Who do you turn to when your own family can’t accept you for who you are? How do you find a safe place to sleep at night?
This is the sad reality Sam* faced growing up in a strict and often violent household where homosexuality was viewed as a sin.
Forced to leave home at a young age, Sam not only struggled with his sense of identity, he also faced the challenges and dangers of being homeless.
Sam knows all too well what life is like hiding who you are, for fear of what can happen if you don’t.
He experienced domestic and family violence as a child up until the day he was kicked out of home.
Sam’s mother was particularly abusive towards him, beating him and screaming at him for any actions or behavior she deemed inappropriate.
Sam tried his best not to make anyone angry or upset, or do anything that would lead to more violence in the house.
“I had a constant pit in my stomach and didn’t know how to talk to my own mum. I had to censor every word and thought I had, just to make sure she wouldn’t get angry.”
Unfortunately, Sam’s story is not uncommon, domestic and family violence and family breakdown are leading causes of youth homelessness. The situation has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic as we have seen an increase in referrals to our Sydney Homeless Services.
“It was like I was constantly walking on eggshells around everyone. I couldn’t be myself around them because I knew what would happen if they found out I’m gay.”
Eventually tensions got too high and with that, Sam was told to leave.
“I’ve only spoken to them once since they kicked me out. They’ve made it clear they don’t want anything to do with me.”
Sadly, Sam isn’t the only one to experience homelessness due to discrimination or rejection by family members.
In Australia, LGBTQIA+ young people are twice as likely to experience homelessness and many report family rejection as being the main reason for not having a safe and supportive place to live.
After he was kicked out, Sam had to face new challenges while experiencing homelessness.
For a while he couch-surfed at his friends’ places but friendships quickly became strained.
“Sleeping on their couch just made me feel like even more of a burden to anyone I was staying with. I was always worried and on-edge because I never knew for sure where I would be sleeping that night or who would even let me stay with them.”
Lost and confused, our Sydney Homeless Services stepped in providing Sam with crisis accommodation and support to get his life back on track.
He stayed at our Knight Street refuge and it was here that Sam connected with our youth workers and set about on a path towards achieving his goals.
“They didn’t judge me or make me feel like I was “wrong”. I was finally free to be myself.”
Sam then moved into accommodation at Marrickville and applied for a Bachelor of Nursing. He began to find new ways to express himself that he was denied exploring in his childhood.
“I get to wear whatever I want and feel confident in myself. Once I discovered who I really was and no longer had to hide it I knew anything was possible.”
Kylee Bowring, Client Services Coordinator, says Sam is doing extremely well and is a lovely young man with a big heart.
“We are so glad to see Sam doing well and to see him so happy. He has come a very long way and still has a big heart and wants to care for people.”
Sam is soon starting his second semester in his Bachelor of Nursing, where he hopes to be able to help others and give back. He has also settled into his accommodation nicely and is getting support to overcome the significant trauma he experienced growing up.
He has a “safe space” to express his thoughts and feeling and it has led to a world of happiness that Sam never knew was possible.
Sam is just one example of how with a bit of support our young people can achieve incredible things. Read more inspiring stories of our young people here.
*Name and image changed to protect the privacy of the young person