Homelessness is not an Identity

Vicky never imagined she would experience homelessness.

She had worked since she was 14 years of age, had a husband, children, and money, everything she needed and wanted. Until she found herself fleeing domestic violence, and the spiral of having nowhere to live with her children began.

My Name Is… Project is a joint initiative of Bayside, Kingston and Port Phillip Councils that, with support from Council to Homeless Persons, and six inspiring individuals that have experienced homelessness, are placing homelessness under the spotlight to dispel the myths that surround it.

The six participants have shared their stories which highlight how homelessness can happen to anyone. It is complex, diverse and often caused by structural inequality, not individual fault.

On any given night, more than 24,000 Victorians do not have a permanent place to sleep. Across the three Councils, there are almost 1600 people who are homeless, they may be sleeping on the street, on a friend’s couch, or in a car or crisis accommodation.

The stories challenge the common stereotypes that ‘homeless people’ are usually older men sleeping on a park bench. The reality is that people experiencing homelessness are more likely to be young, female or children. Sleeping on the street represents a very small percentage of the homeless population.

Many people who are experiencing homelessness have otherwise ordinary lives, but they do not have a permanent place to live. The highest rate of people experiencing homelessness are women and children escaping domestic violence.

The My Name Is … campaign is based on evidence that these stereotypes and stigmas have a profound and negative impact on how the community responds to people who are homeless.

This is Vicky’s experience, but she says, “Don’t let others define who you are as a person.”

“Do not listen to people who do not know about homelessness. It is an experience, it is not your identity, it is not who you are.”

Vicky said the hardest thing about breaking the homelessness cycle was knowing where to get help and recommends askizzy.org.au as a one-stop shop for practical support.

Vicky now has a home and has re-entered the workforce, working as a trainer and assessor. She also works as a volunteer with Council to Homeless Persons as an advocate for people with a lived experience of homelessness.

The stories of each of the My Name Is… Project participants can be found at bayside.vic.gov.au/MyNameIs together with information on how you can help eliminate homelessness.

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.