A lot of people have been voicing very loud opinions about Melbourne’s homeless people lately.
Melbourne’s Mayor, social services and charities, and a number of media outlets have all been quick to join the commentary.
This afternoon I talked to a number of Melbourne’s homeless people. I didn’t have to walk far, just a few blocks.
They want to tell you about their experiences and share these photos with you:
“I’ve been out here for years on and off. It’s not a housing problem, it’s a management problem. There’s houses sitting empty.”
“I’ve been sleeping near here a couple of months. We got a group of us, we sleep around the back of this place. Me and my partner, we’re on a waitlist for a place. I asked my mum if my partner could live with us, but she said no so we’re both out here.”
“I didn’t leave home. My mum left. It’s just what she does, hey? She’s done this before. She left. She left us. She leaves us. She didn’t come back this time. Now I’m here. She’s not well. You can’t blame her. But you adapt.”
“This is my 2nd winter. I got evicted. I want to be here, you know? I’ve conquered renting. Now I’m conquering this too. The boys out here look out for me, my mates.”
“I’ve been out here since last year. I found a place to stay last night, but they kick you out at 7am. 11pm to 7am, you can stay. Then you have to go.
My mum had enough of me. I’m an adult. She can’t look after everyone. Plus one day I just...she’d just had enough. I dunno, I’m here now, aren’t I?”
Sharon & Lily.
“I’ve been homeless 15 years, but not all the time. I used to have a place, but Lily – that’s my dog – she has diabetes. Lots of vet bills. My brother just got out of jail and then he overdosed. There was costs for the funeral.
Money was an issue. We lost the place we were staying. It’s hard to get into places when you got a dog.
There’s a lot more people on the street than there’s used to be. Some people won’t take places because they have other issues, costs like drugs – they don’t want the responsibility of rent, it’s just a bigger disaster if they take on responsibility like rent.
And sometimes they’ve been on the streets so long they don’t know how to live normally anymore, in a house and all that. I used drugs years ago, but I got my act together. Still lost our place though. If I was offered a place with Lily I’d take it.
A friend is going to put me up for tonight in the suburbs. But just for the night. But I need a place of my own where it’s mine. I’m on the waiting list for segment one housing. First priority. I need a home, not just a place to sleep.”
“I’m 23. The sign says “22" but I turned 23 not long ago.
The cough started out of the blue a couple weeks ago. I started coughing and then I fell over and went bright red. A lady at Town Hall called an ambulance.
The doctor said I have a parasitic infection in my lungs and pneumonia. I cough worse when I talk or walk or get anxious, I’m sorry.
I’ve had 8 doctors appointments in ten days. I’ve got nowhere to go at night. I’m onto my second box of antibiotics and I’m almost out of pills, so I might go back to hospital tomorrow.
I moved down here from NSW four and a half years ago, after my mum died. I was in with a bad bunch of people before I moved here.
But here, I got a job, had my life on track. Had my own place. I was doing well, but I ignored things. It’s where I went wrong.
I tried killing myself. Technically I succeeded. I was clinically dead. They resuscitated me in my driveway. I woke up in hospital a month later and then they put me in a psych ward.
Because I was unstable I lost my house, my job. I lost everything.
All I was left with was 165 stitches in my arm. And now I’m here.
I’ve always been the sort who if they do something wrong they admit to it. And this is my fault. All my fault I’m here. I didn’t deal with my problems. I made a mistake.
But the system is fucked. Things get run by some guy in a suit who’s read a text book and thinks they know better than everyone. The system needs people who can empathise better.”
“I’ve been homeless 2 years, out here in Melbourne 8 months. I split with my wife and kids. I can’t get emergency accomodation.
Sometimes I stay at a backpackers but now they want to see a passport more and more. I don’t have one.
Salvation Army do meals between 12 to 1pm. Also there’s a cafe in Degraves Street called ‘Pass It On’ or ‘Pay It Forward.’ I forget what it’s called. It’s a good thing. You can get soup and a bread roll there for lunch.
I sleep under a bridge near here. I don’t trust the crowds in the city. Homeless people get bashed out here.
On Monday nights a church in Springvale gives a free meal, but you have to sit through a service.
Everyone wants to feel good about helping. It’s just a meal.”
“I’m from Rockhampton. Wanted to get away from family. Things weren’t working up there. I’ve been out here a week and two days. The agencies come and offer help, but I gotta get ID and stuff for Centrelink.
I’m been homeless off and on since I left prison in 2014. I got out and my partner, he’d lost the house and gone, you see?
He used to bash me. I hit back. That’s why I ended up in prison. It felt like the coppers were picking on me. Why me? Why not him? I was just looking after myself.
Prison wasn’t a bad experience for me. It was a learning experience.
But after, I had nowhere to go. He’d hooked up with another woman while I was inside. There’s nothing left. Can’t go back
I’m gonna start writing when I get a phone, type out my bit like you do, tell people what happened. I’m gonna start saying my piece.
We had beautiful children together, me and that man. My eldest is 22, next one is 18. The eldest, she just had twins. She won’t let me see the grandkids. She said “Mum, you can’t see the grandkids.”
The kids haven’t tried to contact me, not even on Facebook: that’s what hurts the most. They got no respect for me.
I’ve always been strong for everyone else, no one has been strong for me. Why is that? No one wants to help.”
“I’ve been out here 23 years, on the streets, in hostels. I’m 36. I had a rough upbringing.
I was kicked out of home when I was 13. Started off down in the suburbs in a hostel, ended up in the city because there was more people to be around.
I have a blanket. I try to stay warm, but I sleep in the city and yeah, I get scared.
Six weeks ago I was assaulted. I went to a party near the boatsheds on the river. It happened there. I was drunk. I went to the cops and to hospital after, made a report. They helped me.
Physically I’m ok, mentally I’m fucked. It’s hard to talk about. I’m sorry. It’s horrible.
I’m not “inconsiderate” being here. I got no where else to go. If I’m asked to move I do. I’m not hurting anyone.”
“This is my first time living out here. I’m just out of rehab for a heroin addiction. They put me in supported accomodation afterwards. There was people using drugs there. It wasn’t safe for me there. I had to leave.”