Shanna Lee: I’ve been with the Salvos for six months. I was living with family: with Mum and her brother, my uncle. It wasn’t very pretty. My uncle verbally abused me and stuff like that, and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
Download the article or read on...
Mum passed away in 2007, my father lives too far away and his house isn’t suitable to live in. It had been classed that way by the courts since I was 12. I’ve been with my uncle that whole entire time. He had his daughter who is slightly older than me living there, on and off. She was just as bad as he was, with verbally putting me down, throwing things. Not pretty at all.
They just told me I couldn’t get a job; that I wasn’t capable of it, I couldn’t support myself, I relied on everyone else for everything. I’d been busting my gut to try and find a job and it’s not easy, because people don’t give you a chance these days. They won’t give you the experience if you don’t have the experience. They want people who are 14 that have 30 years of experience: how are you supposed to do that?
You need to move out of home, but you’ve got no job; that leads to homelessness. When your family can’t support you, that’s what leads young people to being on the streets or living in dangerous places. I ended up getting really bad depression, which I’ve lived with most of my life. Not medicated. It’s a lot of falling into a place where I didn’t want to do anything because I was told that I couldn’t do anything. I tried to push through and keep going on.
In a way I began to believe what they said about me, but I also knew I had to keep pushing.
There’s no public transport where Dad lives, and because I didn’t drive (I’ve only just got my learner’s’ I couldn’t live there at all. He had no running hot water at the time. It just wasn’t suitable to me to be living there at all. I was 12 then. I actually never lived with my father, I lived with my mother. Then when she passed away from pneumonia and heart failure, I was shoved from post to post for a while.
Mum had been sick as long as I can remember. From the age of 10 I was her sole carer just about, even though I was still going to school and everything. I was cooking dinner, cleaning the house, we didn’t have home help. Making sure she had her medication at the right times and the right meds. Making sure I was ready for school the next day. Doing the food shopping, because Mum couldn’t walk very far. She’d drive and sit in the car and wait for me to get the food. It was not easy. I had no choice.
I loved my mother to death and wouldn’t have changed from being her carer for the world; but at that age I needed extra help. She was getting some help, but not as much as she really needed. She’d been on and off sick since I was born. When I was five she had a double lung transplant. When she got really sick I was shoved into a new area and new school. They thought that would be best for me. Like having school would distract me, when it wasn’t right at the right time at all. My schooling suffered that year…It was just a really hard year.
I was with my uncle for nine years. Since I was 18 I wanted to move out; I’d just had enough of it all. But I just didn’t have the money or a way to at that stage. There were a couple of incidences where I was screamed at right in my face, and threatened with physical abuse. It was scary. Our relationship is a lot better since moving out. We don’t fight anymore. I do see him, I have mail that goes there and some of my mum’s things are there until further notice. He’s been really nice about it, I can use his computer to job search. Use his internet.
I was given info about Salvo Care and they said see how you go. Sure enough they could. And it was really quick. I thought I’d have to wait a couple of months. I’m in transitional housing at the moment, in a very nice area.
I have a housemate as well, who was my best friend. It worked out for both of us. The Salvos’ staff come every week and chat to me. They ask what our money is going towards; we do budget plans so we know what we spend our money on, and make sure we pay our bills and that everything is fine with the house. I wasn’t expecting it to be an actual house with three bedrooms! Now that I’m out on my own I’ve got a much better relationship with my family. I’m able to do it all on my own now. Be very independent. It helped a lot. I’m still looking for a job and it is very, very hard. I’m slowly getting there. I hope it will end well.
I’ve applied for way too many jobs to count. It would be about 50 a month. My depression goes up and down now depending on what’s going on. I do see a counsellor for that. When I got the keys I was shocked. I didn’t expect it to be that quick, that soon. But it was good. Probably one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time. Not many people give you a chance for anything.
I feel grateful to the Salvos. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be right now. The girls here are really, really nice. They take time out of their own day if you’re having a really bad issue just to give you a phone call, a text or even let you drop by just to spend five minutes and have a chat with them.
excerpted, as told to Katherine Goswell