Reasons for homelessness
The main reasons for homelessness are domestic family violence, followed by financial difficulties and accommodation issues: lack of affordable rental; housing affordability; stringent home loan/lending standards, and housing values; The bulk of the homeless are aged between 19-34, followed by the under 12 age group. Help support us in taking the first step to solving homelessness here!
Bernie, 54 years old, has been living on the street on and off for around six to seven years.
“I lose count. Takes a while to work it out.”, he explains.
Bernie used to be employed with a hospitality agency. He was living with one of his two younger disabled sisters at the time. Both were dealing with serious mental health issues, as well as the daily hurdles due to their disabilities.
His life changed tragically with the suicide of not only both his sisters, but also his beloved mother in a short period of time.
Losing his two sisters, as well as his mother to suicide in a few months, Bernie was incapable of working. His savings were used up in a few months.
“No job, essentially you end up on the street.”, Bernie tells. “And if you don’t have that rental thing going you immediately go into a category of hugely expensive accommodation, like hotels.”, he continues.
From time to time he used to find shelter in a hostel in North Melbourne, which was popular amongst released prisoners. He explains that it was the best accommodation available because of its unusual low prices. However, due to its low hygienic standards, it had to close.
Bernie clarifies that, to survive on the street, you need to be constantly looking for tools.
“So that broken thong you’ve got to be thinking, hang on, can I use that? And when your boots wear out and you’ve got no money you could put it inside your boot and you can keep walking without being barefoot.”
Brad, 44 years of age, is a Melbournian born and bred. Over half his life he has been living on the street. 24 years to be exact.
He used to make a living as a tradesman, sharing an apartment with his girlfriend at the time.
Several crushing strokes of fate, including the loss of his parents and younger brother, changed Brad’s life tragically. Drugs seemed like an easy way to escape this devastating reality. Using substances to forget and feel happier, Brad was quickly caught up in an addiction.
His job as a tradesman did not get him enough income to finance his drug addiction and pay for his place. Not long after his girlfriend left him and moved out, he had to give up their apartment and started sleeping on the street.
At the start, Brad used to stay in homeless shelters from time to time. However, nowadays, he prefers to sleep outside since the shelters fill up very quickly and can be hard to get into.
“There is not much like that. So, you’ve just got to keep your eyes open”, he explains.
Tuan does a lot of travelling in his day to day, and likes making use of the art room that St Marys House of Welcome provide as part of their community support service for the homeless and disadvantaged. Mostly Tuan likes to draw, sometimes using pen or pencil, but is also an avid user of the sewing machine, occasionally appropriating old clothes for their unique fabrics and patterns.
Tuan does currently have a place to stay, but as it is small and not really suitable for him and his son, he is still waiting for the housing registrar to get back to him for a bigger flat. When looking for clothes from Avalon, Tuan will also stay on the lookout for clothes for his son, who has just turned 18, and finished VCE. Tuan is very proud of his boy, who thanks to his marks in science and mathematics, is currently enrolled in RMIT. Not only that, but part of his double major is in Aerospace Engineering – literally, rocket science.
Tuan remains very sociable and upbeat, but there are times where everyone wants to have a quiet moment to themselves – it is at these times that Tuan is thankful to his acting ability and appearance, so that he can pretend he doesn’t speak English and escape. He hopes one day to have a home his son can be proud of.
Kenny has been giving his time to those less fortunate for longer than anyone can remember. Aside from the warm fuzzies one gets from helping out, Kenny’s favourite perk about helping out at St. Mary’s House of Welcome, which provides community support for homeless and disadvantaged people, is probably telling people “I’ve been here since before you were born”, or one of the myriad “…when I were a lad…” stories that everyone over 50 seems to have in abundance. Unlike most people over 50, however, Kenny likes the changes that have happened around him, admiring the ways in which the House has grown, bringing in more people, who he is always happy to meet.
Kenny does most of the housekeeping at St Mary’s, taking the bins out, hanging the towels up, getting the mail, and all the other assorted tasks that people only notice when they haven’t been done. Kenny also comes in to help set up for breakfast and lunch, and then packs up afterwards, meaning he is around for much of the day, which has allowed him to make many friends, which he is grateful for.
More than anything else, Leo is just tired. He has been in and out of hospitals for the majority of the last few years on the street, on one visit catching golden staph, which did nothing to treat his frustration with the public health system. Having had pneumonia twice last year, Leo knew he wouldn’t make it through another winter – he is relieved to have somewhere to stay with his friend this year.
Fortunately, Leo is still able to receive antibiotics and other medication, but as he has difficulty reading and writing, he needs a Welfare officer to drive him to his doctor’s appointments, and to help him with the dosages. When he was a younger man, Leo had no qualms about a hard day’s work, which bought him a house of his own and everything that comes with it, but lost everything after his divorce.
Adrian can be found most days a week at the St. Mary’s House of Welcome on Brunswick street, as he enjoys helping those who are less fortunate than himself, without a place to call their own. He is happy that he lives so close, as it means he can arrive early and stay late, though he does lament that living on your own can be quite lonely. He is considering getting a bird or a fish, as it has been some time after his last pet passed away. He has lived with others in the past, but after issues with several tenants that culminated in Adrian changing the locks, he no longer really feels comfortable with it.
Adrian’s biggest concern when asked about life on the street is how it affects women and children, it being that much harder to keep your clothes, food, and money with you in a world like that. He has seen firsthand when thieves try and find someone who’s sleeping and helping themselves. Remembering his youth, Adrian would sometimes sleep in a clothing donation bin, while his mother would keep watch outside, so he is well aware of how rough it can get.
