Ash has been without a home for more than two years. He is 17 and has very few options.
First off, it's not like everyone thinks it is. Everyone thinks it's the stick over the shoulder, but it's not like that. It's constantly couch-surfing, not having a place at the end of the day to go home to, or simply not having a home.
All my mates would be walking down the street and they'd be like, "I'm going home" and I'd think to myself, "Well, I'm going to walk around for the next 5-6 hours until I catch a bus back to where I'm staying". It's embarrassing.
I go to school and everyone is so happy and I try to act happy to fit in with the other kids, but really I'm actually miserable. It would be so much easier knowing that I've got a place to go home to after school.
It affects my schooling because I try and put pen to paper and I'm trying to think about my work, but I've got a build-up of stress from all the other things I'm thinking about. Thinking about where I'm going to go next and how I'm going to be able to attend school when I'm homeless.
Even having the energy, the physical and mental energy, to even come to school is hard.
At the moment I'm staying with a friend from school while the teachers are trying to help me figure something out. We've made phone call after phone call daily and it's getting to the point where I'll have nowhere to live.
I've tried really hard. I've tried all the youth services that can help me, but all their living situations are full.
Everywhere I go its month-in month-out. I spend a month at one place and during that month I spend a lot of time figuring out where I'm going to go or who's going to help me next. Or, who I'm going to talk to next about it. It's hard and it's frustrating. I don't know whether it makes me more angry or sad.
Living on budget
There should be situated houses for youth like me. It's hard not being 18 and looking for houses to rent. Every time I go look at a place I have to consider my budget, and half the time they won't accept me because I'm 17.
For Centrelink payments, youth allowance as an independent student, I get $440 [per fortnight], but I have to live my life like an adult. That money needs to pay for rent, food, clothes and necessities, everything I need — deodorant, toothpaste — right down to every little thing, and I've got to live off that. And I have to catch buses everywhere and I don't have anyone to help.
A rental can be anywhere between $150 to $280, $350 a week. And I'm on a $440 budget a fortnight so it makes things really, really hard, because I'm paying my whole pay nearly on rent and then I've got to find other ways to survive.
It gets to the point where you nearly have to be a criminal to get help. Most people think that jail is bad, but some people want to be in jail — not to get a reputation or be cool, it's because they don't have a home to go to. They don't have a bed, they don't have a roof over their head every single night, they don't have three meals a day and they're struggling.
There have been times where I've asked everyone. I've had a room at all my mate's houses and I've no more options. I've had to go and buy a tent and a sleeping bag and go sleep down in the public toilets. It's not the nicest thing and it's pretty scary and it's cold. I remember feeling numb.
Not just sleeping in the public toilets, but packing your tent up and a sleeping bag and going from place to place. It was hard. All I needed was a family member or friend to do it with me, and it would've made things OK. Just knowing I was doing it all by myself was probably the hardest thing. It's made me angry. I've been in tears and broken down. It's not a position you want to find yourself in.
In the past there have been times when I've been desperate and had no money, so I've had to resort to stealing. It wasn't a healthy lifestyle: Big Ms, chocolate bars, anything small that would keep me going for the day, give me a little bit of energy. That was probably the worst of it, having a really unhealthy lifestyle.
Stop building new estates and start building youth accommodation for people like me in my situation. I have plenty of mates in the same situation and I'd like to be able to help them all.