As part of National Homelessness Week 2018 (6-12 August), Access Housing spoke with two of our tenants who had experienced homelessness to hear their stories and celebrate the difference they are making in their support of others.
Colleen and Josh have travelled different paths, but what connects them is their lived experience of homelessness and their passion for ‘giving back’ to make a difference in the community.
Colleen’s story communicates a powerful message that homelessness can happen to anyone. At 48 years of age Colleen was working in childcare, but after suffering an accident she lost her job and in turn lost the home she was renting. As a result, she was forced to rely on the goodwill of others for accommodation.
“I had my name down for housing, but I ran out of places to stay couch-surfing and I ended up in a hostel for the homeless. It was really bad, and I got to the stage I couldn’t take anymore,” Colleen said.
Colleen became an Access Housing tenant in 2016. Since settling in to an affordable home of her own she has been able to stabilise and give back to the community through various volunteering roles.
Colleen volunteers with Just Manna, a community organisation supporting people in need by providing meals, household goods and additional support. Further to this Colleen also volunteers at Karnet Prison and has found that sharing her experience of hardship has not only helped prisoners she works with but also herself.
Colleen said she hopes to one day work in the community services field.
“Since I have been homeless I have talked to a lot of homeless people. We have all helped each other out,” Colleen said.
“There are so many homeless people now. There are so many people in poverty and they just need help and I would really like to help them.”
Josh experienced being in and out of homelessness for more than 20 years, first sleeping rough when he was just 16. Speaking openly about his experience, Josh told us of the harsh realities of living without a roof over your head.
“Becoming homeless is initially quite terrifying,” he said.
“The thought of sleeping on the street by yourself in the dark, not knowing where you are going to stay, if you are going to be safe and your survival skills is all you’ve got… I could see myself pretty much ending up dead if I hadn’t been housed,” Josh said.
Even while facing the difficulties of being homeless, Josh was a constant voice and source of inspiration for others. He volunteered with various homelessness groups and studied a Certificate III in Community Services. He has also been a public advocate for people sleeping rough, featuring in several media reports over the past four years and opening Homeless Prevention Week in 2015.
Josh is one of Access Housing’s tenants participating in Ruah’s 50 Lives 50 Homes program. Click here to read more about Josh’s journey and how he and his support worker Garry are working together to help people experiencing homelessness.