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From sleeping rough to a home of their own

One in 200 people in Australia are homeless. Red Cross believes everyone has the right to a safe, secure home. Our goal in tackling homelessness is to address the underlying issues that contribute to people's housing problems. We build people's life skills and community networks, and support them to take control of their lives, find the right housing arrangements for them and keep themselves housed in the long term.

Elisa and Thomas were homeless for several years before Red Cross supported them to address the underlying causes of their homelessness and find stable housing.

Elisa Fowler and Thomas Wall are just two of the more than 4000 homeless Australians Red Cross worked with last year. After several years of moving around, sleeping rough, couch surfing and sleeping in cars, the two friends say they are enjoying finally being settled into a home of their own.

Elisa says that as well as helping out with material things like furniture, a fridge, beds, and food, Red Cross helped them break destructive habits. "Red Cross helped us out big time," Elisa says. "Before I would just let things drag."

For each of them, it was a long hard journey, to live somewhere they could call home.

Elisa was the victim of a hit and run accident in Mt Isa which left her hospitalised for more than three months. Unable to walk independently, and with restricted movement in one arm, she says she was in and out of hospital, and sank into a lifestyle of excessive drinking, eating badly and with no control over her life. Thomas says Elisa saved his life after he got into a fight in Mt Isa.

His life had spiralled out of control when he lost his licence and his job, and was unable to face mounting bills. They resolved to help each other out and that's exactly how things panned out. Elisa went into rehab, dried out, and with support from Thomas, is following a better diet and exercise regime.

They had been sleeping in cars and parks for a couple of months before Red Cross case workers interviewed them in one of Townsville's parks one day. Red Cross worked closely with the pair across a range of complex issues, assisting them into emergency accommodation. Then Red Cross helped them find a permanent ground floor unit which is perfect for Elisa to get around in, with a small garden where Thomas is enjoying growing vegetables and herbs.

"My advice?" You can get a place and there are people to help you. "You think you're alone but you're not. There are people out there like Red Cross who can help you. They'll help you out," says Elisa.

Photo: Australian Red Cross/Cathy Friel

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