Stories of hope
Geoff is a ‘regular’ at St Mary’s House of Welcome. He hasn’t always slept rough. He has spent time living in boarding houses and sleeping on friends’ couches. Right now, though, he often finds himself sleeping in the safest – and warmest – place he can find on the streets.
“I haven’t got any family I am in touch with so I have to rely on myself,” he says.
“I’ve had a lot of bad stuff happen to me in my life. Trauma stuff. I try not to think about it too much. I can’t change what happened. I just have to get on with it.”
Geoff carries everything he owns in a backpack and swag which swing from his shoulders as he walks. Each morning, he makes a point of saying hello to all the staff and volunteers as he passes by them. To him, they are like family, and he knows most of them by name.
“Hi Love,” he’ll say, smiling as he makes his way inside to where it’s warm. “How’s your day going so far?”
Sometimes, Geoff will head straight to reception to grab a towel and some soap so he can have a hot shower to warm up. Other times, he opts to have sit down straight away and have a strong cuppa and a warm breakfast first. Always, he has a kind word and a thank you at the ready for whoever is helping him with what he needs.
“I come to St Mary’s House of Welcome because the people here…they care. Not just because it’s their job. They make us feel okay about us being, well, …us. I’ve been coming here for years.”
Winter is the worst time for Geoff.
“Especially if it’s raining heavy and really cold. When your things get wet you can’t get them dry. And when you get cold, it goes right down to the bone.
“…It’s warm here – Not just the warm heaters. It’s everything about the place – the staff, the volunteers, the friends I’ve made…They look out for me. St Mary’s House of Welcome feels like home to me.”
Ed was in 50s when he first came to St Mary’s House of Welcome. Homeless and lonely, he had recently moved to Melbourne from interstate.
Ed had been unemployed for about ten years, after being retrenched from a long-term job in a factory in his home town. Initially he came to St Mary’s House of Welcome for friendship and food. Then, feeling better about himself than he had in a long time, he decided that he wanted to get back into the workforce.
Over a 12-month period, our community workers and volunteers helped him with all the things he needed to get a job. These included: emergency relief, financial assistance and meals; clothing and toiletries; housing assistance and supports; providing a telephone contact and computer access; support to access medical and optometry services; connecting to Centrelink and employment services; advocacy and support; and assistance with obtaining a driver’s licence.
During this time, St Mary’s House of Welcome was also a place where Ed could sit, read, chat, socialise, and strengthen his sense of self-worth.
Before too long, Ed achieved his goal, obtaining a labouring job which gave him enough money to live simply. Best of all, Ed regained a sense of pride in himself that had been missing for far too long. Ed credits his time using the services at St Mary’s House of Welcome as having been vital to him finding his purpose again and getting back on his feet.
Joanne is 43 years old, and lives in a women only rooming house. She receives the Disability Support Pension, and volunteers one day a week in the dining room at St Mary’s House of Welcome.
Joanne has two children, a daughter aged nine, and a 21 year old son. Joanne’s younger daughter lives with her grandparents, and she has no support from or contact with them. She does have occasional phone contact with her son.
Joanne has a mild intellectual disability and needs assistance in reading and writing. She has epilepsy and is on regular medication to help manage her seizures; she suffers from grand mal seizures and is prone to physical injury from falling. She reports she is more prone to seizures when she is stressed. She also suffers from depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
Joanne has been a long term service user at St Mary’s House of Welcome. She comes here every day for meals and finds immense comfort in the friendships she has formed here over the years. Joanne says, St Mary’s House of Welcome is like her family, her reason for getting up each day.
Recently, Joanne decided that she wanted to find her own place to live. She had never had a place of her own, and has lived rough since she was a teenager. She has always felt vulnerable because of the immense insecurity of this position.
With help from her support worker at St Mary’s House of Welcome, Joanne secured a room in a women only rooming house. For the first time in her adult life, Joanne has her own room.
Since moving into stable accommodation, Joanne is making better decisions in her personal life and is putting herself first, as a result of her increased independence. She is motivated to improve her health, and volunteer more often.
Tess is enjoying living independently and is happy with her current living arrangements.