Cheryl was abused by her mother when she was just weeks old, and abandoned in a garbage bin around the age of two. She remembers growing up in the cells of a police station and being forced to fend for herself on the streets before her 10th birthday.
Today, Cheryl is a resident at Mission Australia’s Common Ground housing and support hub. She recently shared this reflection with us:
“For the best part of my life I have been homeless and never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I never felt I was worth worrying about. Being on drugs played a big part in that.
“For many people, being homeless, and for me personally… I lost my self-esteem, confidence and was separated from society. You learn not to trust many people. You lose who you are – basically become a face in the crowd and hide away from people. You feel ashamed that you live on the streets. In reality that’s all a homeless person has: the clothes on your back, maybe a blanket, and if you’re lucky a park bench or a concrete pavement somewhere, hopefully out of the wet weather. For me it was a pavement outside a post office or Hyde Park, under a tree or a garden hedge. But it’s yours for the time you are there.
Society has become very judgmental about homeless people. They don’t understand what leads to you becoming homeless, but they are quick to assume they know. That in itself makes you very depressed. You lose even more of your self-worth. That doesn’t help a person who cannot get housing. It’s not that easy.
“In 2013 I was offered housing at Common Ground through Mission Australia Housing. I have now been here for five and a half years. I have maintained my tenancy and overcome many health issues and many personal issues that have come into my life.
“Having stable housing has played a big part in finding my confidence and self-esteem, although some days are still challenging. Having support from staff helped me find my way and made me realise that I am worth it and can achieve anything that I put my mind to. They say you have to respect and love yourself before anyone else can, and with stable housing, support from staff and having my own home for the first time, I am learning to do that bit by bit. “Homeless people are human beings too. We just need the chance – not only to prove to ourselves, but to the people that thought we were worthless and made us feel ashamed… We just want to prove we can do anything that comes our way.”
Independence is precious
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Know someone affected by domestic violence?
Domestic and family violence is a major driver of homelessness in Australia, therefore addressing it is one of Mission Australia’s priorities. Help is available for people experiencing domestic and family violence. If you are experiencing abuse or violence it is not your fault. There are support services that can help you. If your life is in danger, call 000. For other concerns, the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line is available on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).