Graham - realities Of Life On The Street

Graham - realities Of Life On The Street

Some people brought me to Townsville from Bundaberg and abandoned me. That's how I ended up living on the streets.

It was scary because I was drinking and I'd just go to sleep anywhere. I used to sleep in bushes on the Strand.

When I was drunk they'd beat me up, take my smokes, take my money and left me with nothing. You've got to sleep with one eye open and one eye shut. I can't remember much: I've got memory loss.

When I was hungry I'd eat out of rubbish bins. If I had some money I'd buy frozen pies from the supermarket and eat them frozen. I had no choice, I just had to do it. I was so hungry.

I was drinking methylated spirits. I used to drink it seven days a week non-stop. Not eating, not taking my medication. I'd drink half a bottle one day and the rest the next day. It was cheap to buy. Only $4.35 a bottle.

I thought I had nothing to live for. I kept on saying to myself, "no-one needs me, no-one loves me, nobody wants to help me".

I just wanted to drink metho. It wasn't helping me at all. It was making me sick. It's got poison written on the bottle and I was stupid enough to go and buy it. I just wanted to escape.

Anglicare brought me to the Townsville Aboriginal Islanders Health Service centre. At first I found it hard to trust people who wanted to help me. Now I realise I can trust them.

It's good at the centre. You get good meals, your own soft bed, showers, toilets ... I want to stay here. I feel safe here.

I sit around and talk to the other guys. I like doing work around the yard, tidying up the place.

I'm not drinking anymore. My game's over. I've got cirrhosis of the liver. If kept drinking metho I would have been dead.

It's been four weeks since I had a drink and I feel much better. My life's coming good now.

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John Kennedy - Realities Of Life On The Street

John Kennedy - Realities Of Life On The Street

My name is John Kenney, member of the Peer Education and Support Program (PESP). PESP is a volunteer program of the Council to Homeless Persons for people who have experienced homelessness to be involved in the solutions to homelessness. I consider "homeless" a label, so I prefer to say people without a home.

I used to run a removals business. I worked with homelessness services, like Hanover to move their clients in to their homes. When the motor on my truck broke down, I couldn't work, so I couldn't afford the $300 rent which was due. I became homeless.

Homelessness affected my health. I couldn't get the help I needed in the area I was in. I tried to go to services in the city, but was told I had to go back to the area on my healthcare card, where there was no help.

I started selling the Big Issue to earn money and got a job in a cafe to earn meals. This helped me to survive life on the street.

My truck was my bedroom. I would get up early and go back to the truck after dark, so people wouldn't see me or hassle me.

The council slapped me with fine after fine, for parking my truck where I wasn't supposed to or for too long. It was difficult. 

I got the attention of the media and they ran an article showing me sleeping in my truck and quoting me saying I couldn't access a service. Then the services came to me and wanted to help. I finally had my housing applications done. The council made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I moved in to emergency accommodation through St Vincent de Paul. Eventually my housing came through and I moved in to a permanent Wintringham property, where I am now.

The things I have learnt from my experience:

People should not be refused help from a homelessness service, just because their healthcare card says a different area.

Rents should be capped, so that more people can afford housing.

People between 25 and 50 can miss out on a service. We need to make sure they get help when they don't have a home.

More recreation programs, like day-trips are needed for people without a home.

People without a home need a 24-hour safe for their belongings. It's hard to carry all your stuff around.

Long-term, flexible support is needed for people who sleep rough.

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Melanie - Realities Of Life On The Street

Melanie - Realities Of Life On The Street

I've had my ups and downs but I'm getting through it. I'm a single mum, so I'm trying as hard as I can. I was in a relationship, but we broke-up before I discovered I was pregnant. The father knows I am pregnant. 

We don't really communicate much anymore but we are talking more as I am soon to give birth.

At the moment I am homeless so I live in a refuge. I needed to get out of my hometown for a while, to cool off. I stayed with a friend for a while then I met a nice man who let me stay at his house. We got into a relationship. It didn't work out as I'd hoped, so I've been staying at hotels and guest houses for the last month.

When I first found out I was pregnant I was with a friend at Nowra hospital. I tested positive and I was really shocked. I felt that it couldn't be true, because at the time I'd been trying to have a baby for about a year, but because of the situation with my ex-partner it was difficult.

I've had to go to appointments on my own, whereas I want the supporting environment of a partner. Small things like feeling the baby kick or attending ultrasounds on my own have been the most challenging for me.

I'm getting there and I feel that if you are determined to do something you can follow through with it. It is hard, but it's making me stronger in the long run.

I've been in contact with CHAIN — an antenatal service where you can also get food and help if you are homeless.

Before I fell pregnant I was going to TAFE and trying to get a job. I am going through a lot really, but I'm looking forward to seeing how my life will unfold with a child.

During the pregnancy I developed gestational diabetes so I have to prick my finger before and after eating to check my insulin levels. It means that I've changed my eating habits and I've learnt to eat more healthily as the pregnancy progressed. 

I'm hoping to give birth in Wollongong Hospital where I was born and also my Nan was born. I'm hoping to have a natural birth. I am a bit frightened at the prospect of giving birth, but a lot of women have done it so I believe I can as well.

I don't know where I will live after I've given birth. I'm on a priority housing list, but it can take up to 10 years to get a house.

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Ash - Realities Of Life On The Street

Ash - Realities Of Life On The Street

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.

Sleeping Rough

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. 

The solution

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.

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Stoney - Realities Of Life On The Street

Stoney - Realities Of Life On The Street

I was married for eight years and after the divorce my life just fell apart. I started to drink way too much. It got a hold of me.

For a couple of years I lived rough in the parks and in the mountains in caves: wherever I could find shelter.

I'm slowly getting better. I'm not saying I'm not an alcoholic anymore, but I'm trying.

When you're homeless you're desperate. You've got nothing. You've got no loved ones around you, you've got no roof over your head.

It's more or less a dog-eat-dog world on the streets. You have to fight for it on the streets, which is pretty rough.

It's not easy when you've got nobody around you and the other half of the world wants to kill you. It's rough out there. It's not an easy life.

It can be very dangerous, but it's not just other people you've got to contend with. You've got security guards moving you on all the time, you've got police moving you on all the time.

It's a never-ending struggle of survival out there. You've got to fend for yourself and hope for the best.

Luckily I'm on the pension these days, but half goes out on rent. That leaves me with $440 a fortnight to survive on. Everyday is hand to mouth.

After 20 years my daughter bumped into me and we're starting our life over again. She's 30 now so I've got a bit more responsibility once more, but also a bit more respect for myself. I don't want her looking at me as if I'm a hopeless down and out, which I'm not.

Everyday is still a struggle, but when you've got something to aim for it makes it a bit easier. It's not just me: it's everyone of us who's out there trying to get out of the gutter again.

We've got the drop-in centre here where we can come in and get a dollar feed. There are showers, washing machines and computers, so that makes life a bit easier.

It's been very important because it's a hub for all the homeless people in Townsville. We've got somewhere to come and socialise. The staff are good because they don't look down their noses at you. They try to help you in every way possible.

A lot of it comes down to socialising, because a lot of the boys up here haven't got family. All they've got is each other. It's a very tight-knit community.

I'm a lot happier now. There's still a long way to go. I'm not over that hill yet, but I'm getting there slowly.

My hope for the future is for my daughter to retire out of the army so we can have time together. It's all for my daughter.

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