About to become homeless in Canberra. What resources are there?

streetwise 28 October 2009 62

With limited savings left and no family here, I’m looking at becoming homeless in Canberra. Not something I’m looking forward to.

Before you stereotype me, I will point out that I have a university degree, I’ve never used drugs, never drank alcohol, never smoked. I had a steady and reasonably well paid private sector job until the global financial crisis saw several of us laid off as the company down sized. I have been applying for jobs. Lots of jobs. Even had 4 interviews over the past couple of weeks. I get on to Seek and Career One regularly. As I write this I just got a call about an interview to attend next week. I wear a suit and tie to interviews, am clean cut and well presented. I come across confidentially and have always felt confident in my interview performance.

I have also stopped being picky about the jobs I have been going for. I’d love to work in the field I have been working in, but now I’ve cast a wider net. I’ve applied for temp jobs, jobs where all you need is a driver’s licence and a car, even fast food restaurant jobs starting as a trainee cook / dishwasher.

I don’t receive any Centerlink payments and won’t be getting any for several months because I got a termination payment from my last company. I had savings, so no payment. I also had bills, so now almost no savings.

So things are beginning to hit the “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” stage. Not desperate, but time to start planning ahead. So, Canberrans (and citizens of surrounding villages) what resources are there to help homeless? To help those about to become homeless?
I am thinking my needs are:
Accommodation.
Food.
Transport in the form of petrol vouchers or bus fares so I can get to job interviews.
Access to computers to look for jobs. This though is pretty easy as the local library has them free of charge.
Access to showers.
Access to laundry. Coin laundries are fine, but where are they?
Moral support. Because getting knocked back for jobs and having no income really can be depressing.

I did try to put my shoes in those of the homeless. I walked down to Garema Place the other day, asking the homeless where they stay, where I can find resources, but most probably thought I am housed, and were reluctant to share information. I sat there watching them, as they came to ask me for money, and to ask others. I gave what little I had, as they are in deeper dire straits than I am. I guess it takes guts to do that, ask strangers for money. I saw one fellow ask several people, and get knock backs every time. I saw and heard people making excuses to another homeless man, the classic hand over the mouth gesture giving them away.

I realise times are tough, and that not everyone can spare some change, and that’s fair enough. I wonder though if there is a short fall of services in Canberra that means that these people need money to cover that shortfall? Those few I spoke to told me that some accommodation places only provide accommodation for a few weeks before you have to leave for another few weeks. I was also advised that Anslie village is for males only. I’m not sure of the truth of any of that advice, so I’m seeking definite information, not rumour.

– I’m emailing in a picture for this story.


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    62 Responses to About to become homeless in Canberra. What resources are there?
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    colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 8:52 am 12 Nov 09

    amazing how many newbies are popping up on this thread to keep bumping it. I thought this was something that was normally reserved for “where can I find a good (insert trade here)?” type threads.

    giulia giulia 12:29 am 12 Nov 09

    I meant to say refuges not refugees. Sorry if there are other spelling mistakes.

    giulia giulia 12:25 am 12 Nov 09

    Wow, what an interesting topic.
    I’m very surprised by the lack of information available to the homeless and the homeless to be.
    This is a topic that I have thought about very often over the past ten years, more so since I heard a story from my younger brother. He told me about a friend of his who worked at a government agency which provides support to young homeless people. A young girl walked into the agency one evening and said she needed a place to stay for the night. She had been kicked out of home and had no where to go. The young girl at the counter called many of the female refugees in Canberra only to be told that there were all full that evening. The girl seeking assistance was then told that there was no where she could stay that evening and walked away by herself to fend for herself.
    The girl working for the agency did not take down the young girl’s details and so does not know who she is or how she is now.
    There is a need to provide people immediately with housing and food. I don’t know if you’re in this situation now, but if you are I think that having a warm, safe place to sleep and good food to eat is a priority over finding a job.
    Once you find a place to stay, be it a week or so, then you can start thinking about employment.
    After hearing this story of my brother’s and having many homeless people crash at my place over the past 10 years, I have noticed that there is a real need for good information about emergency/immediate accommodation to be easily accessible to the people of Canberra.
    A website for the Canberran community is needed that lists places to stay; people who have spare rooms who are willing to provide short term accommodation; lists of organisations that provide free or cheap meals, clothes and essentials… etc.
    I have thought much over the past 10 years about setting up a website to do so, but have believed that there are many more experienced and qualified people to do so.
    A website, some of you may think, isn’t going to be any help to the homeless. You may think that they don’t have access to the internet etc. I disagree. If there is a useful website, it would have been mentioned on this forum.
    I am a female in my early 30s who has never been homeless, I guess thanks to my big, overbearing, migrant family. Without them, I am sure I would have posted a similar story to yours (except I don’t have a UNI degree)
    Contact me if you need a place to stay and/or are still looking for work.

    fgzk fgzk 4:15 pm 11 Nov 09

    CapitalK. Sorry let me help you with that. On the street is not much of a life and you rarely get to choose anything.

