Grief floods into most conversations that Ros Redshaw will share with homeless men and women in Taree.
"There is not a most common pathway into homelessness, but grief is a common denominator in it," says the CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning psychologist.
She is the face behind the Taree Community Kitchen Counselling Card that invites homeless men and women to access one hour face-to-face sessions at no cost that may help them to take "small steps towards something that is going to meaningfully change their lives."
Ros is reflective and pauses to consider her words carefully as she speaks of her experience supporting homeless men and women in Taree.
"The most common thing they share with me is grief - grief of some kind - and it doesn't necessarily have to be the loss of someone, but it might be.
"It's the loss of something, whether it's the life you expected to have, or the fact that you did have everything in order and now it's gone, or that you can't seem to communicate the right way with people and so there is grief about constantly having conflict or losing friends."
Ros says "it's particularly difficult in Taree for a lot of different reasons."
"There is a higher number of people who are homeless here as there is not a lot of work, and it is difficult to get work.
"To be homeless is a very precarious place to be. It's not safe to be homeless, it's unstable, it's frightening, they don't know what is going to come next, it's living day to day, it's very much focused down to the now.
"Sometimes they are afraid to hope because it's harder, it's more painful to have hope and to then have it dashed time and time again. So we have to be very careful about building it in a realistic sort of way (in counselling sessions), so it's something they don't just dismiss as being an impossibility; small steps towards something that is going to meaningfully change their lives."
Sometimes they are afraid to hope because it's harder, it's more painful to have hope and to then have it dashed time and time again.Ros Redshaw
Ros believes our community has a role to play in helping homeless men and women and says it requires us "to be respectful."
"No-one aims to end up at Taree Community Kitchen or homeless. Some of the clients we see have had jobs as managers, not all have had a hard life. There are plenty who do have trauma and who do struggle, but if people could be respectful, to not look down on people because they do feel it, you don't have to say it, it's in the actions, it's in the attitude.
"People don't necessarily want pity either, what they want is for someone to respect the situation that they are in and the fact that they are a person.
"I think what people miss is that it could be them. They are like us, it's not us and them, it's we.
"They are not a particular type of people who were born like that, who belong in that category, it's people like us who are having a hard time, and they are people who need help and who could do with a hand up."
The hand up can be given in differing ways and Ros says "... sometimes it might be just someone who comes along and gives them a little bit of time, a little bit of support, a little bit of care and that might be enough to give them back that energy and motivation to start working their way through and out of the quagmire."
Ros encourages people to act to connect with homeless men and women and suggests "the smoothest way into it might be to volunteer with different organisations.
"Volunteer with places like the community kitchen, like Orange Sky, so there are other people around you if you don't feel comfortable, or don't know exactly what to do, which is normal, so then you've got other people who can show you and lead you gently.
"Once you sit down to talk with homeless people you will realise they are just normal people and everyone has their own story to share."
Manning River Times' journalist, Ainslee Dennis is writing a series of stories on homelessness, housing affordability, private rental access and social housing. Below are links to the stories.
- Nightmare search for a home sees Taree family with six children homeless
- Couch surfing fractures family as Lynda searches for a place to call home
- Handouts and lack of accountability contribute to Taree housing crisis
- Wiffen spotlights personal welfare and rental experience in housing crisis debate
- Homeless man fights MidCoast Council on his right to sleep in public reserve
- Wingham homeless man says this community 'absolutely sparkles like a diamond'
- Tiny homes in the mix as MidCoast Council looks to determine housing needs
- Homeless woman builds place to live from MidCoast Council kerbside rubbish
- Samaritans Taree meets increasing need for crisis housing as homelessness rises
- National exposure places Manning Valley homeless crisis in spotlight
- Share the Dignity teams with Samaritans Taree to help vulnerable women and girls
- Report exposes poverty reality for renters in Taree and Forster regions
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