Jess is an incredibly inspiration women, who from the age of 13, had left home, dated a man more than two times her senior, and from there, suffered ongoing years of domestic violence.

Drugs and alcohol pretty quickly consumed her life, which led to bouts of being in prison over an extended period of time. Perhaps there was some intention behind it, because she told me how much she had loved jail – not for being in jail itself, but rather, the feeling of safety and belonging, and the social exclusion that came from the world outside bars.

She endured years of homelessness, where the streets brought about demons of violence and sexual abuse. All the while, giving birth to five children who were taken away from her and sent to foster homes.

We hear the typical statistics about homelessness – drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, jail. But what about the other repercussions? The physical, emotional, psychological, and mental trauma that will last a lifetime. The social inclusion, or lack thereof – a completely underestimated value of basic human needs. All we ever want is to be loved.

One of the things she truly missed when she was on the streets? “A cuddle.” We may be somewhat ‘powerless’ to change someone’s circumstance, but we have every power to make a difference in someone’s life – through simple acts of conversation, touch, non-judgement. Actions which are all free and cost nothing more than a fraction of our time.

We say we want to help the homeless, but do we ever really know, or take the time to understand what being homeless really means?

Jess is incredible. She has been through hell and back and then countless times over. But despite all this, she has managed to get all of her children back, and is now in a house she can call her own.

The Underground Collaborative seeks pathways to provide employment for the homeless, at-risk and disadvantaged. We have some great ideas on how we can work with Jess, and her passionate drive to help other women break the cycle of domestic violence, foster care and all the intertwining factors.

Author: Katie Liew