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Homeless in the Top End

24 August 2016

The Northern Territory has the highest percentage of homelessness in the nation, and the least resources to deal with the crisis. All names have been changed to protect people’s identities and respect their privacy. Stories have been structurally edited for spatial reasons. Interviews by Katherine Goswell

long grass sleepers Top End
Joni, Catherine Booth House: I left home when I was 12. I had started getting into drugs and things, you know? I was in and out of home, sort of after that. Couldn’t live with my mum. My dad was living overseas so he put me up in my own unit at 13. That’s when I first used intravenously. And so I had a bit of a downhill spiral and ended up being dominated by drugs up until about five years ago… I haven’t used for over five years.

The next step was to do something productive with my life, which is why I went to uni and did the TEP course, an enabling program. Obviously I didn’t even finish year 9 so to get into uni, I had to do a bridging course. I really enjoyed it.

Conflicts and the end of a relationship meant the end of my accommodation… I moved into a friend’s house, for a week, but I could feel the friendship was getting stretched. I had to look around for somewhere to go; that when I found Catherine Booth House. I’ve been doing counselling through Mission Australia and Catholic Care and they put me in touch here and I’m so grateful for that; I wouldn’t have had the stability to finish doing what I’m aiming for.

What I’m aiming to achieve is to help someone so that they don’t go through the same thing I did. I was a working girl for a while. I’m 33 now. I’ve come a really long way from my lowest point. And I aim to continue moving forward so.

Without this service I don’t know where I’d be. I struggle with depression and tried to take my own life once. Without the stability of somewhere to stay knowing, that I’m going to be safe… These women are just beautiful. They’re not judgmental. 

Brian and Louise, Sunrise Centre

Brian: Our kids inspired us to get help; we didn’t want to go to jail and we had a lot on our bucket list to tick off. I can’t really read or write and this place has helped me with that too. I’ve got a lot more confident in talking. It’s been great.

Louise: We got in trouble; that’s what started our journey. We got done for manufacturing amphetamines... we realised we’ve got to stop doing this.

Brian: I started using marijuana, all the time. My brother introduced me to the drug scene when I was 19. When my mate got murdered, I started using every day, then it was harder drugs: morphine, heroin, speed, anything… then my brother got murdered; it was drug related. Drugs took the grief away. You want to stop, but you just can’t. Getting caught was the best thing.

Louise: We spent one night in jail. We have three kids. When Brian finished here, he said I had to come here. Now he’s with the kids being the house husband and dad, and I’m in here. It’s really beneficial. I don’t want to come home. In the drug world, you don’t have friends; you have acquaintances. I get three meals a day and I’ve made friends.

The workers here make you feel so welcome. They’re really good people. You have to want to get the benefit out of the place. I’m starting to face all these things I haven’t before. The demons are all coming out of the closet. You put them in the closet and shut it, and don’t think about it, when you’re on drugs. But here with the caseworkers around, they help you.

Brian: We’re facing the future head on. We can’t be down in the dumps, for our kids’ sake. At least if I go into jail, I’ll stop cigarettes again. I’m at that stage where I want to give everything up. Cigarettes are a hard one.

Louise: We will never ever go back and do drugs again. It’s been August last year since we took drugs. We’d be still going now if we hadn’t got caught. It was the best thing; a blessing.
continued next issue