Pete has first-hand experience of what it’s like to live without a home. After experiencing financial difficulty, Pete was forced into homelessness. Pete turned his life around by seeking help from services including Anglicare Victoria’s Lazarus Centre and now lives in secure housing, as well as running Just About Tours.
It was a few years ago when Pete found himself involuntarily living without a home. With no idea of where to seek help and no money to find somewhere else to live, Pete made his way, with the little money he had on a train to Bairnsdale, where he temporarily lived under a bridge. Shortly after, Pete made his way to Bendigo. There, he slept in an alcove to keep dry and on park benches with a blanket he found, to keep somewhat warm during the freezing nights.
“I remember those nights like it’s just happened an hour ago. It was freezing. The temperatures there, they really dropped down,” says Pete.
Pete decided to travel back to Melbourne where he slept between boat sheds on the banks of the Yarra River. It was here that Pete came across someone charging their phone, who informed him of a BBQ taking place the following morning at the Lazarus Centre.
“I didn’t know there were services there. The obvious facts are, when these sort of things happen, they’re all completely new. It’s different now, but then the only way you could find support is from other people who were homeless and living the experience. You’re like a student in an adult life,” says Pete.
Pete attended the Lazarus Centre breakfast program at St Peters Eastern Hill. Run by staff from Anglicare Victoria, the program provides people who are experiencing homelessness with a nutritional meal, including breakfast every day and lunch once a week. There is also an outreach and referral service provided, which involves linking in with health and accommodation services.
For Pete, attending the Lazarus Centre was his first connection with support. On his first visit, Pete was given a meal, as well as access to donated clothing and a shower.
This support was a big help for Pete and helped him boost his self-worth. The connection with the Lazarus Centre also provided Pete with information about different opportunities that could help him in the long term, such as providing him with living spaces.
From there, Pete went to Youth Projects in Hosier Lane where he gained access to Launch Housing’s crisis centre. He resided there for a bit over twelve weeks before transitioning into a rooming house with six other men.
“In rooming houses all you get is a bedroom, which is basically your space, then it’s all shared facilities. It’s hard to get to a job in time when everyone is waking up and rushing to the facilities at once. And there are people with different personalities,” he says.
Pete experienced many tough situations in the rooming houses he stayed in; at times it was unpredictable, vulnerable and unsafe.
Nowadays, Pete lives in social housing, as well as running Just About Tours and volunteering at the Lazarus Centre’s breakfast program.
For Pete, social housing gives him back what he once lost: a door, a shower, somewhere to sleep and eat. It also provides mental, physical and emotional relief and a place to go back to at the end of the day.
Pete is also involved with barista training once a week via St Peter’s social enterprise and involved in community speaking. He participates in one on one consultancy, coaching and counselling to help others who have experienced similar situations work out their lives and move forward.
“That’s my community give back. It’s not only that, you’re in that space where you can have a conversation with people and actually give them confidence or hope moving forward with their life,” he says.
Created from Pete’s experiences, Just About Tours is a service that provides educational tours to the general public and school groups. The tours provide awareness and give insight into the mental, physical and emotional disconnection that people experiencing homelessness are faced with, as well as a look at the resources and support available in our own community.
“What that takes in is agencies that you can actually go to, or resources in the event, if something actually happens say in your life, your friends life, family, whatever just opens up minds to knowing where to go if things actually go down,” says Pete.
From Pete’s time volunteering at St Peter’s Eastern Hill, he has learnt that it is not merely about providing a meal for people experiencing homelessness.
For some people, it is about communication and connection and it gives those who are lonely a chance to connect with another human. This stems back to Pete’s initial experience at the Lazarus Centre. The sense of belonging and respect that it offered him meant a lot and he is now reflecting that in his own work with the community.
“It’s not just about providing a meal. A lot of people use this as a communication base. If you’re living in a rooming house, or on your lonesome for the whole week you’ve at least got somewhere new to connect with another human being.”
“I just get a sense of love and care out of basically volunteering around this space,” says Pete.