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Tackling homelessness: Matt turns his life around

August 4th - 10th is Homelessness Week, raising awareness of people experiencing homelessness. We want you to meet Matt, who’s worked hard to overcome tremendous challenges in life and find somewhere safe to live.

Matt's overcome many challenges in life and now has a safe place to live. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Kerry Klimm

Matt has the word ‘fortitude’ graffitied on his laptop and tattooed on his body, meaning courage, resilience and grit. It represents what he’s been through, where he’s going, and his approach to life.

But Matt’s open about the bad choices he’s made in the past. “I found myself completely destitute, desolate, dormant and just depressed.” He’s faced addiction, gone through rehab and done time in prison. While he never lost the determination that defines him today, without any guidance he fell into a habit of packing up and moving whenever things got too hard.

After his most recent move he found himself in Toowoomba, and one day came across a Red Cross flyer: ‘At risk of homelessness? We’re here to help.’

I put it in my diary with all the others, with all the other things I would like to accomplish, but I actually followed through with that one.

Matt

Matt called the number and set up a meeting with Red Cross. Telling his story in full made him realise that he couldn’t go on living like that. “I laid out things that I wanted to accomplish and found that with collaboration, partnership and support that I started to accomplish the things that I wanted to accomplish.”

Matt met Bec, a Red Cross caseworker. With Matt’s determination and Bec’s guidance, they worked together to help Matt start to turn his life around. The first step was to get Matt into stable accommodation – first a transitional house, then a permanent share house. With the stability of proper, safe housing Matt was able to gain employment in disability care, engage in community services to sort out fines and give up alcohol.

Matt and Bec. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Kerry Klimm​

Bec says that as a caseworker, her role isn’t to come in and change everything – but rather to help guide people based on what they want and the goals they want to achieve.

“We’ll never tell you what to do, or how to live your life or what decision to make. It’s about helping people to look at the patterns in their life and giving them a way to look at things differently,” she says.

It’s a strength-based process. We help people look for opportunities and possibilities. Where they can go, what else they can do that they haven’t done before to change their situation.

Bec

Bec says that it’s Matt’s can-do, positive attitude that got him to where he is today – and now that he knows what he’s capable of, he’s setting more goals for the future, including saving up for a car, reaching out to his family and training to become a youth worker so that he can help others.

Believe you can and you will. What the brain can conceive and believe, you can achieve.

Matt

Matt's got big plans for the future. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Kerry Klimm​

On any given night, 1 in 100 young Australians just like Matt experience homelessness. This doesn’t just include those sleeping rough on the streets, but also those couch surfing, sleeping in cars, living in temporary accommodation, or packed into crowded boarding houses.

In 2018, Red Cross supported over 35,000 people with programs that address the many reasons why someone might experience homelessness, including social exclusion, mental illness and lack of family/social support. These programs range from short-term assistance with things like grocery vouchers and public transport cards, to long-term casework support.

Last year, we also joined with the Centre for Social Impact, Mission Australia, and Price Waterhouse Coopers Australia to launch The Constellation Project, an initiative to combine forces across sectors to design long-term solutions to the growing levels of homelessness, with a goal  to end homelessness in a generation.

Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to live

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