Can you imagine what it would be like to never feel safe, even in your own home? And to have grown up with no family support through such a vulnerable stage of life?
At just 10 years old Liam* turned to the streets in order to escape drug and alcohol fuelled violence and abuse at home. A childhood devoid of any emotional support and family care forced Liam to face frequent crisis and despair alone.
“I’ve had a really tough life”, Liam says, explaining that he never feels safe, due to the abuse he suffered as a young child at the hands of family friends and babysitters, through to the unexpected visitors that now come knocking on his door in the middle of the night.
When Liam first came to Adelaide 20 years ago he had been sleeping rough for 10 years, moving from state to state and never feeling able to settle or try to make a new life for himself. Shortly after arriving in Adelaide, Liam came to Hutt St Centre for the first time. Liam continues to receive support from us today, though he has come a very long way in this time.
Because of his deep-rooted issues with trust, Liam was initially unwilling to engage with support services, coming to the centre for just a meal or shower. The staff were patient and persistent with Liam, showing unconditional support to ensure he felt safe. Eventually Liam agreed to see a social worker and discuss his goals for the future. This was an incredible breakthrough – his Social Worker recalls it as a ‘halleluiah!’ moment. It was the first step in Liam’s journey to making positive changes.
Not long after Liam came to see us, we discovered he had been sleeping behind a prominent business on Hutt Street, within walking distance from the centre. Staff from the organisation who encountered Liam gained a new understanding of people experiencing homelessness in the community.
Initially they said they were frightened and unwilling to engage with Liam as he was often beaten up, leaving him in a poor physical state. Some staff members even admitted they avoided using the back door completely. As Liam became a more familiar face, they picked up on his gentle nature and began to feel more comfortable. Liam said that sometimes when he was sleeping, he’d wake up to discover that staff had moved his belongings out of the rain and hung up any of his wet clothing to dry inside.
It was touching for us to receive a call from worried staff, wondering where Liam was after he had moved into a rental property and was no longer sleeping rough.
Liam described his experience and the support he felt saying “Whenever I went there after hours they were always trying to make sure everything was safe”. He is grateful for the kind gestures shown towards him. It was amazing to discover that those who had initially been frightened of Liam had now become part of his support network.
Liam is a gentle soul with a thick skin. After nearly 20 years of sleeping rough on the streets of Adelaide, Hutt St Centre has supported Liam to overcome some of his barriers and finally secure a private rental property. Liam has been at his home for nine months now and he couldn’t be happier to have reached this point after his first encounter with Hutt St Centre 19 years ago.
Coming to Hutt St Centre was a huge turning point in Liam’s life. Through a safe, caring and non-judgemental environment Liam was able to seek the support he so desperately needed, but was previously unable to maintain, in order to change his life for the better. “They’re part of the family up there. They’ll always be part of the family” he says about Brenda, our Kitchen Manager, Phill from the Day Centre, and all of the staff. We have worked hard to support Liam and ensure he is given the best opportunities in life.
Liam has ongoing struggles, and we continue to offer our support in times of need, as we understand that issues leading people to homelessness can require many hours of support to fully overcome. We will always be there for Liam when he needs us. He’s come this far with us and we will make sure he knows he can always count on us.
*Names have been changed out of respect for the person who has generously shared their story with us.