After 25 years of being homeless, I learned there’s one simple thing you can do to help

There are as many pathways to homelessness as there are homeless people in the world. For some, it’s a sudden freefall triggered by a lost job, a broken home life or some other seismic personal upheaval. For others the road to sleeping rough winds down a slow, steady and depressing gradient until it arrives – quite literally – at rock bottom. Tragically, some are even born into it. Many have mental illness to contend with.

No matter how they got there, however, every homeless person has one thing in common: they know how it feels to be an outcast.

After a childhood blighted by domestic violence, and traumatic years in an orphanage and juvenile detention, my homeless life played out right up and down the eastern seaboard of Australia for a quarter of a century.

Hamstrung by scant education, I scratched out a pathetic existence in the gutters of Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and Surry Hills in Sydney, and in the back lanes of inner-Brisbane.

I drifted all over New South Wales, into the coastal hamlets, the regional towns and the empty spaces between them. I slept rough in north Queensland, too; Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Mackay.

Homeless life is a hard, hard slog. You’re always hungry, you’re always tired and society always thinks the worst of you. I used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate against my mental illness, which no doubt caused people to write me off as a drunken bum who chose a bottle over a better life. But the life I lived is one no one in their right mind would ever choose. Homelessness can, in fact, feel like a waking nightmare.

Police and security guards would routinely crack me in the sternum with batons or kick me in the ribs in the middle of the night only to tell me to piss off – to where, I do not know. Then there were the civilian patrols; sadly, there are people in this world who get off on bashing homeless people.

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Source: The Guardian

By Gregory P Smith