From Despair to Hope: My journey through homelessness

I stood at the crossroads of life, my footsteps echoing against the cold pavement. At 16, I found myself living on the unforgiving streets, a place where survival was a daily battle. And later, at 45, after my medical discharge from the military, I faced a different kind of struggle—one that tested my resilience, my compassion, and my very purpose.

Within me burned a yearning—a fierce flame fueled by justice and integrity. I couldn’t accept the injustice of homelessness, the way society overlooked those who had fallen through the cracks. I wanted to understand their stories—the raw, unfiltered narratives etched into their weary faces. How did they end up here? What dreams had they once held?

Compassion became my guiding star. I sat with a young man huddled in a cardboard shelter, his eyes reflecting lifetimes of hardship. We shared stories—the kind that don’t make headlines but shape lives. His name was John, and he’d once been a teacher. In the darkest corners, John didn’t make it. I held his hand for as long as I could into the night. Then returned to my shelter under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Life whispered its purpose to me. It wasn’t just about survival; it was about connection. On the streets, I tried to help other homeless people alongside volunteers—ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. We laughed, we listened, and we saw beyond the tattered clothes and worn-out shoes. Each person had a name, a history, and a spark of hope.

Award-winning short film Say My Name created by Dr Mel Baker

In the frame: SAY MY NAME (2023) short film

In my short film, SAY MY NAME, Kate Olivia portrays a homeless veteran—a haunting reflection of the struggles faced by those who’ve served our country. But the film doesn’t stop there. It weaves threads of hope and courage, illuminating the resilience that resides within us all.

Australia’s nights are haunted by 6,000 veterans – heroes who once wore uniforms and carried our nation’s pride. Now, they navigate the shadows, their battles far from over. But what about the teenagers? How many young souls wander these same streets, their dreams shattered by circumstance? Youth on the Streets report there was 40,000 young people homeless or displaced in Australia alone on any given night. We must amplify their voices too.

Say My Name isn’t just my story; it’s a collective anthem. It speaks of hope rising from despair, of courage in the face of adversity. Let’s share it far and wide—to empower others, to ignite conversations, and to remind the world that every life matters.

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If you would like to share your story and be part of empowering others in our live and online events and on this website, go here.

Your story matters. It’s a beacon—a lighthouse cutting through the fog of indifference. Thank you for sharing it, for weaving hope into the fabric of our collective existence.

Living contentment

The other morning I could not sleep past 3am. Having had only 3 hours sleep, I tried everything I could for 2 hours to get back to sleep but nothing was going to work. I got up, opened all my blinds to the darkness of the night towards first lights.

Just before first lights, nature starts to awaken. Birds begin chirping. The distant stars and planets still shimmering though disappearing in that night sky. Whilst, some animals who have been awake and alert all night head off to their corner of the world to sleep.

Slowly the skies change from darkness to dark blue to the first glimmers of light. As the sun starts to peak, that orange alerts one’s eyes to the ambience of a new day dawning. Slowly the most hottest planet in our solar system emerges as we keep spinning slowly on our earth’s axis. As bright as the orange glows before our eyes, slowly the shimmers of the distant stars and planets disappear. Though they are still there, always reflecting, moving in the sequence of all brilliance in perfect harmony with everything else in the universe.

A miracle it is! This daily event never gives up, never takes a break, never packs up and leaves, saying ‘it is all too much to keep going’.

We could take a new day dawning for granted. We could take this coming new day for granted. Go about our normal routines – being busy, getting things done. When is the last time you’ve stopped to be a human being not a human doing? To see the wonder of our planet, our existence, how all things form and connect together. How you are indeed connected into all this majesty. These are priceless moments, and ones that I have cherished as I did at first lights that morning.

That ball of energy and heat that is rising, lifts our depression, gives vibrancy to our day and fills us with satisfaction. When the sun is hiding above those clouds, we feel the difference within our very being. And yet , it is always there. It never left our side. Our perception changed.

Sometimes it is so hard to find contentment in our lives. At 3am – 5am, was I content? No, exactly why I couldn’t sleep. By shifting my focus and perspective, I was able to enjoy the miracle of a new day dawning. I then found contentment.

Lao Tzu described contentment as “when action is pure and selfless everything settles into its own perfect place.” (Tao Te Ching, verse 3) As I reflected on this verse, I wrote:

If we do not stop and enjoy the connections life has for us, the daily grind will eventually burn us out; where we will not find contentment, be grounded or even able to serve. One of my favourite Irish bands, Mumford & Sons, in their song Below My Feet describes a grounding process that joins these two ideas together:

Keep the earth below my feet
from my sweat my blood runs weak
let me learn from where I have been
keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.

To reach out and serve we enter the risk to use our hands, in this engagement have we truly learned or merely helped? Let our eyes do the serving, as we see each dimension, and our hands will follow with learning at our fingertips through the power of a whole contentment experience.

Radiate Positivity

A few months ago I was standing in a skyscraper, looking right down at the ground, about a 70 metre drop. I was totally drained of all positivity. I struggled to be present in the moment. In fact, my mind was stuck in a past trauma. I felt like I was experiencing it again. I wasn’t really seeing the ground beneath me, I was seeing what happened to me back then.

In that moment, I could choose to stay stuck in my past, or I could choose to bring myself out of it and be present. I could choose to keep looking at the ground, and try to tell myself I can make it; or I could choose to look up, and see the beautiful view that surrounds me. In looking up, I am changing my outlook to be ahead. I am changing my posture to be tall and confident. The shift has caused me to focus on me in the here and now, to calm my being and be positive.

Now I can speak positivity into my situation. Now I can believe in myself once again as who I am today because of what I have gone through. And then, I can radiate positivity. From what I have experienced, that captures another soul walking by feeling perhaps stuck or lost.

Positivity celebrates life at various levels. It is choosing to see life from a different perspective, and helps to overcome and improve life’s moment to be more liveable. As a smile or laughter is infectious, letting go of life’s pressures and allowing us to shine brings so much more to ourselves, to others around us, and to our very act in living.

radiate positivity
Dr Mel Baker