“The biggest physical challenge, forgetting the health side of things, is the weather. In winter, condensation builds up inside my van, and I feel it on the top of my blanket on cold mornings”
Martin* had a good life in Perth working in labour and construction for over 30 years. In 2016 Martin was hit with the news that he had developed Parkinson’s disease. Aside from the devastating effects of the disease on his personal wellbeing, he knew instantly that this would ultimately affect his ability to work.
In 2015 when Martin was out of work in Western Australia, he was excited by the prospect of a job lined up through a friend in South Australia. Martin pulled together the last of his savings, packed his van and hit the road with high hopes for the future. When Martin arrived on site to this promised work, he was confronted with the reality of his yet to be diagnosed condition when he failed his pre-work medical exam, meaning that he would devastatingly lose this opportunity.
Being an Australian resident and citizen of New Zealand, Martin is unable to receive any financial support while job seeking, meaning the pressure to find work was enormous, especially with the additional financial burden of his medical bills.
This was the beginning of a tough year for Martin.
Feeling low and depressed, Martin arrived in Adelaide with little money and no support network or employment prospects. Coming to terms with his illness, Martin spent his days in his van or walking around the city and trying to stay busy between looking for work.
On one of these walks, Martin discovered Hutt St Centre by chance. He saw a group of people outside the centre and suspected they may be serving food, or better yet, have shower facilities. “At that point I wasn’t as worried about being hungry as I was about having a shower”, Martin explains.
Martin describes the relief he felt when he first came to the Day Centre, and how supportive and kind the staff were. “It’s not a proud moment” Martin says, speaking of the first time he found himself lining up for a meal, “but the staff are very kind and they don’t judge” he explains.
Martin’s personal struggles continued and he was becoming depressed and weighed down by his feelings of hopelessness. In February this year Martin’s condition worsened to the point where he has no control over the shaking in his right hand, but he feels he has bigger problems ahead of him.
“The biggest physical challenge, forgetting the health side of things, is the weather. In winter, condensation builds up inside my van, and I feel it on the top of my blanket on cold mornings. There’s no escaping it”.
“Basically I don’t really know what I would have done if I hadn’t found Hutt St Centre. I certainly wouldn’t have lasted this long, that’s for sure”.
As Martin has been unable to get work, he has been living with no income which means that it is near impossible for him to secure accommodation. For over 6 months Martin has been left with no option but to live out of his van until his circumstances change. Hutt St Centre have been able to provide Martin with daily meals and some medication which he is overwhelmingly grateful for.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be in Martin’s boots? Living with a painful and debilitating medical condition that prohibits you from gaining employment, while living out of a van in a country where you have no family support network?
Our Social Workers and Day Centre staff are doing all they can to help Martin work towards a better quality of life. We are amazed by his ability to maintain a positive attitude. He says one of the things he has been most grateful for is the way that the staff at Hutt St Centre have helped him stay optimistic. Martin realises his health won’t get any better, but he is setting himself some personal goals. “In the future I would like to get a unit in Adelaide or in my home town, Geelong”, he says, “and I’ll exercise to help the problems with my back”.
Martin described the impact of the support from Hutt St Centre on his life saying, “To start, I’m still here. Because I probably wouldn’t have been”.
In May, Martin received his first disability pension payment but hasn’t touched a cent of it because he is still waiting on final approval of his eligibility for the payment. The risk that he may have to pay it back has left Martin waiting for an answer on his financial security. “I first just want to insure my van” Martin says, explaining how desperately he needs the money while still feeling such uncertainty.
*Names have been changed out of respect for the person who has generously shared their story with us.