In the last year, Bolton Clarke’s Homeless Persons Program has supported more than 2,800 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness across Melbourne.
During Homelessness Week this week (6-12 August), we’re shining a light on the life-changing work our team members do and on the inspiring stories of our clients.
Glenn, 53 is a care leaver who spent his youth in and out of institutions – foster care, boys’ homes, juvenile justice. He describes himself as public property until he was 18, and he was in and out of prison until he was in his early 40s.
Glenn met Bolton Clarke nurse Jo O’Neill at VincentCare Victoria’s Ozanam House, in North Melbourne.
“Without Jo, life would be very different,” he says.
Until 2018, he had lived without help. He tried community housing unsuccessfully, but found himself homeless.
He describes his health as generally good, but five weeks after arriving at Ozanam he collapsed and underwent a serious episode resulting in major surgery to have his large intestine removed.
He had used drugs for 14 years, and on release from hospital after the traumatic episode was tempted to start using as a way of masking what he was experiencing. He credits Jo with stopping his regression as he dealt with the psychological impact of major surgery.
Glenn is still working to secure permanent housing, but is navigating the process while spending a lot of time with Jo, who supports his health needs and has helped with linking him to services.
These days, a highlight of his day is being able to pop in and have a cup of tea with her in her in her on-site office at Ozanam House.
“Thanks to Jo, I want to get a qualification to start helping young people avoid the criminal system,” he says.
“I can’t do anything now that’s physically based, which is the work I had done in the past, but I can go back and retrain in youth work and give some kids like me the right path to go on.
“I come in here the most days and have a cuppa with Jo, and she listens to me and offers advice. She believes in me perhaps more than I believe in myself – having Jo to talk to means that I can think about a new kind of life.”