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.

Survive to Thrive

I was watching the latest series of David Attenborough on Netflix, an incredible inspiring story looking back over his lifetime of change on our planet. To do that at 93, what an inspiration! He stated:

A species thrives when everything else around it thrives.

– David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet

That is not only true for animals and nature, but also true for humans. When we thrive, we are surrounded by others who are thriving too. We are more accepting of our circumstances. We are open to challenges and what is going around us. We are more positive about life in general. We are not scared of facing obstacles head-on.

I was really good at this before I collapsed following trauma. I was strong and able to push aside anything in my life that got in my way and I accomplished so much from 17-43. As my psychologist said to me recently, “you have lived through 5 life times worth in half century”! I certainly feel it as now I am constantly exhausted and struggles seem to be endless. There are some days that I am thriving, and others were I am more struggling than surviving.

Perhaps for most of us we are surviving each day more than ever, especially in this change of climate, with rising temperatures, extinction of animals and plants, pandemics, destructive natural disasters … the list goes on. Most days it seems like our planet isn’t thriving either, so how do we thrive?

From my experience, it comes down to what we believe, what we see, and what action we take for ourselves. If we continue on the same journey of despair and hopelessness, we will only feel despair and hopelessness. If we hang around people that are always negative or have not got your best interest at heart, then we will end up being negative and not care for others either. But if we, take on our responsibility, accept our choices and believe that change is possible, we can rise above the things that get us down, then our outlook will change and we will walk towards thriving. It is all a matter of perspective.

Have you gone on a journey from surviving to thriving?