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From homeless to belonging

Shaun and Jess: from homeless to belonging in a community

Brisbane couple Jess and Shaun know what it's like to hit rock bottom - both having been homeless, living on the streets and addicted to drugs.

But now, they're regulars at Red Cross community centre in inner-city Brisbane, living in stable accommodation, they've been clean of drugs for several years and life is full of hope.

Red Cross' Jeays Street Community Centre provides a vital meeting place in the centre of a high density inner city suburb, where local people can get to know their community and enjoy new connections - from million-dollar penthouse owners to people living in social housing studios.

"This place is vital," says Shaun. "It gives people hope. It's a big part for people who have hit low times due to job loss or homelessness or breakdown with family or drug addiction. It's a step up for them where they're able to have that second chance."

Jess agrees.

"It's very helpful. It's necessary. I've seen people come in here a few times really sad and Shaun or myself will go up and talk to them and it makes them happy. And it makes us happy."

Jess says after a childhood of abuse, she was kicked out of home on her 16th birthday. Addicted to methamphetamine from the ages of 14 to 17, she was homeless in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley with no money, nowhere to go and only a few clothes to her name.

"It was pretty difficult being young and homeless. I was staying with a lady who was also a meth addict so I wanted to get out of there. Shaun found me in the Valley, in the strip, and gave me a home, and he helped me get clean.

"I didn't know about this place until Shaun took me to one of the barbeques. I thought it was an alright place but I was having issues so I didn't really like to talk to many people.

"Then I decided to volunteer and help people."

Jess now puts in two days a week as a receptionist and she says coming to the centre has changed her life.

"I realise there's people out there that have it worse than me. I was lucky enough to get clean and get a home. Some people aren't quite so lucky."

Jess says being able to give back makes her feel good as well, and she's planning a future, possibly as a chef.

Shaun says after a two to three year struggle with drug addiction he lost his connection to his family. It was finding employment that proved the catalyst for kicking the drugs, but when his job suddenly ended he found himself homeless and on the streets.

He's now enjoyed a stable life for more than four years, thanks to his finding housing locally and getting involved at the community centre.

"I wanted to contribute so I took on volunteer gardening here," he says.

Shaun says the best part for him has been finding a community again.

Looking back on where she used to be, Jess says she wouldn't recognise herself.

"I would have thought that's not me! Red Cross made me see I'm not the only one that's had a bad life."

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