    “I think most of these replies have missed a point. Your asking about being homeless not how to get money. By homeless I think you are referring to living without a house or income. Not the homeless who are sick people living rough without medical and human care. Shame on you Canberra for leaving these people on the street. Shame on you RA readers for offering only platitudes and unrealistic suggestions. Most require some form of medical care, healthy food, accommodation and ongoing professional support.”

    CapitalK CapitalK 3:25 pm 11 Nov 09

    fgzk – fantastic list of pointers.
    I think I’m still confused – you make being without a home sound like a life choice

    “You could always be a whore and take a job just for the money. Plenty of them in the above posts”

    which is fine for some – but most people like to have a home and possessions and so yes I guess some people will take a job just for the money – but that will then give them money with which to house, feed, clothe and hopefully even entertain themselves.

    sloppery sloppery 3:21 pm 11 Nov 09

    fgzk said :

    Chances are if you don’t have a substance abuse problem yet, you will. Chances are if you don’t suffer mental illness now, you will. Chances are if you are well now you will be sick soon. Chances are you might only stay homeless for a short time. Do you really want to take a chance. For a lot of people chance plays no part of why they become and stay homeless. Its all so predictable.

    Sound REAL positive. Why would a person who is dead broke (despit getting the dole) suddenly develop a substance abuse problem?

    fgzk fgzk 9:50 am 11 Nov 09

    Thank you squashee. No I’m not in the same class. Here I was worried that my lack of formal education would show through with my awful grammar, etc.

    squashee squashee 11:01 pm 10 Nov 09

    Great post fgzk. Written with first-hand experience by a homeless person – or was that a B Arts (psychology) student?

    Are you and streetwise in the same class?

    Keep it up.. It is slowly becoming amusing..

    fgzk fgzk 11:37 am 10 Nov 09

    I think most of these replies have missed a point. Your asking about being homeless not how to get money. By homeless I think you are referring to living without a house or income. Not the homeless who are sick people living rough without medical and human care. Shame on you Canberra for leaving these people on the street. Shame on you RA readers for offering only platitudes and unrealistic suggestions. Most require some form of medical care, healthy food, accommodation and ongoing professional support.

    So you are are about to live without a house and no income and want some pointers. Fair enough.

    Accommodation- Your best option is a vehicle. This will become your home and will house all your homely effects. You will have to sell everything else for virtually nothing to feed yourself before you get the dole. Save only the things you will need in your car to live. Your mattress and lots of bedding for winter. Buy a mozzy net while you still have some cash. A washing up bowl, a pot, a fry pan, a billy, sharp knife and something to cook on. You might like to invest in a small luxury, a TV with a good battery set-up. Keep moving your camp sites. Find spots where you are hidden away. Accommodation done. You will get the use of friends houses and house sitting along the way but you always have somewhere to sleep comfortably with a good van.

    Food-Will be intermittent. Not having a fridge you will have to buy every day. Well not every day because you will have no money for a lot of days. Cans of bake beans are cheap, can be saved, can be eaten cold with only a spoon and can fill your tummy enough to get to sleep. They come in lots of flavours. Eat everything you are offered. Bananas are my favourite complete meal. Settle for one meal a day. Good cheap Chinese takeaway can offer a good mix of nutrition a couple of times a week. You will get ill from bad nutrition. You will stay sick longer from bad nutrition. Expect to be ill.

    Transport – expect to choose between petrol and food a lot. I split fuel for me and fuel for my home. Someone else will have to sponsor repairs to transport (your home). The dole wont cover it. Get all the tires and things done before you run out of cash. You will have to scrape the rego out of your food budget. Never heard of a petrol voucher. Stay away from old petrol in cans.

    Computers. You get an hour at the library. Wind up any involved Internet stuff you are doing. Computer equipment breaks and will most likely be sold for food and petrol.

    Showers and toilets. You might like the routine of these great pleasures. Get over it. Use lots of toilet paper on the seat of public toilets. Find a couple to use. Friends are the best source of showers (use all their products, toothpaste, and razors). You can basin wash in a toilet. You can bath in lakes and rivers at this time of year. I keep my spots secret. I was told DSO in Fyshwick have showers.

    Laundry is best done at friends. Don’t use the coin laundry. You can buy lots of bake beans and bananas instead. Keep only your best made cloths. Wear one set all the time and keep some good ones for whatever. Same with shoes.

    Morale support. Well you got plenty of that here. Expect more of the same. Get a job etc. Living on the street the only people who will talk to you are the ill homeless. No-one will take any notice of you unless its a complaint or asking you to move on. I always appreciate people who take the time to shout abuse. Its nice to be noticed. Expect some adjustment to your morals. You will spend a lot of time tolerating / flirting with people so as to access their stuff. A good mattress is your best most enduring support. Sex, drugs and cleaning will get you support, but the morals of it might be a bit much for some.

    Some kind of hobby or interest will help fill the long days of hunger, depression, confusion and that growing sense of outrage at peoples waste and greed.

