Part 1: Homelessness through Robert’s eyes

Monday, 21 May 2018

Housing issues

In a recent article, I mentioned that in the lead up to the CEO Sleepout I will be sharing the stories from our EPIC job seekers who have experienced homelessness.

To better understand the issue of homelessness, it’s essential that we hear real accounts of homelessness from real people. I’d like to extend my gratitude to our job seeker Robert for having the courage to open up about the long-term effects of homelessness on various aspects of his life.

Robert was open and honest about how homelessness has shaped his life, and I have certainly learned a lot from him. He shared an immense amount of insightful information with us at EPIC, and it’s for this reason I’ll be sharing Robert’s story in two parts over the coming weeks.

What people may not know is homelessness does not necessarily mean sleeping on the streets. In fact, people sleeping in improvised dwellings, tents or on the streets comprises 6% of homelessness. More broadly, homelessness manifests as people staying in supported accommodation for the homeless (20%), with other households (17%), in boarding houses (17%), in severely overcrowded dwellings (39%), and in other temporary lodging (1%).

But regardless of the individual’s circumstances, homelessness leaves a lasting impact. Please take the time to read Robert’s story below, and if you can, please donate so we can help thousands of Australians break the cycle of homelessness.

“I have been in unstable and unsuitable housing multiple times, and usually had to eventually move because either the landlord, housemates or myself had decided I was a problem to get rid of.

“Every relocation pushes me to solve lots of distressing challenges, often about giving up something I wanted or needed. Usually money and surplus possessions, but also things such as access to support from family or affordable mental health services, to affordable groceries and transport, or the chance to escape isolation through social groups and recreation.

“My current house is a somewhat makeshift. When I first moved in, there was a wash of mould over the cutlery in the dish rack in the kitchen, and there is very little freezer and fridge space to share with the other residents. I tend to exist on unrefrigerated groceries I keep in my room, such as flatbread, peanut butter and fruit.

“I really want to avoid repeating my past domestic conflicts in share houses by getting a solo leased place. Ones that I could afford on Newstart are very rare, and they are often cramped, crumbling, or short on amenities. And yet still such places are in high demand. Those share houses that are in less demand are in suburbs more remote from public transport and other services.

“My current living crisis has meant abandoning, for now, my flexible and casual work which I have been doing while focusing on finding and applying for a more stable job. I can hope to take it up again relatively easily after I am settled, but I will have trouble making up months of lost income.

“I never thought I would start watching out for vacant houses in the street that I could imagine discreetly breaking into. I hope it stays at the level of casual fantasy and not a practical necessity.”