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
Continued from last issue 24 Aug 2016
Roxy, Towards Independence Alice Springs
When did you first come in contact with TSA?
The end of 2014. I was experiencing domestic violence with the children so I went to the housing commission to get emergency housing and they spoke about going to The Salvation Army. It was Christmas, a pretty full-on time to get housing; a lot of places have shut down.
We were living here and we moved elsewhere for six months. My partner was arrested for assault, aggravated assault. It was on me the first time, and then my girls, as well as threatening to cause grievous bodily harm. I came back; I was originally in housing and then, because I gave it up when I moved, getting back in was hard.
He had been verbally abusive the whole relationship; we were together for about four years. When I left him it was the second time.
We finally got a house; it was great to hear that before we had the criminal court proceedings. The manager has been great with things that I needed. Because I had nothing.
The kids have been through a lot. The manager has been really good; if I’m having not a good day and she’ll just listen. If I need to go anywhere she’ll pick me up. And because I haven’t been well either, that makes it even more emotional. You can’t put the emotions on hold.
If I didn’t take a stand and leave, I would’ve lost my children. Because it’s not an environment you should have children in. And there are a lot of women stuck in it not knowing what to do. Until you find someone who helps you. The good thing is with being in the house, I know I don’t have to move anywhere. They’re improving at school, and they love having their own room. I’m just so grateful.
Deb, Towards Independence Top End
Over a year ago, I went to the Sunrise rehab. I have a three-year-old daughter who was taken off me and my partner through domestic violence: he was doing drug use and alcohol. And because I smoke pot as well. I got off the pot and did parenting courses; it wasn’t so much I was a bad mum, but the circumstances…
I work with The Salvation Army and that’s how I’ve come to know the church. I started to go to church on the Sunday and I found that helped me a lot. It’s been over a year now. Once I left that program, I went into the Salvos house where they can house you for three months, but before the three months was up, my housing came through Towards Independence.
Jake, The Waterhole
I’ve been part of The Waterhole for three years. I followed my family and friends to this place. It’s a nice safe place to come. I can make friends here.
I was homeless. Then I started working here and got a job here. And I stayed in the bush but that’s no place to stay. So I told Salvos and they helped me to stay in the Salvos hostel. I’ve got a nice comfortable room. I’ve made friends with them there. The workers I get along with as well.
My mother passed away and then my grandparents couldn’t take me. My little sister passed away and then grandparents passed away and there was no one else for me so I was homeless.
I stayed with my aunty for a little while but couldn’t stay there because she kept leaving me at home by myself. So I stayed in the salt bush. I lived in a tent there. It was really cold. Scary.
If I hadn’t found this place I would still be walking around or in the bush. It’s a good environment. Good place to come in and look at art. If you’re hungry you can go here any time of the day.
Bazza, Sunrise Centre – Homeless Men’s Program
This is my first experience in the NT with The Salvation Army. I’ve had experience before in Cairns. And that only was for two weeks while I was looking for someone to stay. They helped me there as well.
I finished work and had an operation. When I came out I had no accommodation because I hadn’t been paying rent for all that time. So I’d lost the house. I ended up living on the street. I had enough money for food, but not enough money to pay the rents I was paying. Because rents up here are exorbitant.
Anyway, I had to have another operation and ended up with ‘golden staph’.
It’s been great here. I was unaware this even existed. And the services here are amazing. Just amazing. Everything. You’ve got a chance to rebuild. This place has given me a chance to recover from all that. I use the swimming pool a lot, the gym a little bit.
When I was on the streets I found empty houses or lived in garages. In the town. You’d wander round and see a house for rent and in you go. That was my first experience doing it. My mate gave me a garage for a while during wet season, that was alright. When you’re desperate you do things.
I’m 68 now. I’ve been pretty healthy my whole life. That’s only the second time I’ve been in hospital since I was nine, when I got my appendix out. And then last year.
I didn’t think it’d happen to me. Once you’re not working and the income isn’t coming in, what you have in the bank goes very fast.