Homeless but not Hopeless: Irene’s Story

Irene on outreach

“Many years ago, when I would go into the City, I would see homeless people and wonder how they got to where they are,” said Irene. “Now I know, it can happen to anyone.” 

The 67-year-old Caboolture resident has been homeless for the last 16months, one of the many individuals suffering from the ongoing housing crisis. “I was in a rental and the landlord began enforcing strange rules like no bookshelves and I wasn’t allowed to grow anything in the garden anymore and I had to remove my vegetable patch. I had only recently lost my sister and my partner months apart and I wasn’t in the best headspace. I needed healthy outlets and the landlord wanted to take those away,” Irene said.  

“I became very depressed and when the lease came up for renewal, I had to find a new place. I had no access to a computer and when I could get to one, I would spend hours looking for a rental but could never find one. I had very little money and nowhere to go, I became even more depressed and felt totally alone,” she continued.  

“Looking back, I can see that the landlord was being unreasonable, and I should have taken it to the RTA, but I wasn’t in a good place mentally to have that conversation then. I thought about suicide, but I knew I couldn’t do that, I needed to get through it and that eventually everything would be ok,” Irene said.  

“I stayed with a friend for a while but then her rent went up and she had to move. One of my other friends offered her couch and I stayed there but even though she never said, I could tell it was inconvenient for the family, so I left,” she continued.  

“I slept in my car for a while and then about 12months ago someone told me about Rosies, and I went to see what it was all about. At first, I felt a bit uncomfortable about going and asking for something that only a few months previously I could have gotten for myself, but the volunteers and other people who attend made me feel welcome and it gave me hope.” 

Irene continued, “I’ve met so many people at Rosies that have introduced me to other services that I can go to for help. It’s OK to ask for help and it’s nice to be in a place where I can connect with other people who are in the same boat. Rosies brings people together and lets us know that we are not the only ones; that there is hope, that there are people who care and that we belong.” 

“You can always get what you need at Rosies. Whether it’s a blanket, noodles, coffee, or a chat – sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get there,” Irene smiled.  

The challenges that Irene has gone through have shaped who she is as a person, “What I went through has helped me to grow as a person and I developed compassion and understanding,” she said. 

“While living in my car isn’t the best of circumstances it’s strangely freeing. I can be who I want to be in the car, I have the freedom to be myself and I can choose who I spend time with. I’m starting from the bottom and things can only get better from here. The rental crisis is bad, but the day will come when I will find a place and in the meantime there are services that help and there are people who care.” 

Irene’s unique outlook on her current situation hasn’t gone unnoticed by her fellow patrons. “A few weeks back two people at Rosies came up to me and said they’ve been watching me for weeks and they said “you’re not like other homeless people. You have this energy; you are lively and enthusiastic. You are like a teacher for us:. What they said made me feel really good, like I was helping them just by being there – I’m making a difference every day just like Rosies.” Irene shared.  

The community that Irene has found at Rosies has been invaluable as she navigates her way forward. “The Rosies volunteers have worked hard to create an environment that is safe for all of us. Rosies doesn’t care about who you are or where you’ve come from, drug addicts, low-income earners, homeless; they treat you with respect and they all accept you. You meet different volunteers all the time, but they are all just as good as each other – beautiful people each and every one. It fills me with hope to sit and have a cuppa with my friends.” 

If you’d like to show our friends like Irene, that they matter and that they belong please donate today