Artist Jake Moss has been homeless twice in his life.
Both times he was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know he was going to work during the day and making art and sleeping rough at night.
But after going to Rosies and chatting to volunteers, his perspective changed, and he found an understanding that everyone goes through different things.
“I would not close the door to the fact that without Rosies I might have killed myself,” he said.
“Rosies helped me realise this is what’s going on in my life right now but I’m going to get through it and I’m going to find a way out. People don’t understand how many ways homelessness can happen. They don’t understand that when you are homeless it can be difficult to seea way out.”
Jake said he was at his lowest when Rosies volunteers helped him turn his life around by just being there for him, chatting to him and caring for him.
He’s now in the process of giving back to Rosies in his own way – by designing new merchandise for the charity to celebrate its 35th year.
The second time he was homeless, Jake was 25 and in Caloundra, where he was doing paintings for an exhibition for the local council. He wasn’t comfortable telling people he was homeless and was sleeping on the concrete floor of a dusty little shed the council had given him to paint in.
He found out about Rosies when an older man on a disability pension, who was living in a Housing Commission property in the neighbourhood, told him a
bout the charity in August 2019.
So, for eight months every Tuesday and Friday and the first Saturday of the month, Jake went to the Rosies van for conversation and snacks.
He said it was a different experience from the first time he was homeless, when he was 22 and living in Brisbane.
“I was so much more social. I was a lot happier, and I had a lot more hope,” he said.
“The second time I was homeless – even though there were a lot of times when I was depressed – I was talking to people from Rosies – and it made me feel better and I was staying connected with friends.
“I just went to sleep on the concrete every night for eight months. I was terrified. I had one of dad’s old jackets, and I would roll that up and use it as a pillow and it would always make me feel better. This shed was right next to the bus terminal. All the bus fumes would come in. It was like the dirtiest place. It was disgusting. I was really anxious someone from the council would find out I was sleeping there. I was pretty good at hiding it. There’s a lot of stigma around homelessness. I felt a lot of shame. I was going to the beach to shower every day.”
He said the friendship and conversations were the best thing he got from Rosies.
“To just be able to sit there and talk with them was so helpful. I would often walk away with extra snacks in my pocket that they’d insisted I take – I will never forget what they did for me,” he said.
“I can say for myself that chatting to someone who has nobody else to talk with makes a massive difference – it really does make people’s lives better. The value of conversation with someone doing it tough is so much more than what you think it is. Talking to someone can give them hope and bring a lot of light to their life and you can’t put a price to that.”
“It’s weird, even though those eight months were pretty horrible, I look back and think: ‘Oh man there were some great memories. When you go through hardship, that’s when you really appreciate the kindness of others. Going to chat with the volunteers at Rosies was something I would look forward to. I loved going there.”
Years later, he still remembers the volunteers – Cathy, Carolyn and Lisa. “There were so many wonderful people there that were so friendly and supportive and generous to me. And being friendly and generous should always matter but it especially matters when you are going through certain things,” he said.
“When you have people who are being kind to you when they have nothing to gain from it and you know it – that meant so much to me – it always will. I will always be in debt to Rosies.
“The volunteers at Rosies are just so warm and generous and supportive and it really made a massive difference in my life. They were my role models, and they still influence me today.
“I can only imagine the difference all the Rosies volunteers have made in the 35 years it’s been running.
“I know what a difference they made with me; it was pretty bloody high. That’s why I want to help them by designing some merch. Rosies will always have a special place in my heart. I have made some great friendships.”
Now, things are going well for Jake -he’s just been to Sydney where his artwork opened a new gallery – Darlinghurst Road Gallery.
He’s sold “enough art to buy a car” but says he still thinks of money in terms of how much milk it could buy.
“A few years ago, I was showering at the beach and shaving in public toilets and now I’m selling paintings for $5,500. It doesn’t feel real. It’s insane to me. For most of my childhood, I was living with Dad in a Woodridge Housing Commission house and we were trying to make $314 stretch over a fortnight. I remember being so aware of the price of milk. I knew it was $2 for 2 litres. That’s how I have always seen money, I don’t think in terms of dollars but in litres of milk. So, at the end of the Darlinghurst exhibition, I still think about how many litres of milk I could buy.”
“The worst part of being homeless, for me, was always the impact it had on my mental health. People who haven’t been homeless don’t know it, because they haven’t lived it. It’s incredibly difficult to be social, to be happy, to find any meaning, and it’s even more difficult to get out. To escape. It’s so much more difficult than whatever one or two-step solution you think you can think of.”
For someone like Jake who came to Rosies when he was feeling at his lowest, the simple act of acknowledgement, kindness, and sharing conversation made all the difference.
Find out more about Jake’s artwork at jakemoss.net/