Tomasi is a former member of Launch Housing’s Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG). He first experienced homelessness as a young teenager, and in this revealing story he candidly shares his journey of homelessness, as well as his current situation and future aspirations.
“My name is Tomasi, I’m a 19 year old Gooreng Gooreng, Fijian and Tongan man from south-east Queensland. I moved to Melbourne in late 2015. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, and have been a member of Launch Housing’s LEAG since March 2018.
I can’t remember how old I was the first time I ran away from home, but it must’ve been pretty young. It was definitely a common occurrence by the time I was 13.
At 14, I moved out of home into a youth hostel but I didn’t last very long there, and I ended up couch surfing or on the streets. I became increasingly disengaged from school, and my support networks. I never actually passed Year 10, which I find kind of funny.
I got in with the wrong crowds, and my poor mental health became worse and drug abuse became a pretty big problem.
At 16, I had dropped out of high school and was completing a chef’s apprenticeship; at that time a friend’s family had taken me in. That was one of my lowest points, when it came to my drug abuse and mental health. I had a stable job and house, and I lost them. I just wasn’t well, and with my drug abuse I had little chance of keeping any semblance of normality in my life.
After a couple months of couch surfing, I decided to move to Melbourne to start again. I enrolled into a Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) TAFE program for the next year, and after spending Christmas in Queensland, I came back to Melbourne a day before classes started.
My brother and I had planned to have a place together, but that fell through, so I was couch surfing while trying to do my classes. I lived with a Greek family for a couple months, after that, before they went overseas and then I went back to couch surfing.
My first couple months alone were relatively good with minor drug use, but it wasn’t to last. An old friend came down from Queensland, and I fell in with a new crowd he knew here so I moved in with them. Living with them was the most stressful, and never ending 10 months of my life.
But then I started using a youth crisis service, and eventually they asked if I’d like to volunteer with them and I did. The service was really helpful, it gave me direction.
One time out with friends, I took a substance believing it was another substance, and had a severe reaction. Within minutes of taking it I knew something was off, so I called my brother.
It wasn’t the first time that had happened, and I probably would’ve continued putting myself in those kind of situations. But, my brother pulled me up and said he wouldn’t stick around if I didn’t pull my head in.
I’d been disengaged at VCE but in my final year I started to turn things around. I decided couch surfing and hostels were better than the house I was living in. And in the second semester I got a scholarship for student accommodation.
I’m now in my second year of university, I’ve volunteered or worked in homelessness for just over three years. I’m in a calm stable share house and after graduating I hope to work in community development in the pacific. Maybe something about seeking help, it’s worth it, they’re worth it?”
The 17 April is #YHMD2019 a day to raise awareness for young people experiencing homelessness in Australia. 28,000 young Australians are without a home on any given night, often due to a housing crisis and family violence.