Girls forced to beg in a life on the streets
By NATALIE PEUTnataliep@gladstoneobserver.dyndns.org
KERRI and Stephanie are just like any other young women living in Gladstone.
The only difference is, they are broke, forced to beg for food and have lived on the streets for the past two weeks. During that time Kerri, 18, and Stephanie, 20, have spent their time sleeping under a bridge, eating only one meal a day.
Kerri has lived a tough life, which she said began when her father died when she was just a child.
"It was such a hard time for me and I just went off the rails because I just couldn't handle the fact I had lost him,'' she said.
"I had a wonderful family, we really enjoyed a lot of family time and my Dad was such a great influence and a role model for me.
"After he died I didn't know what to do, and I ended up finding myself going from different foster care homes to staying in crisis accommodation.''
Kerri said she felt like she had lost everything. "You don't realise how much you appreciate what you have until you lose it,'' she said.
Kerri said it was hard living on the streets, not only looking for a place to sleep, but finding somewhere safe.
"All we could do was walk around during the day looking for help,'' she said.
"One local business has been wonderful, providing us with breakfast each morning.
"We literally have no money, we were living off two sets of clothes.''
Kerri said she was frightened walking the streets.
"It truly is a safety issue for us, we had to keep quiet and be careful,'' she said.
But finally late yesterday afternoon the girls were given food and accommodation.
After The Observer contacted The Salvation Army, the charity organisation provided the girls with a caravan to sleep in and gave them food vouchers.
Kerri said she was grateful to have a real bed to sleep in last night.
"We are truly thankful to The Salvation Army for giving us this opportunity to get back on our feet again,'' she said.
Major Bill Hutley said The Salvation Army staff were extremely passionate about caring for people.
"It depends on the circumstance, but we do everything we can to help,'' he said.
"We have provided the girls with accommodation and food vouchers.
"We try and assist everyone, by at least offering them food and a shower.
"Our staff are very compassionate people and are not there to judge, just to help them with food and clothing.