From a life on the street to finding her home
Half a lifetime on, the horrors of being homeless at just 15 and mixing with the wrong crowd in Maroochydore has never left Hannah Edwards.
However Hannah has been able to rise above her poor start in life to be in a good space with a secure roof over her head.
The turning point in her downward spiral was triggered by a violent home invasion one terrifying night in the “party house” she sought refuge in.
Now Hannah, 30, has agreed to share her harrowing experience and how she found her way to better life with her now 10-year-old son Harley thanks to help from Youturn Youth Support service.
She is now helping fundraise $100,000 for Youturn’s Big Hearts for Tiny Homes campaign.
Hannah is the Sunshine Coast-based Youturn’s public face for World Homeless Day on October 10. She now works in the housekeeping industry and has just been promoted to supervisor.
“A lot of people think homelessness can’t or won’t happen to them but the truth is that it can happen to anyone,” Hannah said.
“I have a good job, I have a son, I have a good home, but the truth is when I was 15 I did become homeless and thanks to Youturn I was able to turn my life around,” Hannah said.
She found herself homeless after a family breakdown which saw her seek a dubious “refuge” in a condemned house.
“I had a lot off mental health problems and I had some drug problems,” Hannah said.
“I ended up in a party house with a friend from school and three men basically between 19 and 22.
“There was a home invasion and one of the boys ended up in Royal Brisbane Hospital after brain surgery … very lucky for me I was out that night.
“There was a lot of problems within the group and I realise I had to get out.”
Hannah moved back home for nine months but eventually decided it was time to move again.
Not long after, she was referred to Youturn or United Synergies as the youth support service was known, and was placed in supported accommodation.
“I got a lot of counselling while I was there from Youturn for drug and alcohol issues,” Hannah said.
“It also helped with my self worth because I thought if someone who doesn’t know me from a bar of soap will go out of their way to give me a safe place then maybe I am worth something.
“I went on a camp that they did back then with some of their clients and that kind of got me out of my shell a little bit.”
Hannah said she stayed the maximum 12 months with the supported accommodation before finding a private rental.
“It was really difficult. Having that transitional period, which is what the tiny homes are for after supported accommodation is really important, it would prepare you more independent living with support out on your own,” she said.
‘When I saw Big Hearts for Tiny Homes campaign I thought I need to get on board with that, that’s something I’m passionate about and that would have meant so much to me.”
Hannah, who has inspected the sort of tiny homes Youturn are planning to buy with Harley, said they were an “absolutely fantastic package”.
“They’re just beautiful,” she said.
Youturn spokeswoman Antoinette Lloyd said a tiny home with two bedrooms, which offered flexibility for a young mum with two children or two young adults, cost about $94,000.
“Then we need to kit it out with washing machines and things like that so that’s why we’ve rounded it out to $100,000,” she said.
“Hannah heard our story through social media and because she’d been in our program she wanted to reach out and pay it forward to raise some funds.”
Hannah is aiming to raise funds for the tiny home using peer to peer online fundraising.
“I used to volunteer with the young parents program here at Youturn, but I wasn’t able to continue with that commitment along with work,” she said.
“For a couple of years Harley and I would collect presents throughout the year and then do up Christmas present packs and bring them in.
“I couldn’t wait to get on-board. I’m a big believer in that saying when you have more than what you need, you build a bigger table not a higher fence,” Hannah said.
Antoinette said the Big Hearts campaign had the corporate support of IGA and Bendigo Bank with the need for this transition housing never more pressing.
“We are in discussions with Noosa Council who are looking into generously granting us land
to establish between one and three tiny homes in the Noosa region, which is a great start,” Antoinette said.
“Just because you don’t see people sleeping rough in our streets doesn’t mean our community
is immune to the problem, and there is just not enough affordable accommodation available to us to help home our young people.”
Antoinette said Noosa and the Sunshine Coast were popular holiday destinations, but a tough place to live for many young people to settle due to extreme housing costs, low average wages, social housing shortage and high rental competition.
She said with the COVID-19 impacts of business closures, unemployment and health concerns, there had never been more people, and particularly young people, experiencing homelessness.
Youturn’s Homeless Facts:
• Noosa-Sunshine Coast housing cost to average income (9:3) is one of the worst in Australia.
• Over the January-March 2020 quarter, 249 young people presented to Noosa-Sunshine Coast homelessness services.
• Over half of young people under the age of 25 receiving support from homeless services slept rough at least once prior to turning 18. The most common form of homelessness among young people is couch-surfing.
• More than 1 in 6 young people across Australia (17 per cent) reported having an experience of homelessness
• The number of Australians aged 18 to 24 who experienced higher levels of housing stress increased threefold between April and May 2020, from 10.3 per cent to 27.5 per cent.
• Young service industry employees have been hit hard by COVID-19 impacts, and while the requirements for Job Keeper change in September our local economy will be much slower to recover.
• Homeless persons will often experience poor mental health, poverty, trauma, substance abuse, social isolation and are victims of crime. Early intervention is needed to break the cycle.