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.

Life is a spectrum

Have you ever felt so sad nothing could cheer you up? It’s like someone has sat on you, then sucked out all life.

Have you ever felt broken? It’s like every part of you is scattered into millions of pieces.

Have you ever felt trapped? It’s like the very person you know within you melts away each day as hot sun liquefies a glacier.

Have you ever felt open or somewhere in-between?

Life is a spectrum: broken to open