“When my dad died, Christmas died, too.”
When Ray* thinks of his early childhood, his heart aches for a time when he wasn’t afraid, alone and hungry.
Ray will be just one of thousands of people who will be homeless this Christmas.
Your donation today will provide a sense of family and a little Christmas joy to Ray and the thousands of other South Australians sleeping rough this coming year. Will you please help?
Ray* remembers a happy early childhood, with a deep love and respect for his dad.
But at the age of seven, an inconceivable tragedy struck. Ray’s dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Five months later, he was gone.
“Mum was 28 then, with three kids under seven. Life as we knew it totally changed. Mum started to hit the alcohol pretty hard. She had a nervous breakdown and had to go to Hillcrest Hospital for help,” says Ray.
“It was Nana that stepped in and helped to care for us kids. Nana made sure that Christmas was still good for us, too. But it was never the same after dad died. I missed him so much. I know now that I’ve had depression since I was seven. But as a kid, I couldn’t mask my pain with alcohol, like my mum did.”
Around this time, Ray and his younger brother, David, experienced sexual abuse. At the hands of their uncle, their lives were shattered again, along with their ability to trust.
“We stuck together, David and I. We couldn’t tell anyone because our uncle threatened us. We became closer than ever.”
If this wasn’t enough, Ray was to take another enormous blow with David’s devastating death at just 19, also due to cancer. Unbelievably four weeks later, he lost his beloved grandmother, too.
“When David died, it was like half of me went.”
Ray had already dealt with so much. This was the tipping point. Life has never been the same since.
“Mum was shattered. She tried hard to hold the family together and she did well; she didn’t rely on alcohol this time. But I started slipping away into a world of grief. Alcoholism took hold and I couldn’t keep a job.”
After a time, Ray managed to rebuild his life, had a relationship and a son. But this comfort was snatched away, too. After a difficult relationship breakdown with his ex-partner, he lost contact with his son. He was just six.
“After I lost my son, I was out on the street, off-and-on for years. I even did some time in jail. While I was in there my mum died as well, which was really tough on me.
I’ve worked since then but when someone cut up all my work clothes after an argument I really lost it. I thought I was a liability for my boss so I sacked myself from my job. I was in a really bad place."
Ray’s been to the brink more than once.
Ray yet again tried to dull the pain and grief in a haze of alcoholism. The pain of not being by his Mum’s side when she died, the pain of losing contact with his son, of losing everyone close to him. It all became too much for Ray and he tried to take his own life.
That was a turning point for Ray.
“I woke up from this attempt and straight away wondered why I was so special. Why had I been given another chance over other people who had done great things?”
“If it wasn’t for Hutt St Centre, I’ll tell you straight out, I would not be sitting here. Even though there can be negativity all around, it’s such a good positive environment.”
This is why the services provided by your generosity are so vital. Each year in South Australia, almost 6,000 people seek help from agencies like Hutt St Centre.
Without your support people like Ray, who have lived their life on a rollercoaster of tragedy and despair, would be lost. People who desperately need to feel that someone, anyone, cares enough to reach out a helping hand.
Your kindness this Christmas will bring comfort for Ray and many others like him.
“Christmas died for me when dad died. But in some ways, it’s still special. Because I feel that everyone I’ve lost is still with me in spirit. They haven’t gone, not really. I keep them close to my heart and remember them, especially at Christmas.
“I know there is still good in me. My time is not up. I’m still trying to work out my purpose in life. Coming to Hutt St Centre, and feeling good about myself, with the support I have here, keeps me going. I really do believe that things will get better, with time.”
Your donation today could be just the change Ray needs.
Your donation today will bring light and hope into many lives on Christmas Day. At a time when traditionally, family is so important, you will help give others a sense of family.
*names have been changed out of respect for the person who has generously shared their story.
Photos of Ray with kind thanks to DreamTeamImaging