Lyndon has been coming to Avalon for almost as long as it has existed. Hailing from Richmond, in order to get to the Avalon bus (and other facilities), he often needs to travel through rougher parts of town, where he has seen the rising homeless epidemic first-hand. Comparing it to when he was growing up in the city, Lyndon notes that far less people are willing to help, and far more people are turning to violence to get what they want – a friend of his who owns a hardware store has been robbed 8 times, and the police are often reluctant to come.
Lyndon himself pays particular attention to his surroundings for his own safety, making sure if a large group of people are on one side of the street, he will cross to the other. He also laments the fact that while he was brought up to respect veterans, active servicemen, and emergency services, that same level of respect is disappointingly lacking these days. He is, however, both impressed with and grateful for the facilities made available to the homeless these days, with free food provided by churches and charities, and clothing by organisations like Avalon.
Lyndon himself worked in the Post Office for 40 years, in a position that no longer exists today.
Requesting not to have his name or picture taken, John ( not his real name) has friends in his home town who still don’t know about his situation, and would understandably like to keep it that way for a while longer.
Scammed out of his car import business after losing both his parents, John finally won the ensuing lawsuit (a personal point of pride, as he was not the scammers first target), and moved to an outer Melbourne suburb. However, he was forced to leave after his landlord began using ice, and was unable to find another home. Many of the people he knows on the street are also trapped in the addiction, which has made John vehemently against ever using, as he is well aware of ice’s effects.
John came to the inner city a year ago, and found Avalon not too long afterwards. With a trade he is well versed in, John looks to his future optimistically, fully intending to get back into his trade and live in a place he can call his own.
Eco is born and bred in Melbourne city, and has been visiting Avalon for several years. At the time of writing, he has a place to stay – a boarding house in St. Kilda – but it is closing down soon, and several people have already been forced out. The sad reality of many such establishments is that there are often problems with drug users, and the place Eco is staying is no exception – he is starting to get tired of the slammed doors and 2AM fights.
His future a little uncertain, Eco wouldn’t mind exploring the country, as the city he calls home is becoming more and more crowded. Eco would love a place of his own, to enjoy the peace and quiet, and probably get a dog – growing up, there was always one in the house, and Eco would love a loyal friend again.
A familiar face at Avalon since his arrival 5 years ago, Alfredo has the unperturbed attitude of a gentleman, and the sense of humour to match. Devising a few nicknames for his fellow regulars, Alfredo follows the van as it moves from place to place, relishing the company of his friends.
Like any proper bloke, Alfredo loves meat pies, does not like mornings, and always has a smile ready for his friends, a group which seems to consist of everyone, both volunteers and fellow regulars.
Recently he gave a speech for Avalon at the Prahran Town Hall, proudly donning a suit he picked up from The Moving Wardrobe. He currently has a place to stay, but is without a job.
An avid rollerblader, musician, and artist, Daniel grew up in Balaclava, where he remembers his childhood home being old, creaky, and home also to a family or two of possums. Daniel first met the Avalon team after 8 hours of rollerblading, and in need of a rest. A fan of ‘acid jazz’, Daniel plays piano, electric guitar, and a few others, and craves what all musicians do – a satisfied audience.
Daniel also paints and draws, with a passion for robotic and synthetic looking artwork – if, by chance, Arnold Schwarzenegger is reading this, Daniel would love to show you his latest work, inspired by The Terminator. A New Yorker at heart, Daniel would love to get back to the birthplace of the world’s greatest mustard, maybe bringing his 8-year-old daughter with him – the book on space is for her.
Russell’s partner died of cancer a few years ago. For seven years he lived on the streets. Without rental references Russell was trapped in a vicious cycle. No one would rent to him without references, but without a rental history, references were an impossibility. Lonely and homeless, he came across Avalon at Queen Victoria Market and has been coming to the Flinders Street drop off ever since.
He likes to make new friends and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter. Russell has had a few heart attacks which prompted him to give up smoking and pay closer attention to his health. He is one of the fortunate ones who has broken the cycle and now has a place to stay.
Catherine is a proud mother of high achieving daughters. One has just finished VCE and attends La Trobe University. The other recently graduated with a Masters and now works at SpecSavers. Catherine suffers from chronic mental health problems which hinders personal relationships and job seeking efforts. Her home was recently destroyed by assailants. As a victim of crime, Catherine was given some money for temporary rental. This soon ran out, and Catherine is currently in short term crisis accommodation.
Despite her difficulties, Catherine’s warm personality remains a constant. She enjoys catching up with volunteers and rummaging through the Avalon clothing donations. She has quite a sense of personal style and revealed her secret; having patience to find statement pieces, which others may not have thought of. She has registered with 2 agencies for waitressing or volunteer work. Catherine continues to have high hopes for the future.
Julie and Queenie
Julie used to work in the Pakenham Vinnies op shop, affectionately referred to by her daughter as the “little old ladies’ op-shop”, as Julie was the youngest there. A self-professed pen and paper girl, one of her daughters is nevertheless teaching her how to use a computer.
Julie lives in supported accommodation alone since her partner left, uncomfortable and unable to deal with the drug use by some of the other residents, whom Julie does her best to avoid. Pictured with her is her friend Queenie, who helps her pick out nice things from the Avalon Wardrobes.
Julie has 4 children, 3 of whom live in Moe, and the last who sadly committed suicide some years ago.
Everyone deserves to have a safe and constant place to live. Help support us in taking the first step to solving homelessness here!