Youth homelessness in Australia - A Day in the life | Samaritans
For most Australians, having a roof over our heads where we can feel safe, with a supportive group of family and friends around us, perhaps even a loving partner, can be easily taken for granted.
You see, home is home and for most of us, we’re there for part of every day and it never changes; it’s stable. We have family who either live with us or are a phone call away, and friends whose company we enjoy and to fall back on when we need them.
Now imagine if you were to be stripped of one of these elements of ‘normal life’ that makes you feel comfortable: your bed, your room, your space, your privacy, your house or your family? Could you survive for a day? A week? What if you were deprived of more than one of these things? Or all of them?
Where would you go?
What would you do?
Who would you turn to for help?
For many of us, it’s hard to imagine what homelessness in Australia would be like, and it’s not often we stop to put ourselves in the shoes of a homeless Australian.
To highlight how serious homelessness in Australia is, the following story describes what a typical day in the life of a young homeless person in Australia could be like. Although this particular story is a work of fiction, it is based on the experiences of a young person Samaritans staff have supported it is the type of story we often hear at Samaritans.
Our story follows a day in the life of Brandon, a 21 year old who left a volatile and sometimes violent family home at 16. Brandon has a young son, Riley and after his girlfriend suffered a severe breakdown in her mental health and kicked him out of the house, he gained sole custody of his son and quickly became a single Dad with nowhere to live.
Waking up on Dave’s couch…again. I’m sure he’s sick of me staying here, but I’m scared to ask him about it because he’s the last friend who can help me out. This is the ninth house I’ve couch-surfed already this year. God it’s uncomfortable, but at least it’s somewhere warm to stay. Riley seems to like it, at least he can run around in the yard.
Normal people are probably leaving home to go to their jobs right now. I enjoyed my job, but when my ex-became unstable and I took sole custody of Riley, I just couldn’t figure out a way to manage both. I have no family to guide me or give me advice. I would happily work if I could; I’d even like to do an apprenticeship actually or study to learn something new. But it’s so hard to find something when I have noone to help me watch Riley. He’s nearly two and I just get stuck in this merry go round of trying to find day care to look for a job, but needing a job to pay for day care…and how will I ever fit study into all that? I feel so helpless.
It’s not even half way through the day, I just feel I have to get out of here…I miss having my own room, my own TV or my own fridge. And I really want Riley to have his own space. He’s so small and just wants to play with everything and be a little kid, but I have to be careful when I’m couch surfing because it’s not our house. It’s not our stuff. And if he breaks something and Dave asks us to leave, where do we go?
Dave will be home soon, I wonder if I should talk to him? I need an option up my sleeve first, are there any friends I haven’t stayed with? Hard to think of anyone…there is help with housing for young people who are homeless, but I can’t find anything for a single dad. Youth refuges don’t allow children and the refuges that do allow children are for women. I’ve tried about 10 services in the last few months and I just feel like no-one will give me the time of day.
Night time is both good and bad. It means tomorrow is another day to maybe find some sort of way out of this mess. But it also means I’m back on the couch, an uncomfortable reminder that nothing I can feel or see belongs to me. I’ll be tossing and turning for seven hours of broken sleep worrying about how to be a good example to my son. He is the world to me and I need to show him we can overcome this. I know we can overcome this.
Samaritans has helped many young people in a similar situation to Brandon* through our youth casework team, specialist homelessness services and youth accommodation project.
Not all of these Samaritans services are government funded and our key youth accommodation project is completely supported by Samaritans fundraising. To learn more about the service click here, or to support the program to keep running, visit our donate page.