Asma: I moved interstate and used to live with my aunt and her husband… it got kind of awkward being there. So I started spending lots of time in the library; sometimes I’d sleep there, sometimes in the car, and couch surf from friend to friend. It wasn’t really easy for me to do that because I was trying to finish my bachelor’s degree and I wasn’t able to concentrate on my studies as I was worrying about where I would sleep and all that.
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I told a Salvation Army worker about my story and the reasons why I was looking for a house. They sent me to a refuge place and I stayed there just for the night. And then in the morning I went back to the housing place again. They told me to wait until 3.00 p.m. to see if there was anything for that night. They sent me to a motel in the city.
They then found me a place for six nights. I was doing exams while I was staying there. I was doing my revision as well as keeping track of housing, using public transport all along. After six nights there I reported back to the housing place and this time gained my current placement, which is really good. It is the best thing that’s happened to me.
I’ve been here for two months now, looking for a house. While being here I don’t even feel like I’m homeless anymore, even though I’m still looking for a house. We do all these activities to get us away from the stressed life, although I’m not even stressed here. I always have this feeling it’s gonna get better. With every struggle there’s progress. I always tell myself there’s not going to be a rainbow without a little rain. There have to be obstacles. My time here has been really great, it’s been fantastic.
Most of my time I spend looking for jobs and they help me with that. I was looking for aged care work and Salvation Army has them, so they’re looking to see if that might work. We are looking for private rentals just now but it’s not easy when I don’t have a job; you know? The lady at the housing launch that had my application, she talked to my caseworker here and they forwarded my case…we could get public housing (maybe even before private rental).
This is my last year of my bachelor of commerce, majoring in accounting. I enjoy it, I’m a maths person. I’ve got a cert 3 in aged care, too, and done work experience but haven’t actually had paid work.
We are Somali and we have been here for nearly 10 years, so we did primary school and high school here. We are Australians. The staff are really fantastic, so helpful, supportive and anything you’d look for really. I haven’t really come across any obstacles here. It’s been really smooth. They help with housing and job applications; that stuff is hard, they help as much as they can. I’ve applied for a lot of jobs but I keep on going. I used to do receptionist work. I recommend everyone come to the Salvos; you don’t even feel like you’re homeless.
My brother Abdi didn’t go through all the things I did. He used to stay at Mum’s place but it’s really populated with a lot of kids. There are only four bedrooms and there’s 11 people, at least. It was hard for my brother to concentrate; he couldn’t study properly. They asked if me and my brother were looking for a place together, and so that’s why he got in here. My time here has been nothing but a blessing.
My brother was basically couch surfing. There were beds, but not enough for everyone. He’s 18 years old; he’s not going to share a bed with anybody. He slept on the couch. I really didn’t expect to end up in a place like this; I was expecting I’d go through different refuges before I end up getting a house. It’s good to be stable. But you’re always looking for a house. This is better than couch surfing and worrying about where you’re going to sleep.
On the weekdays one of the staff members cooks, and then on the weekends we cook so the kitchen is ours on the weekends. The rooms are really good. They’re so comfortable. The bed is nice and there’s furniture and closets. I love rooms with closets. Queen size beds.
Out of 10, I would give The Salvation Army 10 out of 10. Trust me, any dollar you give would really be so helpful: it’ll help people like me and my brother or anyone in need, especially young people. The more you go through struggles the more it’s going to build up your character. The more you’re gonna think, ‘Well I’ve been through that; I can go through anything. I can do this. I can go through this.’ It will mean you’re less likely to give up.
The hardest time was when I had my exams; that was really the hardest. I’m not gonna lie to you, there was a lot of times I thought about quitting, and then Mum told me this is what builds the character. She was completely right. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t even come here.
You don’t have to worry about getting kicked out or anything. The staff are caring, loving and supportive people. They encourage us they support us, don’t pressure us to do anything. They go with us to housing inspections and are happy to take us to job interviews.
You can’t concentrate on anything when all you think about is where you’re going to sleep or eat. You can’t cook when you don’t have a roof. It’s always where are you going to sleep, where are you going to eat? They were basically my two questions. I would go days without eating properly, even though I had Centrelink payments, sometimes I’d go to Coles and get some crackers; not very healthy but then you just want to make it through the day.
Abdi: My time has been great. I do activities that I’ve never done before. It was fun and scary at the same time. We did zip lining: it’s scary. Then we had a trip to the beach to get some dinner. That was the best. Nice roadtrip. Never done that before.
I finished school in 2014 – I’m looking for study, maybe a diploma in architecture and a diploma in basketball. They just helped me with the application for the architecture and I have to finish my diploma of business, and there’s a guy there who will help me with basketball diploma.
Staff have helped me. They buy canvases to paint on it. Brushes and all that. I paint abstract. More canvasses will come soon and I’ll paint more.
excerpted, as told to Katherine Goswell