It is said that homelessness can happen to anyone, and that all it takes is one catastrophic life moment, one insurmountable rent increase, one relationship breakdown for someone to find themselves on the streets. Daniel’s story is the real-life example of exactly this.
Daniel was a young, fit, healthy 40 year old man who loved his sport, lived a quiet life in the suburbs and was enjoying his job as a car salesman. The house he was renting was about to go on the market, but Daniel wasn’t worried – he’d never had any trouble finding properties to rent in the past.
That’s when he discovered just how critical Perth’s rental crisis really was. Time after time after time he missed out. Just one of the hundreds hopefully and fruitlessly bidding for every property. Crunch time came and he had nowhere to go.
Daniel lived in his car, couch surfed with friends, spent a good proportion of his salary on cheap hotel rooms when he could spare the cash. All the time, applying for rentals, hopeful his luck would change.
Unfortunately, his luck took a turn for the worse. Daniel lost his job. Then his car broke down and he had no means to fix it. And that’s all it took. Three life events, one after the other. Suddenly Daniel went from safe and secure, to having nowhere to go.
Daniel was by no means street-smart. He had no idea where to go for help, or how to stay safe. But instinct took over. He spent a week in a cardboard recycling skip bin – behind closed gates and away from public scrutiny, judgement and threat. During the day he tried to keep his mind occupied, and to stay cool during the summer heat, so he snuck into movie theatres.
Daniel just recalls deep, deep embarrassment that this had happened to him, bewilderment, and confusion about how to change his situation, and fear. His nights were spent mostly sleepless as he stayed alert for danger, which took its toll on his physical and mental health.
Daniel said “Those nights of being hyper alert, never fully sleeping, have a profound impact on your state of mind. Your mind is so down, you feel so worthless. And then you have to deal with people judging you, authorities moving you on, the threat of people stealing from you or causing you physical harm. But you have nowhere else to go. You just end up feeling even worse”.
In desperation Daniel travelled into the city and sought assistance from charity groups and community services where he was able to shower, have a hot meal, and receive support to find a safe place to stay. He clearly remembers the day he first met with the team from St Bart’s.
“I rolled up at St Bart’s for an interview and from day one they put the smile back on my face. You won’t believe the feeling they gave me when I walked in and they greeted me by my name. They never judged, there was nothing but respect.”
St Bart’s offered Daniel a place to stay at their Lime Street supported accommodation. Daniel said it took many weeks to retrain his mind not to be hyper alert all night, but now he “sleeps like a baby!”
With support from the St Bart’s team and the extreme generosity of a local business owner who wants to help people doing it tough, Daniel is training for FIFO work on the mines.
“I’ve completed my white card, I’m doing my forklift driving course, learning first aid”, Daniel said proudly, “I’m moving forward. I have the promise of work, and a future to look forward to.”
Finally in a good place himself, Daniel is now paying it forward and regularly looks for opportunities to help others when he can. He knows the power of a kind word and likes to chat to those he sees who might be feeling down. He’s even instigated a “food directory” at St Bart’s that directs residents to places they can find a meal when money is tight.
Say G’day Day is coming up on Friday October 6, a day when St Bart’s shines the spotlight on the impact that a simple acknowledgement can have on someone doing it tough on Perth’s streets. Daniel knows the truth of this only too well.
“You just never know what’s going on in someone’s life”, he said. “They could be so low, and feeling so worthless. And just to look them in the eye and say hello. That one word can make a huge difference. It could change how they feel about themselves. It could save their life.”
Say G’Day Day is an initiative of St Bart’s.
On Friday 6 October St Bart’s asks people to let that one word, ‘G’day’ be the start of becoming better informed, less judgmental and the first step in a journey towards making a difference.
Just say G ’day, don’t turn away.