Meet Damo, an Orange Sky volunteer on the NSW Central Coast. Damo first met Orange Sky as a friend accessing our laundry and shower services in Sydney, before finding safe, permanent housing on the Central Coast. He described the Orange Sky shift as the ‘most positive social event of [his] week’ – restoring his confidence, and dignity. After settling into his new life, Damo wanted to give back, and became a volunteer for Orange Sky – providing the same conversation, respect and connection that he experienced years ago. Here’s Damo.

Hi, I’m Damo. I’ve spent most of my life seeking refuge by living on the streets, but now I’m an Orange Sky volunteer and team leader.

I was born in New Zealand and have spent over 20 years living in Australia. Since the age of seven, homelessness was prevalent in my life. To seek refuge from violence in my home, I ended up on the streets. Those early traumas affected me psychologically and led to a great deal of my life spent without a home or a normal existence.

I don’t think people can understand the loss of identity and isolation that comes with homelessness. It is soul wrenching and takes a long time to recover from. Throughout each day, it was rare to feel recognised or have anyone to engage with.

When I came across Orange Sky in Sydney in 2017, I was blown away! Using the service and interacting with volunteers was the most positive social event of my week. It was a breath of fresh air to engage with people who treated me with dignity and respect. I cannot understate the importance of being recognised; for someone to remember your name, your face and your story.

Life today has changed dramatically. I am living in a house on the Central Coast of NSW and reaching heights that I’d never imagined. The support of Orange Sky helped me recover a lot of my identity, dignity and self respect. I am now a volunteer and team leader with Orange Sky’s Central Coast team. Every shift I try to emulate the experience volunteers gave to me.

Giving back to my community is so important because of my journey with homelessness. I’m in a unique position to relate to the experiences of people who are still struggling, because I’ve faced those obstacles. Christmas, in particular, is tough for people living on the street. Homelessness doesn’t get a holiday or a day off. People’s needs don’t change because it’s a holiday.

This Christmas and beyond, I hope I can keep doing more to support friends doing it tough and be available for those I cherish. My life is a humble existence for sure, but it’s… it’s an existence. Helping others is pretty much my life’s work now.

The holidays can be a tough time, especially for our friends experiencing homelessness. If you’d like to help ensure that volunteers, like Damo, can continue supporting our friends over the holidays, please consider a donation today.

These holidays, give the gift of connection.

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