Megan’s journey from homelessness to recovery started with a call to the Salvos
The Red Shield Appeal helped give Megan a new beginning
Like so many others, Megan* never thought it would happen to her. She never imagined she would need to escape a violent relationship; she never imagined her family and friends would turn their back on her; and she never imagined she and her daughter would become homeless.
When Megan made the difficult decision to leave her violent partner, she had little choice but to couch surf between friends’ houses. With nothing but the backpack she had in her possession the day she knew she couldn’t return, she and her daughter were reduced to living in a single room, relying on the goodwill of others.
“It’d be a couple of weeks here, a few weeks there,” says Megan. “I went from being in a house to being stuck in one room.
“When you’re homeless and you’re used to being in that one room, that room becomes your everything – your safety. And when you’re stuck in it 24/7 with your child, it can be very lonely, especially when you’re around people who don’t understand what you’ve been through.”
Homeless and alone
For Megan’s family – particularly her mother – what was happening to her was a disgrace to the family. And so, seeking shelter at her family home was not an option. But offers of a spare couch or a room from friends often came with strings attached and Megan eventually knew she had outstayed her welcome.
“You try to please them so it’s like another violent relationship – because you’re walking on eggshells again, making sure you don’t touch anything. The only words I can use for how I was feeling is that I was numb. I was a zombie, I had no soul – that’s the best way to put it.”
Full of shame and guilt and devoid of hope, Megan admits she was in a very dark place and struggled to see a way out. Feeling like everyone had deserted her, she and her daughter began living out of her car. She says there were times when it would be five days between showers – as they had nowhere permanent to stay with access to bathroom facilities – and she knew this was no way for her daughter to live.
“You start to question, ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I’m such a bad person.’ Because you can’t see any way out of that black hole until you’re given opportunities like from The Salvation Army.”
Accepting help from the Salvos
Mustering up the courage to ask for help was Megan’s turning point, but taking that first step was hard.
“When you first come into services, you’re scared, you’re thinking, ‘I don’t want them to know anything. What if they don’t help me? What if they call DHS? What if my child gets taken off me?’ … You’re in that panic.”
Megan credits her Salvos caseworker, Sharon, for showing empathy, listening and providing her with the advice she needed – even when it was tough. “She didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, she told me what I needed to hear.”
Sharon supported Megan from homelessness into transitional housing, where she and her daughter stayed for a year while waiting for stable permanent housing. Megan says that staying in the transitional house gave her time to reflect on her experience.
“The mum guilt when I was living in the transitional house was probably the worst. It’s gotten easier over the years but there’s that guilt of ‘How did this happen? Why did this happen? It’s all my fault.’”
Megan had regular case management sessions with Sharon during this time and completed a range of programs to help deal with the trauma and connect with others who had similar experiences.
Empowered to help others
Now settled in stable housing, Megan and her daughter are still coming to terms with their ordeal. While the house they now live in has ample space, the time they spent cramped in a single room has had a lasting impact.
“We’re very, very close. I think I’m the worst because it’s a security thing. It’s a protection thing. It’s a safety thing for me knowing my daughter is there. I will sleep because me and my daughter will touch feet. When she’s not with me, I get up every hour and have to go check on her. And that all comes down to being homeless.”
For Megan, getting that transitional house changed her life and put her on the road to recovery.
Now further along that road, she has been inspired to use her experience to help others in a similar situation – volunteering as a secretary for an organisation supporting vulnerable women and studying for a Diploma of Community Services.
“Through all this, because I had great [case]workers I’ve been inspired to get my diploma, because it helped in my recovery and I want to see it from the other side. I want to empower and inspire others.”
Megan is incredibly thankful for the help she was able to get, all because of the kindness of donors. As she puts it, “Their donation gave me a new life for my daughter. Everything that we own or what my daughter and I have is because of donations. They gave me new life, new hope, a new beginning.