17 and Homeless: 7 Things Everyone NEEDS to Know.

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She was 17 when she found herself homeless as she escaped an abusive home.

She traveled around the state with a backpack of her possessions, sometimes staying with friends, sometimes staying in playgrounds or train/bus stations.

When WhiteRabbitDays tells her compelling story, she notes,

“The hardest thing about being homeless wasn’t not having a roof over my head, or being freezing cold and hungry most of the time – it was the feeling of total reliance on other people. It was the feeling of being unloved, unwanted, and totally invisible to the community. It was leaving my best friend (my dog Patch) behind in my quest for safety. It was the feeling that, after experiencing abuse – my freedom was the street. It felt as though, if I was truly a victim, I wouldn’t be here while my abuser sat in his warm house. It felt as though society, as my father had done, was blaming me.

This Wednesday, April 9th – Youth Homelessness Matters Day is recognized in Australia.

Through the reach of the internet, and through this powerful Danger Diary Community and Revolverlution Family, we can spread awareness and ALL take part in making a difference.

Please share and RT to create awareness for all and clear the stigma homelessness forever.  Join in the conversation using the hashtag #DDhome

WhiteRabbitDays included her 7 Things You Should Know below, how you can help and also, I am attaching her full, uncensored story below that is a must read.  Thank you to WhiteRabbitDays and LadyCyanide for making this happen and making a difference.

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7 Things You Should Know About Homelessness

1. People experiencing homeless are not always dirty, angry people with cardboard boxes.
We’re just people who are trying to find a purpose in their lives. Not all of us are stereotypes, so don’t judge us all on a bad experience.

2. Homelessness is an experience – not a definition.
The majority of people, particularly young people, are not homeless due to a fault of their own. Some can’t afford a house because they can’t work, or their job doesn’t pay enough. Some become homeless because they are kicked out, or are experiencing domestic violence and choose to leave.

3. Not all homeless people live on the street.
The majority of homeless people couchsurf – temporarily staying with friends or family, or find shelter in refuges or halfway houses.

4. Homelessness does not equal hopelessness.
Once I was homeless, now I have my own business, am close to having a qualification, and I have a place of my own. Speaking from experience, I know that when you’re homeless, it’s hard to see a future – but trust me, there is one out there that exceeds your wildest imagination.

5. We all have hopes, dreams and aspirations.
People experiencing homelessness may seem ambitionless, but when your focus is on where you will next find shelter, or food, it’s hard to focus on dreams. But we have them, and it’s important to ask us what they are.

6. Homeless people are not just too lazy to have a job.
Some people are unqualified or struggle to apply for jobs, especially if they’re on the street with no access to showers/suits etc. It’s rare that they don’t want to work, the issue is more that they have trouble finding and maintaining work.

7. Keep Calm and Do Something
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate clothes, non perishable food, toiletries or sleeping wares (such as sleeping bags, pillows, blankets), or toys (some people experiencing homelessness have children, even infants) to local shelters – the smallest things can make a huge difference.

What Can You Do To Help?
♥  Donate Your Clothing or Toys to a Shelter.
♥  Buy an extra bag of groceries and donate to your local shelter.
♥  Donate your time to volunteer, or donate money to help.
♥  Reach out to these organizations:
In Australia, HYPA (the program that helped WhiteRabbitDays)
In the USA, National Coalition for the Homeless
In Europe, FEANTSA.
These are the ones I found, please add yours for your country in the comments.
♥  Do a Build Project with Habitat for Humanity (You don’t need to know how to build a house, I have built two of these – and people are there on-site to teach you.)

Let’s join forces and help!  Post your pictures in the comments, post ideas, and get the word out.  We can all make a difference together.

And here – full and uncensored is WhiteRabbitDays’ story.  She is one of the bravest people I know and I’m honored to call her friend.

I lived in a beautiful farmhouse in the countryside, with my two parents. My dog was my best friend, and I cycled to school each day. I studied hard and got straight A’s. I played sport, performed theatre and volunteered. It seemed so perfect from the outside.

Inside was silence and shadows. My dad had rules – a lot of them, and none of them shared with us. My mum and I walked on ice to try and do the right thing, not knowing what the right thing was. My dad never spoke to me – if he wanted to, he would simply yell at my mum, referrring to me as ‘your daughter’ – and refusing to acknowledge me as his own. These words usually were followed by a string of expletives – his favorites being useless, worthless, ignorant and dirty. Our lives were controlled – we were not allowed friends over, not allowed internet access, and my mum was given no access to money – except for a ‘housekeeping’ allowance. My father never hit me. His abuse was entirely psychological. Once I was making spaghetti sauce and forgot to drain the juice – he threw the plate across the table and slammed a door into my face so hard the glass shattered all over me. He didn’t even turn around, he just yelled over his shoulder to ‘clean it up’, before heading into his den. Every day was like this – not knowing what to expect or how to behave.

At school I just seemed shy and introverted. Very few people knew about my depression and panic disorder.

In year 11, the combination of exams, my mental illness, the things going on at ‘home’, and deadlines with lots of volunteering commitments – I started to break down. No longer able to hide my issues, I tried reaching out for help.

