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.

Finding your purpose

Purpose is like the breath of life. Or for some it could be more the breadth, depth and width of life. The times when we think most about our purpose is usually when we are struggling: as a teenager wondering what job we will do and/or university course; when we become dissatisfied with our job, career direction or course; and when we su fer trauma or health issues and lose the role we loved. I’ve been through all three and the worst was the latter one. When you finally found that role that fits you like a glove, you’re passionate about it, you love going to work, being part of the team and then everything is taken from beneath you. Not only have I experienced it, but I’ve also witnessed and stood beside thousands of police o ficers and Defence personnel going through this change once labelled ‘hurt on duty’ then medically discharged. How do we recover from this loss? Not only loss of something we loved, but loss of our mental health and perhaps physical health, loss of our passion and drive as well as loss of our purpose.

One thing I discovered on my journey through this is that my purpose was actually never lost, the way that I executed it needed changing. It will certainly be di ferent and when we get our head around that and it is okay, then opportunities start to arise. My purpose throughout life has always been education, motivational speaking and supporting others to be the best they can be. What I started to do post-police and navy in various roles, I could see that my drive, passion and purpose was still thriving. I just had to find the right avenue with my limitations.

After you decide to move forward, what happens next is truly amazing. It is like the shifting forces of nature were engulfing your whole being beforehand, even most days felt like you were trying to move in the opposite direction through a massive wind storm. Then, the day it all becomes too much, sand is flickering into your eyes disabling your sight and you feel totally exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. It seems impossible to go on. At this point we have a choice and we think the choices are to give up or keep battling, but there is another choice. Let go. Let go of everything we are holding on tightly. Allow the storm to pass. Rest our mind and our body, then start working on the root cause slowly and steadily. Yes, it’s hard work, but the result is amazing. Things in life start to align again. We feel more connected to life, to friends, to nature, to the world! Indeed, we feel alive! We are survivors and becoming people who can empower others to reach that amazing place too.

Feel free to download a free tool on how to discover your purpose and meaning.

Latest publication on purpose out now at your local Blurb