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26 July 2021
The Salvos assist people struggling with homelessness to find permanent accommodation.
Words Naomi Singlehurst
As National Homelessness Week (1-7 August) approaches, Peter* shares his journey from homelessness to Salvation Army hostel accommodation and then long-term housing. The security of a home has helped Peter continue to be strong in his battle against substance abuse and has given him renewed emotional hope for his future.
Despite the challenges of moving at the height of Melbourne’s COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, Peter says acquiring his new accommodation, after years in a rooming house, may have saved his life. He has managed to maintain sobriety for many years but says the challenges and temptations of living in a sub-standard boarding house, where many were struggling with mental health issues and addiction, was deeply challenging.
Peter had secure work for many years, including management roles. He also had worked nights as a guitarist in the music industry.
Having married soon after leaving school, he believes his shift work – working seven days a week – eventually put an unbearable strain on the relationship. “We’d bought a house, and I was frantically working,” he says.
While Peter had been a drinker for many years, he spiralled into alcoholism during his second relationship. “We had four kids,” he says. “We were both drinking and, after a traumatic period in my life, I started drinking three bottles of wine every day and maybe more on the weekend. That just got out of control, and I lost my licence for drink-driving. I thank God no one was hurt.”
Eventually, Peter’s second marriage collapsed.
“I got moved out of my home by the court,” he shares. “They gave me two hours to get out of the house. I was in shock – I’d been there nearly 20 years and doing extensive renovations, working hard to pay [the] mortgage. I had no one. [In addiction] I’d cut off my father, mother, my siblings and [now] I’d been cut off from my kids. I was on the street pretty much.”
After trying a range of options, Peter moved into a boarding house.
“Everyone in the rooming house was either drug-affected or alcohol-affected, or both,” he recounts. Many were from jail – and I’m not saying they were bad people at all, but it is not a crowd you want to be in when you are trying to stay sober. I really kept to myself. I was sober by then, but it was hard.
Peter eventually contacted Salvation Army Housing Victoria (SAHV) and moved into The Anchorage men’s hostel, and then was supported into secure long-term housing in a two-bedroom unit.
“I love it here – in my own long-term housing,” Peter says. Having already undertaken several courses, Peter is now planning to do a counselling course to support other men who find themselves experiencing homelessness. He is also able to now reconnect more effectively with his kids.
Peter’s situation is far from unique.
The Homelessness Survey (late 2019 to early 2020) was The Salvation Army’s first national research project, which captured the responses and personal views of people accessing Salvation Army Specialist Homelessness Services in Australia.
The project aimed to better understand the circumstances that led to homelessness, the experiences and impacts of homelessness and what could help prevent homelessness and diminish hardship.
Like Peter, 51 per cent of those surveyed had experienced family issues/relationship breakdown and 24 per cent reported alcohol and other drug problems.
For Peter, his entire outlook has changed after obtaining secure housing.
“It’s really, really good to be not wanting, or needing, or thinking, ‘I’ve really, really got to get out of here’ and looking over my shoulder. I am here, and I’m here to stay, and
I have to thank The Salvation Army, they’ve been really good to me.”
*Name and some details changed for privacy