Living without a home is tough. One man bravely shares his story . Photo: Nick Hansen
After five years on the streets, the pods at Bethlehem House mean more to this resident than just safety. Meet one of the first men to move in.
The following story is told by a resident of Bethlehem House, whose name cannot be disclosed for privacy reasons.
My friends say I’m a quiet guy, I don’t say much but I think a lot. Guess that’s true. I’ve had plenty of time in the last few years to be quiet, to think.
Being homeless, you don’t get a chance to do much else. All you do is think about the mistakes you’ve made – bad choices, actually. How your life goes from just being like normal and you’re warm and you’re eating hot cooked meals, simple stuff like sausages and mash – stuff you don’t realise you love so much until it’s not there.
And then you got nothing.
On my first night living on the streets, I didn’t have a tent or anything so I had to keep walking until I found an empty house in Gagebrook which is up in Hobart’s northern part. There was no way I was going to break in, so I just had to find a crawl space and I slept under the house. It was cold. That first night all I could think about was: Why? Why me? How the hell did I end up in this situation? I’m 26 and I’m homeless. I’m 26 and I got nothing. Drugs don’t keep you warm. That was something I kept telling myself over and over that night. Drugs don’t keep you warm.
That was five years ago.
I’d been kicked out of home because I got into drugs. My brother got me into it and our mum didn’t want us around when we were using.
Yep, that's what happened to me. Could happen to anyone. I had a good job working in a warehouse that I enjoyed; but made some bad choices, got kicked out of home and there I was, 26, homeless.
I tried couch-surfing for a while but the people I was hanging around with were using me more than I was using their couches, so eventually I got out of that as well and did my own thing.
Homelessness doesn’t discriminate - it can happen to anyone. Photo: Nick Hansen
I ended up living in a tent beside the river in Bridgewater. It was not fun. It wasn’t like going on a camping trip. When you’re camping you put up with stuff because you know you got a home to go back to. A warm bed. This was just day after day of basic survival. It was dangerous sometimes. It was like always living in some sort of trap. My brother would come looking for me for money and then the drugs would happen again.
And there was this one night when this group of guys found me and my tent. They were laughing and then they started picking up these tree branches, thick ones, and all of them were hitting my tent with them. I was scared. Really scared. I didn’t know what was going on at first. So I grabbed my cooking pot and put that over my head, like a helmet, to protect myself until they left.
It left me thinking again. Why me? I am a good person. Why?
People just look at you and your tent and they think they know who you are. They have no idea. No idea at all. I can juggle, bet you they don’t know that!
Sleeping on the streets is cold, dangerous and soul-crushing. Photo: Nick Hansen
But the looks they give, you end up doubting yourself when you’re homeless. You forget you are someone, that you can do things. I was told you forget what you are worth. And that’s true. I was lucky because last year I heard about Bethlehem House which is a homeless shelter for men in the city.
I went there in early December 2019 and it has helped me heaps. I got drug and alcohol counselling in the main house with a counsellor. And I also started to get out and mix in the community. We went to the pictures, played cricket games, had a bowling competition, even went sailing on the Lady Nelson tall ship.
At Bethlehem House they have these pods, made by Royal Wolf from shipping containers, but they don’t look like containers. They’re places to call home. They are really well fitted out and I have my own space and a TV and I can also reheat food to eat when I feel like it. I am used to sharing everything before. They have their own air cons, so I won't be cold anymore.
In 2020, Royal Wolf installed 18 converted shipping container pods at Bethlehem House in Hobart. Photo: Nick Hansen
It means everything to have a safe and warm place to sleep at night.
I was as low as low six months ago, but I have to say thanks to Bethlehem House, Royal Wolf and the Tassie Government for the hand up. I’m 31 now and I have a great place to be based while I get my life back together. That’s a really great thing for me.
I plan on getting another job – hopefully in a warehouse again because I’m quiet. I couldn’t see myself in a job where I have to talk a lot, like retail.
When you look at it all, I’m just a good person who’s made some poor choices.
But I know what mistakes look like now, so I know that I won’t become homeless again.
18 men now have a warm place to sleep at night in their very own home. Photo: Nick Hansen
Royal Wolf has supplied 18 shipping containers fitted out as single-person pods for Bethlehem House, a homeless accommodation service for men in Hobart, Tasmania.
The units, and another 10 for the Hobart Women’s Shelter which helps women and children affected by domestic violence, were commissioned by the Tasmanian Government. They chose to partner with national company Royal Wolf, which has a depot just outside of Hobart, as a supplier for the container housing project.
Royal Wolf CEO Neil Littlewood says it has been an "uplifting feeling" to be involved.
"I am just very proud of our company’s capacity and how we’ve been able to work with local authorities through our local team to provide that solution in a quick turnaround," he says.
The pods were commissioned under the Government’s $5 million Emergency Homeless Response package, part of an eight-year $258 million Affordable Housing Strategy to create new permanent shelters and longer-term housing stock in the State.