Homelessness led me to the most fulfilling job of my life.
Jeremey found himself homeless and living deep in the bush, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enduring sub-zero temperatures, piercing winds and struggling to access basic food and hygiene needs – Jeremey’s physical and mental health began to deteriorate.
Luckily a chance encounter with Uniting marked a turning point in his life.
While Jeremey’s story is unique to him, his experience of homelessness isn’t.
Every night of the year, 116,000 Australians are without a home.
The rising costs of housing, groceries and living in general, are forcing many to make impossible choices every day just to survive.
At Uniting, we are experiencing a 53% increase in demand for our housing intake services.
This demand has pushed us to bolster our workforce, distribute more food parcels than ever and support those most vulnerable to access safe and affordable housing.
We are trying our best to help every person and family who has fallen on hard times.
However, with such a great need we can’t do it alone.
Help us fight homelessness this Christmas.
Jeremey (pictured on right) found himself homeless and living deep in the bush, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At 49 years of age, Jeremey found himself sleeping rough.
Living deep in the bush on the outskirts of Ballarat, an old 1970s van wrapped in tarp stood as his only refuge from gruelling sub-zero temperatures and piercing, icy winds.
“Looking back, I think lots of things melded together over a long period and led to my
homelessness,” he explained.
“I came from a broken home, my father left when I was six.
“I went to a different primary school every year of my life.
“I actually think homelessness, movement and that transient lifestyle was part of my life
from the outset.”
Jeremey’s life was further complicated. He lives with a disability called spinocerebellar ataxia. This genetic disorder affects the nervous system. It often results in poor movement and coordination, difficulties with walking, speech, vision and fine motor skills.
Fast forward to 2019, the loving father of three found himself in a tragic downward spiral.
“I lost my business. And then my relationship with my partner broke up.
“I was getting increasingly sick and wasn’t talking to people. I didn’t look after my mental health.
“I started drinking instead of paying my bills. I just gave up on everything.”
Jeremey was exhausted.
“I’d always fought my way out of things but this time I was lost.”
After considering sleeping in his car, Jeremey decided to move into the bush as that would
be more comfortable for his dog, Brown Eyes.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” Jeremey said.
“I thought I can’t be out on the streets with my dog. So, I ended up in the bush.”
Little did Jeremey know this was to be his ‘home’ for the next 18 months.
Alone in the bush
“It was freezing,” he said
“The wind would just blow straight through the van.”
As if things weren’t hard enough, the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“The isolation in the end got me, especially when Covid hit.
“I missed my kids ‘cos they’ve always been in my life, I don’t have a lot of friends, so my
life was my children.
“It got lonely, very lonely and I got sick of myself.”
Jeremey’s situation became increasingly dire.
Then one day a chance encounter with Uniting Ballarat’s outreach team marked the turning
point in this single father’s life.
“When Uniting came along and found me, they were looking for someone else,” Jeremey
“And I just said, well look I’ve been out here for months and I haven’t got any money.”
Stacey, Team Leader at Uniting Ballarat’s Street 2 Home program, remembers that early
“When we first met Jeremey, he had been rough sleeping for 18 months. He was out in the
bush,” Stacey says.
“His weight had dropped. His physical health had deteriorated. His appearance was sunken
because he couldn’t access fresh water or showers or basic hygiene and health needs.”
Jeremey’s life in the bush had taken its toll.
Uniting began assisting him with finding a home. Most importantly of all, they gave him the
care and help he needed to reconnect with others.
“When the team told me about a home in Creswick, I was excited,” he said.
“My caseworker told me that he’s got a home for me, he’ll help me furnish it.”
Jeremey recalls his first night in the new home.
“I slept in a bed.
“I hadn’t slept in a bed for over 18 months, it was lovely.
“I slept like a log.
“The team even bought my dog a bed; she was pretty happy.”
From homeless to helping others
A year later, and having turned his own life around, Jeremey was the perfect candidate to
join Uniting Ballarat’s Street 2 Home team.
“Now I work here, they can’t get rid of me,” Jeremey jokes.
“My role at Uniting is officially Street 2 Home Homeless Peer Support Worker, I’m extremely
proud of that.
“I have the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had in my life.
“And I love seeing people I work with everyday smile, it’s awesome.”
A fate experienced by too many
Yes, Jeremey fortuitously crossed paths with Uniting. But sadly another 116,000 people face
homelessness every night of the year.
With 190,000 households on the waiting list for social housing, it can take upwards of eight years for someone to be housed.
At Uniting, we believe having a safe and secure home is a human right.
That’s why our services are designed to provide immediate, wrap around support to those in need.
This support also doesn’t stop when a person or family is placed in a home.
It is crucial people are supported throughout all stages of their housing journey and often those experiencing homelessness need assistance with mental health, employment, social connection and general life skills.
Our programs ensure that those seeking housing are supported through every phase of their journey.
With rental prices sky rocketing, food bills mounting, and electricity prices soaring, many are left feeling helpless.
However, all is not lost.
You can help us fight homelessness this Christmas.
Your generosity can provide practical and ongoing support to those who need it most.
Give the gift of safety and security this Christmas.