Zoe knows how hard being homeless is during Winter – but being homeless throughout COVID-19 seemed impossible until Gary showed up…
Most people would agree with me that I didn’t have a happy childhood. Mum & Dad heavily relied on drugs and alcohol so they were always fighting and throwing things at each other. It was hard to block it out as their yelling always echoed throughout the apartment. I was so scared but I tried to hide this from my little brother, Ash, who didn’t know what was going on.
Mum & Dad broke up when I was 13 and Dad kicked her out of our home. Very soon after, Dad re-married and his new wife wanted to have her own family with him on the condition me and Ash no longer lived with them. Dad made his choice pretty quickly – kicking me and my brother out onto the streets, like he did to Mum, to start a new family with her. That was the last time I ever saw him.
Me and my brother suddenly found ourselves hungry and homeless. Mum didn’t want us living at hers and we didn’t have any other family to stay with- we still don’t. In the beginning we moved from refuge to refuge if we were lucky enough to get a hot meal and a bed to sleep in for the night. There were times we weren’t so lucky and had to sleep on park benches or in fire escapes if it was cold and raining.
If we couldn’t find a safe place to stay, we slept on the streets.
During this time, I kept having really dark thoughts running around in my head. I was sad I had no one who cares I even existed and fed-up that I had no money to buy food to feed Ash. I didn’t want to steal from the shops. I couldn’t stop thinking everyone saw me as a waste of space and that’s why I wasn’t worth keeping. I couldn’t even look after Ash properly, who heavily depends on drugs.
One night when we were searching for a warm place to sleep the night I lost Ash – the sun had already set and I couldn’t see him. I called out his name but he must have wandered off because he didn’t shout back. Losing him couldn’t have come at a worse time – the government put the whole country in lockdown and told everyone to stay home to keep safe from a virus that was quickly spreading.
I never felt so alone – I don’t know if he’s okay.
I was so scared when winter came and I was still homeless. I struggled to keep safe and warm – but trying to stay safe during what people called a ‘global health crisis’ when I had no home to go to was really hard. I couldn’t go home to Dad- I’m not wanted there anymore.
Gary found me on the street in Sydney’s inner west during his nightly walks. I’ve seen him around the city before and we spoke a couple of times. He even gave me some food to eat. He said he found me a place to stay in crisis accommodation called Don Bosco House where I was able to stay during the lockdown. He said he will do everything he can to find Ash.
I don’t know what the future holds for me but I know I’m safe for now because of Gary.
UPDATE: I’ve been staying at Don Bosco for a couple of weeks now and it’s been great. Everyone is really friendly and we look after each other. The support workers here have been putting on activities for us like gardening, painting and baking. It’s been a good distraction from everything that’s happening.
I also heard from Ash. He isn’t doing very well- but he’s okay. He managed to get temporary housing nearby during the lockdown and it has free Wi-Fi so he’s now able to message me from time to time. Gary said he will drop by time to time to deliver some food.
Times are still tough, but with the help of the support workers at Youth Off The Streets, I know things will turn out to be okay.