The power of a hello, acceptance and a listening ear!
This week we had a client at St John’s Care who we will call Karen (not her real name). Three years ago Karen had a fallout with her family and they kicked her out of home. She was told to leave her home town and not return.
She moved to Canberra, found a job and somewhere to live. Things where looking up for her. However, because she is Aboriginal, she missed her family and the land she grew up on. Her heart was still with her family and country.
She fell in love, but before long the relationship soured and became abusive. It began gradually but escalated into a daily event. Everything she did was wrong in his eyes. Her mental health started to suffer and she lost her job. She became homeless again because her boyfriend kicked her out.
For the next six months she lived on the street when she could not couch surf. As it got colder her mental health got worse. She didn’t feel safe sleeping rough and would go days without sleep.
Karen met a lady who was also sleeping rough. She suggested that Karen come with her to St John’s Care to get some food. When they came into the Centre, Karen was cold and felt hopeless. One of our volunteers gave her something warm to eat and asked what they could do to help her. She started to cry and said that she wanted to go home but was scared her family would reject her. We gave her a phone to use so she could call her Mum and Dad.
Her parents were so happy that she called because they were worried about her and were sorry they had kicked her out. Her parents said she could come home, but they didn’t have any money for a bus fare.
I booked her a bus ticket that day. We took her in a car and helped collect her belongings. While we were driving, Karen told us that she had decided to commit suicide that day. She said everything seemed black and there was nothing to look forward too. She said that if it had not been for the caring volunteer who didn’t judge, looked past her dirty appearance and listened to her, she wouldn’t have lived another day.
Karen recounted how awful it was living on the streets and how people would look at her. They saw her as a ‘no one’ and would not talk to her as she was dirty. She said, “Living on the street is hard enough without people treating you like this.”
At the bus station we suggested some organisations she could call for further support. She hopped out of the car and we could see hope in her eyes again.
Wish List: Soap, Children’s toothpaste, Children’s toothbrushes and tinned fruit.