Damian* is twenty years old and has been homeless for seven years. He and his younger brother, Scott*, were removed from their family home when Damian was 10 years old by Children Services and placed into foster care. After several incidents of abuse in the homes they were placed in, Damian took Scott and they went to the streets. Damian became Scott’s carer.
One of our Outreach Workers discovered Damian sleeping in a doorway at a CBD train station. He was not at all receptive to engaging however, our worker went back to the station every morning for more than three months, bringing Damian breakfast and material aid, before she was able to connect with him. By this stage Damian had been homeless for six years and was on his own again.
Open Family Australia have been working with Damian for over a year now. During this time, his Outreach Worker has linked Damian into temporary accommodation, Centrelink and health services. She has spent numerous evenings keeping him company wherever he decided to bunk down for the night be it in a park, at a train station or in a doorway. Damian had never had a bank account or received any income so his worker organised for him to have access to an account for his Centrelink benefits to be deposited. This gave Damian the ability to purchase necessities like food and toiletry items.
Like many homeless people, Damian has used substances as a means of escaping the harsh realities of living on the streets – this is not uncommon and is usually a symptom, not a cause, of homelessness. With support from his Outreach Worker, Damian entered a rehabilitation program last year and was able to cease using for several months. Unfortunately, he relapsed over Christmas and has since entered another program.
Damian’s Outreach Worker describes him as kind, funny, extremely intelligent and always very respectful in his manner. After being on the streets for so long he has become somewhat of a mentor to younger kids who are also homeless. He shares his knowledge with them as well as food and shelter when he has some. He often refers other young homeless people to his Outreach Worker so that they too can access support and services. Recently, he met a young boy on the streets who had run away from home and Damian contacted his Outreach Worker so that she could connect with the boy and provide assistance.
It is not uncommon for Damian to be out of contact for periods of time however, he always checks in with his Outreach Worker to let her know how he is doing. Damian is so well known amongst the city’s homeless that even when his Outreach worker cannot locate him, she is able to get word to him through others on the street.
Damian wants to make positive changes in his life however, after being on the streets since he was 13 years old, he is plagued with feelings of hopelessness that his circumstances will not change. Damian’s journey is far from over however, we will continue to support him while he attempts to address the issues he is facing.
*Names have been changed for privacy.