Many Assume That Once You’re Housed The Crisis Is Over
May 31 2018
Many assume that once someone has overcome homelessness, their crisis is over.
It is true that having safe accommodation is crucial, provides a space where basic needs are met, and a platform to rebuild your life – but there is little said of the emotional impact and ongoing trauma homelessness can have.
As someone who has experienced homelessness first hand, I have found that when people’s worst fears have been your reality, there is a lack of recognition about how hard it is to go about living a ‘normal’ life.
In my early 20’s, from the outside looking in I was comfortably middle class. I was going to school, had a job and was living at home with my family – but people were not aware of the dynamics that existed inside the four walls of my family home.
When things got bad enough, I was referred to a psychologist for support and it was there that I first heard the term ‘family violence’.
I realised the disconnection and suffering I had been feeling since I was a child wasn’t my fault – it was because I lived with a family who didn’t understand what respectful relationships looked like.
It was during this time I made the difficult decision to leave.
People don’t ‘choose’ homelessness – I certainly didn’t. What I did choose was myself and the hope I would find people that knew how to love and respect me.
I made the decision to do something about it and have paid the cost ever since – one that’s been higher than most could ever imagine.
It took me months to secure a worker and many more months to find access to a youth refuge – my circumstances weren’t ‘serious enough’ to qualify me for urgent assistance.
Although this period of my life was incredibly difficult, I managed to keep a part-time job and continue studying, but this came at an extreme cost to all aspects of my health.
My anxiety and depression worsened, I became chronically ill with multiple conditions and all the while, I had to hide this suffering from a family who refused to understand the impacts of their actions.
What people need to understand is that homelessness affects you in the deepest possible ways – it takes away your sense of belonging and dignity.
It will take me the rest of my life re-establishing where I belong and who I am outside of these experiences.
Like many others, I had naïvely assumed that once I found accommodation I could easily return to some sort of ‘normality’.
But years later, I am still unpacking the damage experiencing homelessness has done.
It takes a long time to rebuild trust with people when those who you are told are meant to support you, don’t.
It seems to be forgotten that it is people who are experiencing homelessness. People, like me, who have lives, feelings, and our own stories to tell.
It is undeniable that we must end homelessness. A fourteen per cent increase over the past five years is truly a national disgrace.
While I am certain that our governments can fix this problem, we cannot overlook the voices of people with a lived experience in helping to shape solutions and humanising this issue.
Don’t underestimate the impact homelessness has on a person and remember, it can happen to anyone – it’s happening now.
Maisie is a member of Launch Housing’s Lived Experience Advisory Group.
To learn more about homelessness read the Australian Homelessness Monitor 2018