    Chances are if you don’t have a substance abuse problem yet, you will. Chances are if you don’t suffer mental illness now, you will. Chances are if you are well now you will be sick soon. Chances are you might only stay homeless for a short time. Do you really want to take a chance. For a lot of people chance plays no part of why they become and stay homeless. Its all so predictable.

    You could always be a whore and take a job just for the money. Plenty of them in the above posts.

    Look forward to ignoring you in a car park soon. The best thing about being homeless are the views. Always million dollar views. Enjoy

    dvaey dvaey 2:18 am 03 Nov 09

    Granny said :

    After looking for employment for nearly a year my partner, who has always just walked into jobs before, was finally offered one for #17,000 a year. Well, if he took that we really would be homeless.

    While this is an unfortunate situation, as I said in my initial post, my girlfriend applied for and applied for 3 jobs and received 3 interviews in the space of a week. Of those, she got 3 calls back with job offers, all of them full-time and paying around $20/hr each. Maybe if you looked for jobs involving customer service or stacking shelves, sure you might ‘only’ make 40k/yr, but its better than being unemployed ‘for nearly a year’.

    The fact you talk about economic downturns and spending hours trying to meet selection criteria, to me, sounds like youre setting your sights too high in a marketplace where high-paying office jobs (where you get to sit at a desk and read riot-act all day) are becoming scarce while private industry and retail are employing like crazy. A lot of people have made suggestions of how many varied places there are to find work, and if it boils down to not being homeless, then you take what you can get until you get back on your feet, imho anyway.

    dare2dream dare2dream 2:15 am 03 Nov 09

    Streetwise’s predicament may or may not be real. Whatever. Homelessness in Canberra is real!! Finding a job especially if you dont have anywhere to live or if you have a bad back or if you’re over 50 for example is hard. While everyone else goes out to the movies, dinner, footy, away on hols, or are home watching the telly with their family, the homeless are worrying about sneaking a shower somewhere. Canberra is not a good place to be homeless because it doesnt have the outdoor showers that seaside towns have and I dont know of any charities here that provide free showers and/or laundry facilities. It’s also hard to feel ‘safe’ when you’re sleeping in your car or van or outside.

    Granny Granny 5:41 pm 02 Nov 09

    After looking for employment for nearly a year my partner, who has always just walked into jobs before, was finally offered one for #17,000 a year. Well, if he took that we really would be homeless.

    It often takes him five hours to address all the selection criteria for one job. Hours spent in interviews only to come a close second. Hours spent working on jobs at way less than they’re worth just to bring in some money … any money.

    I’m not saying he’s done everything right, but he’s just been trying so hard, and having to fight the depression and low self-esteem that comes with unemployment.

    If judgments and prejudices continue to serve your world view, suit yourself. But I have never seen him work harder for less return on his efforts and I have never been prouder of him.

    When an economic downturn affects you, see how you like it. I find the it-hasn’t-happened-to-me-so-it-mustn’t-be-true mentality to be so illogical as to be completely ridiculous.

    Muttsybignuts Muttsybignuts 4:13 pm 30 Oct 09

    I hope the bloke in the photo in the check shirt really is homeless cause his image is sure associated with homelessness now.

    Muttsybignuts Muttsybignuts 4:11 pm 30 Oct 09

    Although I suspect this is a troll I took the bait anyway. I called 2 types of services that I know are always looking for staff ( Disability support workers at Sharing Places and Food service dude/dudette at Maccas) and both were very keen to have me send in a resume and didn’t seem to care when I lied about my over qualifications. It seems that it isnt really that hard to find work if you are genuine.

    Rad Dave Rad Dave 1:48 pm 30 Oct 09

    LiamMarsh said :

    there is a hare krishna ashram on quick st. in ainslie, just down the road from ainslie village.

    Do the Hare Krishna’s do food for the public in Canberra? 1 of the best $5-$10 vego feeds available- and cooked with lurve..

    colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 1:46 pm 30 Oct 09

    Yeah, good luck with your special needs child and the dramas with ACT housing. I hope you get tehm sorted out.

    candelabra candelabra 12:09 pm 30 Oct 09

    Good luck streetwise, how that things turn out for you.

    LiamMarsh LiamMarsh 11:00 am 30 Oct 09

    there is a hare krishna ashram on quick st. in ainslie, just down the road from ainslie village. I might be wrong but I believe accom,. there is $50 p/w, I think you may have to do a few housekeeping tasks with that price but it is probably worth a look if you need accom., and also a bit better than ainslie village. You might have to put up with some hare krishna in your ear about how its wrong to kill anaimals, but less wrong to kill vegetables (reference to a funny conversation I had with one). Havelock housing assoc. do crisis accomodation, the waiting list is approximately 2 weeks I think. hope some of this helps, good luck and keep us posted.

    hellspice hellspice 10:47 am 30 Oct 09

    try the national zoo and aquarium

    Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 9:42 am 30 Oct 09

    streetwise said :

    blah, blah … not to put up with infantile and immature insults like some of those here.

    But it has taught you to respond in kind, I see.

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