HOMELESSNESS IN AUSTRALIA
On any given night, there are more than 100,000 people in Australia who currently don't have a secure and safe place to live.
The pathways to homelessness are varied and complex. Events like the loss of employment, family breakdown and sudden illness can potentially push a family or individual to breaking point, which often results in homelessness. In Australia, the largest cause of homelessness is domestic and family violence.
There's no one single cause of homelessness. And contrary to myths - no one 'chooses' to be homeless.
Below is Mouse's story. He was only 42. Way too young to die. Yet this is the average age people on the street die... in their 40s
"It's long and it's cold... and you have to sleep with one eye open because you don't know who's going to bash you or stab you or rob you."
Those words sadly were all too true for Mouse – whose given name was Morgan Wayne Perry.
You might remember his death from the TV and news reports. Mouse had set up some blankets and boxes under a bridge in Melbourne's CBD as ‘home’. That’s where he was attacked. He suffered fatal stab wounds to his throat, face and right hand.
After running away from an abusive home, Sam was taken advantage of by a predatory criminal who got young people hooked on drugs, forcing them to continue working to pay off their debts.
We first met Mouse nearly 30 years ago when he came into one of our youth refuges. He was just 15 years old. It was a tough place … and got tougher when Mouse arrived.
Mouse was a short kid, but had shaved his head, got himself a jacket with studs, and came across all aggressive as if he was trying to say ‘Don’t mess with me.’
You may wonder how someone ends up homeless. So let me tell you what Mouse suffered as a child.
Mouse was tortured by his step-father. Bashed with a cricket bat. Locked up at night in a dog-house. Sexually abused by an uncle. Yet there was another side to Mouse.
"When Mouse arrived at the Youth Refuge, my wife Sandra had just given birth to our daughter Ash. Sandra wanted to bring Ash into work, but I was nervous. When you have a bunch of troubled young people in one place, things can go wrong - and quickly.
Sandra insisted and I’m glad she did. Because as soon as Mouse saw 4-week-old Ash, something in him changed. He asked to hold her. Rocked her in his arms. Ordered the other young people to quit smoking, and stop swearing around the baby. He even insisted the TV channel be changed to ‘Sesame Street’.
Then, I lost Mouse from my life for 27 years until I met Mouse again nine months before he died. He came in to our Centre and said, “Do you remember me?” I did.
I didn’t know though he’d had a bad motorbike accident that smashed both his legs. Or that as a new father his three-week-old daughter had died from cot-death. Remembering the way he’d nursed Ash, I can’t imagine the pain that must have caused him. It’s the kind of hurt that strips away hope.
That’s what I’ve learned after many years working as a Salvo on the street. There’s always a story and it’s only when you meet someone, and sit down with them, and treat them with respect as an individual, and really listen to their story, that you can truly help them find healing, and bring hope where it’s needed most.
That’s why we are on the street."
- Major Brendan Nottle
Mouse was 42 when he was killed. Father to three children. Grandfather to three little ones - though he never knew it.