I've been in and out of homelessness since I was 14 years old. I came from a very volatile household. I was linked in with multiple housing agencies and kept trying to go home in-between. I've lived in refuges, women's boarding houses, motels and hotels, transitional properties and now public housing.
I walked around with a chip on my shoulder for the majority of my life, I can admit that.
So much shit had happened to me and I was sour. I acted out because there was so much going on inside of me.
Coming from really volatile environments since childhood, I was so used to being treated badly and being manipulated. I needed someone to show me what a healthy relationship looked like. My drug and alcohol worker was my first healthy relationship in 20 years. I had never had a healthy relationship with anybody, especially myself. That was huge.
When you actually have a worker who treats you right and tells you straight, you don't have to second guess everything. She didn't shame me and she respected me. I can't tell you how important it is for you to be able to connect with the worker you are given.
When you've had such fractured relationships, it's really amazing when someone comes along who is so invested in you and your potential. When you see the person weekly and form a bond, but there are still professional boundaries, boundaries which you've never experienced before, it's invaluable. I wouldn't be where I am right now if it wasn't for that support worker.
I got addicted to drugs at a young age to deal with how I was feeling about my life.
It hurts when you have to sit in a service waiting room all day to see if there is somewhere for you to go, and then be turned away at the end of the day with nowhere to go.
Coming from being a drug addict, the way people look at you is horrible. You're living a different life. There are literally two lives that are happening at the same time.
When you know how much you have to deal with — debt, court debts, and fixing your life back up — it's so overwhelming. Once you start sorting it out, it actually feels achievable and you want to keep pushing forward.
There's something I think is so important to talk about, like the most important thing to talk about: once you seem settled, you're never settled. When you are able to actually stop being hyper-vigilant, that's honestly when you start feeling everything, and that's probably the point where you need the most support.
That's the point where you crash.
I frequently felt unsafe in the places I was staying. When I escaped my first relationship from domestic violence, I was hyper-vigilant.
Housing options can often be inappropriate for different ages and genders. Some refuges I have stayed at have been so unsafe, I would rather sleep on the street. I remember one experience at a refuge when I was only 19 years old, I was placed in there with people a lot older, and their issues were a lot more complex than mine. I remember seeing one of my neighbours carried out in a body bag when I went for my morning shower.
You're so traumatised already and so vulnerable. I know the services wanted to help me, but when I was put in a really bad refuge or hotel, it just traumatised me even more. If this goes on for 10 years of your life, eventually, you will probably become desensitised and you're not going to have as much hope. Sometimes, people completely give up.
We need more transitional housing. It gives you hope, stability, a sense of self and the chance to straighten up your life without having to move all the time. We need more help for mental health and not standard responses like a referral to a psychologist.
The main thing that motivated me to move forward in my life was thinking, 'I'm not going to let my past ruin the rest of my life'. That was my driver. I am not going to be scared because of what's happened to me.