It’s hard to imagine how a six-year-old child could be ‘forgotten’ in his own home.
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Brian’s journey towards homelessness began when he was just six years of age. An innocent, loving child, Brian and his brother were gradually forgotten as their parents descended into a frightening world of binge drinking and mental illness.
“I remember a loving, caring family where I was well cared for - before alcohol took my parents away from me. They both started drinking heavily. That loving family turned into a world I didn’t recognise and a world I didn’t understand. It was so painful to watch the gradual decline of my mother’s mental and physical health until she had nothing left to give. Eventually there was no emotional or physical support from either of my parents.
“That’s when the nightmares started, for both me and my brother. We would wake up screaming in the dark, but there was no one to comfort us. Every night I’d roll myself up into a tight ball, clench my fists, hoping that these nightmares wouldn't come. But they always did.
“At school I was exhausted and afraid every day. I would sit on the footpath outside, unable to even go into the classroom. My mother probably thought she was doing the right thing taking me to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with acute depression and anxiety and put on heavy medication. I was only 10.
They admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I was the only child there with about 24 men. Fortunately I wasn't abused, thank goodness. But I endured three months of electrical convulsive shock treatment. I would wake up with shocking headaches as if someone had hit me over the head with a hammer.
After a year I was discharged from the hospital and sent home and thankfully my brother took charge. He literally dragged me to a local gym, where my life began to change. The lovely man who owned the gym knew my story and he helped me too. Getting fit and feeling good was just what I needed. It led to me joining a rugby team, a boxing club and learning martial arts.
Feeling good about myself again helped me go back to night school, join the Army Reserves and the Royal Australian Air Force. I aced the exams and became a firefighter. I got married, had kids. But then everything fell apart again when my brother was tragically killed. I went into a deep depression.
My marriage broke down. I sold my parents house, which I’d inherited, bought a smaller house but the depression took over, and I lost everything.I didn’t tell my children or my friends. I had to live out of my car. I had nothing.
Then one day, when I was getting food from the Salvation Army, someone said I ought to get counselling. I spoke to Relationships Australia and they referred me to Hutt St Centre.
Everything seems to have fallen into place since that first meeting. I successfully gained a home thanks to my military service and the help of Hutt St. I started going to activities at Hutt St.
While I was living in my car, I couldn't see any way out of it. Now I've got my own place, for the first time in 30 years. I eat healthy and look after myself. I feel like my life has turned around. I've got a meaningful life again. And I like to tell people about that, especially homeless people. There is hope. Thanks to Hutt St.
Like most people experiencing homelessness, Brian’s story is one of tragedy, a life in which he had few choices and no support.
But you have a choice – you can help people like Brian.