Homelessness is often viewed as a slump. Usually it is assumed that the person has become homeless due to a drug or alcohol problem.
That was not my experience.
I didn’t choose to be homeless. I found myself in a situation I couldn’t escape from and I hit the road in an attempt to make the most of a bad situation – and it was the best thing I ever did.
The first night I cried myself to sleep. Every noise sent a shiver through me, the wind howled and drops of water kept landing on my face. I was wet, cold and miserable. Life couldn’t get worse.
After a month I was living like a queen. I had a tent and an old stained mattress I found on the side of the road, I had a pocket full of food vouchers and some random had given me a glazed doughnut and five bucks.
Six months into my time on the streets, I was starving hungry and called home to ask for money, as my pension had been cut off due to me having ‘no fixed address’. Everyone was too busy to talk to me and told me I needed to sort my life out and this was a lesson I needed to learn by myself.
I stole a man’s wallet that day. I stared at the photo of the three young smiling children inside, as I scooped out the $70. This was what I had become. Nothing more than a desperate criminal.
Things had to change.
The streets were ruthless, so I went bush. I set up a tent 10k’s away from civilisation, in dense Queensland bushland where I would never be found.
To begin with it was scary. All new sounds and smells and I lay awake wondering how long it would be before someone found my body if I died here.
I ‘acquired’ a book of survival techniques and worked to make the bush my home. Together with two friends and my dog we dug holes for fires and toilets, built our own makeshift shower, wove leaves and twigs together to make solid structures to sleep under and with a lot of effort, managed to grow an edible garden that kept all three of us fed for the next twelve months.
One of the guys broke his ankle chasing after the dog one morning and we had to make a splint for his leg and do his chores (which included the 5k walk to the river for water each day). I got lost trekking back to our camp during a storm one night and spent the night clinging to a tree only to find that when the sun came up, I was about twelve steps away from camp.
Today, people are shocked to hear that I was once homeless, but in reality, being homeless is what made me who I am today.
I would never want to do it again, but I’m glad I did it just the same.