The following interview was with David in 2009.
“When I was in primary school, and they asked you to put your hand up, asking what you wanted to be to be in life, I didn’t stick up my hand saying that I wanted to be a drunk on the street…” he laughs.
“I had a family, I had a house, I never thought that within six months that I’d be wondering the streets just looking for somewhere to sleep.”
David is homeless but he works as a vendor for the Big Issue.
David had completed a TAFE course, had a job, a home and was a sole parent with a 15-year-old daughter. However, after injuring his back at work one day, things took a turn for the worst. “Because I couldn’t do the work, I ended up as a host employ- ee, but I couldn’t do my job anymore and then my daughter decided to leave, so then I just decided to pack up and come to Adelaide for an adventure.”
“I ended up on the streets and because I didn’t have any referees I couldn’t get a unit or anything so I just started to self-medicate with alcohol.”
Defeated and what he described as a ‘snail drinker’, David then lived and drank in his car and would drink from when he woke until he went to sleep.
“I literally didn’t care about anything. My daily routine involved going to the ‘Salvation Detox’ in the morning for breakfast because they wouldn’t let me sleep there due to my sleep apnoea – they didn’t want me to wake the other clients, so from there I’d just go to Victoria Square,” he said.
He drank. He watched the trams. He watched everybody go to work and wondered about their lives.
“Then I’d go into the parklands and drink and dry off my clothes from the night before. When it came to evening I’d start looking around for somewhere to eat and find where I was going to sleep for the night.”
This was, for four years, David’s day-to-day routine. Helpless and homeless, he continued to live on the streets.
He was down to nothing; all that he had was a bag, the clothes on his back and some papers.
He reveals that it was hard, not just financially, but emotionally as well.
“You’re by yourself, you know, you get isolated and that brings on things like anxiety or social phobia. You sit there and you feel like you’re disconnected with society because you’re not doing the norm and you feel outcast. I didn’t feel a part of society.”
Homeless people do actually realise the position that they’re in; they can sense what others are probably thinking. And so, I ask David if it bothered him what other people thought of him.
“Well, there I was a total stranger, they didn’t know what was wrong with me, as far as they know I could’ve just gotten out of the psych ward,” he laughs.
And now from drinking in Victoria Square and living in his car, David has been housed for four years straight.
He has rebuilt his life.
Strangely, he tells me that he was ‘lucky’ he got caught drinking and living in his car. David was facing two years in jail, but the judge felt that the David of that time was not really himself, and left him with six months to prove to the court that he could do better.
From there he went into detox and began the gruelling process of going to various stabilising units. Eventually, he landed in a learning program and become a vendor for The Big Issue magazine.
“They filled that void, as in the loneliness, they gave me something to do during the day, it’s like you’re connected to something, you got a family, you know… I’d tasted what it was like to have a real life, and I wanted that back, so the rest was up to me.” David helped himself.
Now a grandfather with two grandkids, David has also reconciled with his daughter. “I had her phone number but my counsellor suggested that instead of talking about the old stuff and that, just to contact her on special occasions, like birthdays. So I did that, and she eventually contacted me.”
From thinking about other peoples lives, David thinks of his own, “I’m getting up, I’m with people, and knowing I’m going to be with friendly people, knowing that I’m not going to be alone anymore, is a good feeling.”
David lost the security blanket that can so eas- ily be taken for granted – his home. Nevertheless, through all his mishaps and misadventures he de- cided to turn things around, coming across some of the good Samaritans of Adelaide at The Big Issue. David found out that there is there no place like home, but there is nothing like having one.