a normal person.

Sometimes I feel like scum and I shouldn't have to feel like that.

Contributed with assistance from the Shoalhaven Homeless Hub.

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