Hans and Peter have led two very different lives but have one big experience in common. Both know what it is like to be homeless.
4 – 10 August is Homelessness Week. Homelessness Week is an annual week coordinated by Homelessness Australia to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face and the action needed to achieve enduring solutions.
After the breakdown of his marriage Hans, 75, was unable to return to Australia. When he eventually arrived back home, he found himself alone with nowhere to go.
Hans managed to connect with a friend he met in university who invited him to stay at his home. After a month, Hans felt uncomfortable about the length of time he had stayed, so he relocated to a rooming house in Glen Waverley.
While dealing with chemotherapy treatment for bowel and liver cancer, Hans prepared his meals in a rice cooker to avoid using the shared kitchen. His room was located upstairs, which was also unsuitable for Hans, as he found it difficult to walk up the stairs due to his treatment.
Hans connected with Amy Yuen, VMCH Case Manager for the Assistance with Care and Housing program (ACH), via My Aged Care.
With Amy’s help he was offered a single bedroom unit through a community-based organisation which provides affordable community housing for people over the age of 55.
“Amy has been excellent,” says Hans. “She has been such a great help to me.”
“I’ve been here for two months now, and I feel very relieved. I’ve got a new fridge, and I can now cook for myself.
“That’s been the biggest thing for me, having my own space, where I can cook my own food.”
Peter agrees. He says he now feels safe. He moved into the same community housing village as Hans three weeks ago, after 10 years of sleeping rough on the streets of the Melbourne CBD and outer suburbs.
Peter, 64, was previously a builder and owned two properties. He became homeless after several personal issues compounded. The death of his son from an asthma attack, the loss of his home in the Black Saturday bushfires, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s and the breakdown of two marriages left him living on the streets.
Peter says the last 10 years of his life were the worst he’s experienced.
“I would often say, what’s the point, and at one stage I contemplated suicide. But I knew I still had two kids I had to take care of, which is what saved me.”
Hans is amazed at Peter’s journey. He asks Peter how he kept warm after he mentioned sleeping rough at Flinders Street station.
“I didn’t,” replied Peter. “I was freezing to death. I thought I was going to die but I had nowhere else to go.”
Amy says there are several issues around preventing homelessness, and Hans and Peter’s examples show how important it is to have well-resourced housing and homelessness services. Amy is the sole case manager of ACH for VMCH and has a case load of 110 clients. She does all she can to assist those who come to VMCH for housing, but she is only one person, with limited Government funding.
“Having good service coordination is very important,” says Amy. “All the different agencies and organisations across the housing and homelessness sector have limited resources, and we need to work together, and increase our service provision.”
Amy says there is a need to increase the housing and service coordination resources for those moving through the various aged care and disability services.
“They are vital in supporting those who are vulnerable to live independently once they find stable accommodation.
“We need more funding, and more support. Without it, there is little we can do to help those who are most in need and vulnerable in our community.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. To allow each of us to have our opinions, and to accept the choices we have made and deserve to make in the future.
“Until there is more funding, clients like Peter and Hans will continue to fall through the cracks.”