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From homeless to home


For months, Pete and his dog Blade were a regular sight outside Red Cross' Adelaide offices. But they weren't staff or volunteers. Each afternoon, the pair would set up camp under our 'Power of Humanity' sign, and spend the night trying to keep warm under blankets and canvas.

Thursday March 30, 2017

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"When you get older you have to change somewhere along the line, don't you?" Pete (right) with Blade and Red Cross volunteer Rolf. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Katie Isaac
I am so used to the street, I was brought up on the street…I've lived that life for so long.

"You just pick a spot and hope everything will be alright for the night," says Pete. He has been robbed while sleeping on the streets, even with the protection of Blade.

The staff in the building got to know Pete - there'd be hellos and smiles as they'd go to and from work, a conversation here and there. Eventually, they connected Pete up with Street to Home, a government service that helps find accommodation for people sleeping rough. In time, Pete and Blade secured a house.

Adjusting to a new life - managing a home and being responsible for bills and rent - isn't easy, but Pete says he is too old to live on the street now.

"I am so used to the street, I was brought up on the street…I've lived that life for so long. When you get older you have to change somewhere along the line, don't you?"

Helping him make that change is Rolf, a Red Cross volunteer, who meets Pete weekly to provide social support and help him settle into his new neighbourhood.

Photo:; Australian Red Cross/Katie Isaac
Photo:; Australian Red Cross/Katie Isaac

"In our first meeting I spent two hours with Pete, just talking and getting to know him and some of his issues," says Rolf. He works with Pete through small steps and adjustments to help him address his challenges.

To ensure that Pete doesn't end up homeless again, Rolf helped him set up automatic payments for his amenities so the costs don't overwhelm him.

Pete says financial pressure was one of the reasons he was homeless. "Everything just got on top of me and I couldn't afford anything. I couldn't afford the rent, electricity, gas, the whole works. It was just too much."

Homelessness is extremely isolating. Connection to family, friends, workmates and community is often lost or strained, and people who experience homelessness can be shut out from mainstream social and economic life. Having the support of a mentor, like Rolf, can strengthen your ability to work through life's challenges.

Rolf has noticed a marked improvement in Pete since he first met him. "He is a lot calmer now and not so intense about things. He is very grateful to have a roof over his head, and his lovely dog Blade has a big backyard to play in now."

Pete says he feels happier now he has his own place, and it's apparent that Blade does too. "He is more relaxed. He jumps up on the couch and goes to sleep, goes for a walk in the morning.

"Now I have some help with Red Cross and I am doing all right. It is a bit hard, but I'm getting there."

You can make a difference to someone's life and your own by volunteering. Find volunteer roles that are open now.