Well its been a busy month for me, 2 flood recovery operations with Disaster Relief Australia and multiple Orange Sky shifts around Brisbane. I started this blog in the Orange Sky HQ, Byron Bay, watching the rain come down and wondering whether I’d get out with a laundry van during the week. That question was answered the following day when Lismore went underwater again.
One of my passions is delving into the world of those sleeping rough to find Veterans that may have fallen off the radar. This week, purely by chance, I found two. One was a Navy CD from recent times and another an Army reservist from years ago. Both were living rough and both had different reasons.
Sitting with these guys and hearing there stories is interesting and provides me an understanding of how Veterans fall through the net. Listening to their thoughts on accessibility, knowledge and perception of Veterans organisations and programs. There’s also the definition of what constitutes a Veteran. This definition drives who we make an effort to help and who we forget. Going back to my Blog “Belonging” released June 21, I see anybody that served in the ADF as a veteran. This isn’t the case for government departments and some organisations who only see Veterans as those whose have deployed. Then there’s the Government system that identifies Veterans and entitlement eligibility by dates served. Isn’t it crazy that services are determined by time spent on ops and what year! Anyway lets get back to this Blog.
The Navy Veteran is interesting in that he chooses to sleep rough, having a campsite established in bushland close to civilisation. He has been recognised as TPI by DVA providing him access to a pension and all services available to Veterans. He explained that living rough is his choice, providing him freedom in movement and accountability, also allowing his TPI pension to stretch further.
He stays in touch with mates and is looking forward to travelling home to New Zealand later this year and attending the CD reunion in Canberra. For all these freedoms he does have challenges. One of these is the accessing of someone to talk to about his state of mind. I mentioned Mates4Mates to him and he said his experience so far hasn’t been great. He’d been paired with young psychologists straight from university who found hard to connect with. His feelings are that while everyone needs to start somewhere, blooding young psychs with veterans managing PTSD isn’t fair to either party. Perhaps we need to balance our service providers a little better.
Understanding that he was able to make sound decisions about his life put my mind at ease and means other than occasional catchups he doesn’t need a lot of support. To provide him options I reached out to my network and touched base with the National and Queensland presidents of the CD trust. He now has there contact emails and he is on their books. The importance of Veterans networks cannot be understated! Now this Veteran will have access to an organisation peculiar to him for future support.
The army veteran is a little more challenging. Not having deployed outside of Australia he is one of the forgotten. As an aged amputee veteran with no access to a phone or computer he has fallen through a gaping hole in the net. With no technology or knowledge of Veterans organisations he has no idea there is help available and lives a sad and somewhat bitter existence.
There are organisations that can help this Veteran though I feel it will be a long journey and I don’t know if he has the will or energy to pursue them. As a starting point I’ve put him in touch with Wounded Heroes. A small organisation they provide immediate accomodation and food to Veterans in need. They also provide a starting point for access to Veterans organisations and programs. I have spoken to Martin and Miranda and they have a 24 crisis hotline to support Veterans.
To round off my week I took the Zimmerman walker out and around Brisbane. It was another great Queensland day and I notched up a healthy 10km wandering the city. Heading home I passed a guy sitting outside Central Train station with a sign saying his name was Matt and he was homeless. People were dropping coins in his container and he looked like he’d do ok. I kept walking up the ramp to catch a train home. All the way up the ramp the voices in my head asked what I was doing, why was I ignoring Matt. By the time I reached the top of the ramp I realised that people like Matt is what I’m all about. A little disappointed in myself I turned around and returned to where Matt was sitting. I introduced myself and asked how he was. He was really doing it tough and didn’t know where he’d be sleeping that night. For this purpose I have the lifeline crisis numbers in my phone and was able to share these with him. He said he’d give them a try and I felt a little less guilty about my initial reaction. I wished him well and headed off home.
Taking a couple of minutes to have a discussion with someone is important. What can really help is if you have contact details for services that can be accessed straight away. Here are some helpful contacts you can carry in your phone and pass out any time.
- Wounded heroes crisis number (Australian Veterans) – 1300532112
- Lifeline Crisis Phone – 131114
- Lifeline Crisis Text – 9477131114
- Bed down Temporary accommodation – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Orange Sky laundry and showers sites (always a food service present) –https://locations.orangesky.org.au/