“I was sitting in Railway Park making jewellery when my family arrived to tell me my son Josh was dead. I went hysterical, collapsed on to the ground, and they were all hugging me, crying. I tried to grab his spirit, but he was just completely gone, no body, no soul. It’s your worst moment. You think it goes away, but it’s like being tortured alive, if you want to know. Go there for five seconds, you’ll see it’s too much.
I came to Byron Bay in 1998 looking for my calling, and looking for community. I brought my business, which I set up four times in different locations over 16 years, but the GST killed it. My business died in the arse, and we were evicted out of our home on Marvell Street because I turned my business into a drop-in centre for kids.
I love the country here, and the earth connection, but Byron Bay corrupted my children. Alcohol. Drugs. Women. Lots of kids have died due to a lack of community support, and my boys were eaten up on the street. When my son died, I was living in a three-bedroom overpriced unit.
Young people struggle to find work here, which means the next generation skips town, leaving Byron to the millionaires and yuppies who have taken over. Our children have left – they are dead or gone.
I retreated to a garage at my stepson’s home that rained inside. I stayed there for seven months until I got the spiritual call to put a bed in the back of my car and go to the beachfront in political protest at housing.
I wasn’t homeless, I was houseless. The view was beautiful, it was rent-free, and I had community at my doorstep. I was practicing my art. After nine weeks I left the beachfront on my own accord and went to another activist’s safe house. Then a string of temporary accommodation followed.
It’s awful and humiliating to ask your friends if you can stay with them, even if I always offered money for expenses and to shower. It gave me bad anxiety and depression. The biggest stigma is that it’s the homeless person’s fault; when people blame the person, that’s probably the most painful thing.
I’m currently in transitional housing, though I think you might be able to stay for up to 18 months. It feels good, but there’s no privacy and it’s tiny. It’s forced me into a situation of meditation. I meditate a lot and it has saved my life, without a doubt. I would have killed myself by now.”
-Image and story adapted from The Guardian