A 67-year-old Caboolture woman has been homeless for the past 16 months, but she’s drawing inspiration and help from a grassroots organisation dedicated to providing community and connection through street outreach.
Irene says she never thought she’d become one of the countless Queenslanders impacted by the ongoing housing crisis, but says connecting with Rosies – Friends on the Street has changed her life.
“Many years ago, when I would go into the city, I would see homeless people and wonder how they got to where they are,” Irene says.
“Now I know, it can happen to anyone.
Searching for a solution
“I was in a rental and the landlord began enforcing strange rules like no bookshelves and I wasn’t allowed to grow anything in the garden any more and I had to remove my vegetable patch,” Irene explains.
“I had only recently lost my sister and my partner months apart and I wasn’t in the best headspace.”
Irene says she became very depressed and when her lease came up for renewal and she needed to find a new place she had limited access to a computer.
“When I could get to one, I would spend hours looking for a rental but could never find one. I had very little money and nowhere to go, and I felt totally alone,” she says.
“Looking back, I can see the landlord was being unreasonable, and I should have taken it to the RTA but I wasn’t in a good place mentally to have that conversation.
“I thought about suicide, but I knew I couldn’t do that, I needed to get through it and that eventually everything would be ok,” Irene says.
She stayed with a friend for a while but then the rent went up and she had to move.
Another friend offered her couch, but while the friend never said anything, Irene could tell it was inconvenient for the family, so she left.
“I slept in my car for a while and then about 12 months ago someone told me about Rosies, and I went to see what it was all about.
“At first, I felt a bit uncomfortable about going and asking for something that only a few months previously I could have gotten for myself, but the volunteers and other people who attend made me feel welcome and it gave me hope.
“I’ve met so many people at Rosies that have introduced me to other services that I can go to for help.
“It's OK to ask for help and it's nice to be in a place where I can connect with other people who are in the same boat.
“Rosies brings people together and lets us know that we are not the only ones - that there is hope, that there are people who care and that we belong.”
“You can always get what you need at Rosies. Whether it’s a blanket, noodles, coffee, or a chat – sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get there.”
Irene says the challenges she’s been through have shaped her and helped her develop compassion and understanding.
“While living in my car isn’t the best of circumstances it’s strangely freeing.
“I can be who I want to be in the car, I have the freedom to be myself and I can choose who I spend time with.
“I’m starting from the bottom and things can only get better from here.
“The rental crisis is bad, but the day will come when I will find a place. In the meantime, there are services that help and there are people who care.”
A place of no judgement
Irene’s unique outlook is inspiring her fellow patrons at Rosies.
“A few weeks back two people at Rosies came up to me and said: ‘You're not like other homeless people - you have this energy, you are lively and enthusiastic, you are a teacher for us.’
“What they said made me feel really good, like I was helping them just by being there – I'm making a difference every day just like Rosies,” she says.
“The Rosies volunteers have worked hard to create an environment that is safe for all of us.
“Rosies doesn’t care about who you are or where you’ve come from - drug addicts, low-income earners, homeless; they treat you with respect and they all accept you.
“You meet different volunteers all the time but they are beautiful, people each and every one.
“It fills me with hope to sit and have a cuppa with my friends.”
To help people like Irene, rosies.org.au to donate.
Rosies visits the Caboolture Railway Station at the corner of James St and Matthew Tce every Friday from 8-10pm.
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