People have an idea in their head of what a person who’s experiencing homelessness looks like. We may reject the thought of ourselves reflected in this stereotype. Although the sad reality is that many Australians are struggling to make ends meet. With the rising cost of living, the impacts of COVID and the rental crisis, people who never expected to struggle are finding themselves in challenging situations. Although I have been very fortunate in my life, I can think of so many times where one or two changes in my personal life have pushed me to places I never thought I would be. 

My family moved to Australia from Zimbabwe/Botswana when I was twelve years old. My parents sacrificed a lot, including almost all of their life savings, to move my family here and give us a better life and opportunities. Although I was pretty oblivious at the time, I know that there were periods where my family struggled financially. If it weren’t for our family in Australia, the Zimbabwean community and the friends we made along the way, our situation could have been very different.

Dani is pictured below fourth from left in polkadots.

I think back to the Brisbane floods in 2011. My rental lease was up and the market couldn’t keep up with demand. As a full-time student with a part-time job, I simply couldn’t afford the inflated rental prices. I packed everything I owned into boxes and loaded them into my car. I had no place to live. If it weren’t for my friends who let me sleep on their floors and couches, who called their friends to see if anyone had a place for me to live, and who kept me positive and hopeful – my circumstances and the outcome could have been very different

In 2015, I found myself at the end of a long-term relationship. The bills that I was so easily able to pay half of had suddenly doubled. I had also recently left what I thought was my long-term career to go back to uni, and taken a much lower paying job. My savings ran dry and my mental health was at an all-time low. Thankfully, my support network of family, friends and co-workers helped me get back on my feet, get my mental health to a better place, find a new job and find a more affordable place to live. Without my support network, my fresh start could have turned into a very different reality.

Each of these times in my life, it has been the support and generosity of my community, my friends, my family, my workplace and my co-workers that has been the difference between having a home and potentially becoming homeless. I think everyone knows what it feels like to face the unknown or to be unsure if things are going to work out. You don’t have to have ‘experienced homelessness’ to know what it’s like to struggle or to feel lonely. 

The reality of financial insecurity is being felt across households nationwide. Last year one in two Australians had to change their living circumstances due to rising living costs. I have been that person and I know the difference that a supportive, loving, positive community can make. Orange Sky may not be able to change people’s circumstances, but what we can do is make sure that they have access to a safe and welcoming place to share their challenges and to feel like they belong.