I was rejected – hard. I spoke to a teacher – who asked what I had done to provoke his behaviour. I spoke to a counsellor, who said that she felt sorry for my poor mother, ignoring my own feelings. I spoke to our head of school, who tried to organise ‘family’ counselling – but nobody would agree to come. I had exhausted all the options I could think of. I used to wish that he would just hit me, but he never did. I felt like emotional abuse didn’t count as abuse, because words are just words – but the impact of the abuse still hurts now.

One day we had just finished chapel (I went to a religious private school), and I just broke down (for about the 50th time that week). One of my favorite teachers put her arm on my shoulder until everyone filed out, and eventually she left too. I remained. I felt torn between feeling like a burden on the world, who needed to be eradicated – and feeling a desperate sense that there had to be something better than this out there. Walking out of the chapel, I saw the words ‘find life’ written in chalk.

That night I called a friend and asked if I could come and stay with her for a while. She agreed, and the next day – carrying only a backpack with possibly the most useless of possessions, I left.

The next few (6) months were a blur really, I was staying with friends and travelling around the state. I spent lots of nights on the street – staying in playgrounds or train/bus stations. My friends were really great –but I felt so guilty to be intruding into their homes, so I never stayed for long. There were a lot of tears. I moved all around Australia, starting in Cobram, moving from Canberra to Shepparton, to Melbourne, to Mount Gambier then Sydney and finally to Adelaide.

Reactions varied. The public didn’t really notice I was homeless – I didn’t look it after all. I was lucky that I could usually shower at a friends and wash my spare change of clothes there. My community covered up my disappearance – some said I was mentally unstable and making bad decisions. Some called to ‘check on my welfare’ asking if I was on medication. Some didn’t even notice I wasn’t around anymore. Others said that I was too sensitive – that I was upset because my dad yelled one time. Most never spoke to me again. I had about 10 friends total who stuck by me – who empathised, and most of whom also let me stay with them, or with their parents/friends when I needed it most. The rest just behaved, once again, as though the abuse I had suffered was my fault.

The hardest thing about being homeless wasn’t not having a roof over my head, or being freezing cold and hungry most of the time – it was the feeling of total reliance on other people. It was the feeling of being unloved, unwanted, and totally invisible to the community. It was leaving my best friend (my dog Patch) behind in my quest for safety. It was the feeling that, after experiencing abuse – my freedom was the street. It felt as though, if I was truly a victim, I wouldn’t be here while my abuser sat in his warm house. It felt as though society, as my father had done, was blaming me.

In Adelaide it was a cold and rainy night, I’d outstayed my welcome with a friend, and was sitting in the mall – trying to get my head around my racing thoughts. I found a place called Streetlink – who, although they couldn’t help me, walked me to HYPA.

HYPA was just incredible. They gave me a jacket, despite my protests otherwise. I was embarrassed to accept charity that I didn’t feel I deserved. I still have it now. They listened and they didn’t blame me, they empathised and explained that the abuse was never my fault. They gave me respect and trust that I’d never been given before.

They gave me a caseworker and told me to call in any day that I couldn’t find a place to stay, and they would help me to find a shelter. Call before 9am though, there aren’t many places and they will fill up. They helped me get onto Centrelink (a kind of welfare payment in Australia), and helped me find a tafe course to apply for. They supported me in creating goals, listening to my dreams, and helping me take steps to achieve them. When you’re homeless that’s something you really lose sight of, because every day you’re just focused on where you will find shelter, and food, and safety. You stop being able to dream because you have no way to achieve them. HYPA gave that back to me and I’ve never stopped being grateful.

A few weeks later – they offered me an interview to be placed into HYPA Housing, where I rented a subsidised unit, and worked with a case manager to re-engage with work and studying, and accessed counselling to work through past traumas. I was accepted and it was like I had hope handed to me, just like I had prayed for all those months ago.

A year and a half later, I left HYPA Housing to rent my own way. I had started my own business, and was halfway through my Diploma in Youth Work. I felt more whole, more independent, and a hell of a lot stronger. I felt like my own person, who was in control of my own choices.

I also went back to HYPA and helped to form the Youth Leadership Team and Peer Mentoring Unit there. At the moment we’re organising a big event (If you’re in Adelaide, head down to Light Square from 12-5pm) for Youth Homelessness Matters Day, and working on lots of small advocacy projects (like the video linked to the post). We have all experience homelessness in different capacities, and speak out about our own experiences in the hope that somebody going through similar things will connect with us.

We all have different reasons, but I just want you to know that there is help out there. There are other worlds that you can be a part of. You are in control – no matter how much you feel like you’re not – you have the choice to leave. Anybody who doesn’t listen isn’t worth your time – please don’t let their ignorance define you. Somebody loves you, and they haven’t met you yet – please give them a chance to care about you. Abuse is never your fault. Emotional abuse is abuse all the same – you’re not weak and you’re not imagining it. If you’re concerned about being a bad person, you’re probably not. And somebody will help you – call a helpline, call the police, go to a homelessness organisation – somebody will care, please let them. Never give up.

I’m not going to say my life is all rainbows now. I still suffer from PTSD and anxiety, and the way I was treated has had a lasting impact on my life – but I have a life, and one day I hope the past won’t control me so much.

Here’s a video that WhiteRabbitDays helped create:

Be Kind To Each Other.
Many people are going through more than we can imagine.

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