“I never imagined I would find myself homeless. I am an articulate, well educated, professional who has worked as a teacher, security guard and in the welfare sector. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness in a single parent household.
“At age eleven, I came out to my mum. The response I received was to pray and study harder because my sexuality was not acceptable in the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
“I developed feelings of shame, guilt, isolation, and of not really fitting in or belonging. Over the years I’ve worked hard to change my mindset and become comfortable in my own skin, which in 2015 led me to write and publish a book to help others. I won’t play the victim. I’m going to use my lived experiences as catalysts for change, serving to empower others to be their change.
“Through no fault of my own I became unemployed and experienced severe depression, in part due to the pressures of living on a payment well below the poverty line. I also became the primary carer to my mum during her cancer journey.
“After my mum died, I didn’t think things could get any worse. However, I was plummeted into homelessness for a period of 2 years, couch surfing, living in my car with my cat and dog and sheltering in empty buildings. It was a day-to-day challenge for things like showering, doing my laundry, storing food, accessing electricity, not to mention gaining employment and accessing accommodation.
“For me the Lazarus Community Centre in Geelong was a godsend. It became a safe place to help me rebuild my life. It was a place where I could access laundry and showering facilities, nutritious meals, relax and engage in social activity.
“With support from one of the volunteers there, I found a home. I have now completed courses in Animal Studies and Community Services. I’ve always been big on social justice and advocacy. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, love, and without judgment.
“I didn’t fit the stereotypical image of homelessness so when I sought support there was limited support available to me. The 2016 census states that there are 750 homeless in Geelong alone. Current circumstances would see an increase in these numbers.
“I’ve been in my home two and a half years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and because of early detection, I’m clear now. I count myself lucky that I was in a home at the time.
“If my story can be a catalyst for change, to get people aware, educated and empowered, all the better. We are all part of a human family and family look after each other.
“A smile, a random act of kindness, means so much. My motto is ‘what would love do?’ I always come from a place of love, kindness and compassion. In the words of Albert Pike, ‘What we do for ourselves alone dies with us, what we do for others remains and is immortal’.”
Lisa, Ambassador for Lazarus Community Centre, Geelong and Organizing Member of Geelong Housing Action Group. Photo: supplied.