From the Streets to the Stage: The Interview [Part 1]
24 August 2016
Streets to Stage is a high impact performance to raise awareness of youth homelessness; created by young musicians who have previously experienced homelessness, our valued partners and The Salvation Army.
The 2016 tour has just concluded, you can read more about it here. The performance featured a Q & A with the two musicians Ozone and Supernal about their youth homelessness experience. This blog is part one of a three part series of the Q & A, facilitated by guest MC Bee Orsini at William Clarke College on the 29th of July.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Ozone: "Science, I love doing experiments – dissecting frogs and rats."
Supernal: "Art and drama. I did like chemistry as well – chemical reactions, rockets, explosions."
While you both had your favourite subjects, school was a pretty challenging time. What made school challenging?
Supernal: "I had a family who migrated from Britain, there were eleven family members. We all lived in one place. I lived with my grandparents and my uncles who were like brothers and over a period of ten years, in my growing up years, six of the men in my family died from freak accidents…unforeseen tragedies so when I was at school I was grieving, I was going through a lot of trauma, family breakdown and things like that.
I became quite distant at school and I really struggled to keep up with it. I found it really difficult to smile but I noticed other kids could smile and have fun and I noticed that I couldn’t so I kind of got disconnected."
Ozone, your situation was a bit different, what happened?
Ozone: "I had a lot of dramas at home, a lot of problems, a lot of drugs and alcohol at home, aggression, arguments. I ended up getting kicked out on the streets; I was in Year 9 so I was still going to school. I was staying at a train station, sleeping in the toilets and going to school from there."
Did you feel like you could talk to anyone about what was happening?
Ozone: "I probably could’ve but I didn’t want to. I think I was too ashamed and too embarrassed to tell anybody about it."
So you were feeling a bit of shame and embarrassment about that?
Ozone: "Yeah, a bit of pride too. I didn’t want anybody to know what I was going through. I wanted to keep my head up high and I kept going to school but I didn’t know anything else to do. It was already part of my routine so when I had nowhere to stay, I didn’t feel like my routine should change. I still wanted to feel part of society."
So you were still going to school while sleeping rough?
Supernal, what about you in terms of support?
Supernal: "After having so much tragedy at home, there was family breakdown and we were at different stages of grief…anger’s part of grief, things like that. As a result, it was just too much for me at home. I wasn’t coping so I found myself at some friends houses a lot…a friend from school actually and I slipped out of school. I kept staying over but I didn’t really want to tell my teacher what was going on. I didn’t want to tell my friends because I didn’t want to burden them. I thought if what I’m going through is so heavy, I didn’t want to put that on them.
The friends parents, I didn’t want to tell them either because I felt like a bit of a scab, I hadn’t told them from the beginning. I just kept kind of asking if I could stay longer. That didn’t last forever."
So you’re saying the first place you actually stayed was on a friend’s couch. Ozone, in terms of your situation – sleeping rough, that was at Wollongong train station I believe. What was that like, practically and mentally?
Ozone: "Mentally it was draining. I think it changed me. I was always sleeping on a cold floor so I was waking up early in the morning, getting sick all the time, I had nothing to eat, nowhere to shower, no clothes to change into so it was a very, very tough time."
Supernal, you made this point earlier – you felt like a burden, you didn’t want to burden other people with your situation yet you found yourself staying on a couch quite similar to the one we’re sitting on – what was that like?
Supernal: "It was horrible, it was quite overwhelming. I was really in people’s way, plus couches themselves aren’t always necessarily comfortable. You can be on one that’s hurting your back, you can be in the middle of the room where the couch is situated when someone comes out of their room to use the toilet…or you might be at a drug dealer’s house later on because you burn bridges. You can’t stay at a friend’s house forever without providing something like telling the parents or giving them money. You know, there’s a lot of vulnerability."
You went on to sleep in a car. Can you tell us about that?
Supernal: "Eventually I ran out of friends houses and I was offered a car - in a state where I’d either be on the streets – [I was offered] a car by an outlaw biker group. They gave me a car as a roof over my head. In exchange for some protection, drugs, a bit of money, things like that; I had to take things into jails and do drop offs that I really didn’t want to do and I didn’t realise the mentality back then that when someone gives you something, even when couch surfing or in a car, that there’s an underlying ‘we’ve given you something, you kind of owe us’ mentality and it’s hard to get out of. You feel like ‘how did I get myself into this predicament’ and ‘how do I get out of it?’ so I was really stuck, I was feeling really stuck. It got to the point where I was feeling so unsafe, I thought I was even going to die or go to jail…or I could be on the streets in winter in the cold and I’d prefer that option."
So you felt safest sleeping on the streets than in this car with a roof over your head?
Supernal: "Unfortunately, correct."
We are starting to uncover the complexities of the situations people find themselves in. Ozone, did you end up finishing school?
Ozone: "No I didn’t. I had to drop out a month or two after [getting kicked out] because I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was starting to smell, starving hungry and I just couldn’t do it anymore."
What year were you in?
Ozone: "I was in year 9."
*This blog is part one of a three part series*
Streets to Stage is in support of The Couch Project. Your students can also get involved on the 16th of September by getting sponsored to spend a night on the couch. Your school can host an event or simply pass information about the campaign directly to your students.
Find out more about The Couch Project Classroom school workshops and complimentary curriculum mapped resources here.