One of Rockhampton's homeless, Steven Freeman.
One of Rockhampton's homeless, Steven Freeman. Allan Reinikka ROK160218afreeman

Rocky man explains heartbreaking journey to being homeless

THE only hope Steven Freeman has left, is the hope that he will breathe tomorrow.

Mr Freeman was lining up for a free lunch of salads, cold drinks and barbecued ribs on Friday at Rockhampton's Red Cross when he sat down with The Morning Bulletin to recount a life that has led to being homeless.

 

HELPING HANDS: Marcus (left) and Ben Sorenson work at Red Cross to cook for and host events for Rockhampton's homeless.
HELPING HANDS: Marcus (left) and Ben Sorenson work at Red Cross to cook for and host events for Rockhampton's homeless. Allan Reinikka

As a child, Mr Freeman had his first taste of homelessness, living on the Rockhampton streets with his brother and sister when they were placed in Neekol Home in the mid to late 60s.

"When I grew up, I didn't know my mother," he said.

"My father's aunty raised me.

"It took me 18 years to meet my mother and my 18 other siblings but I felt out of place, because they were not used to me and that continues today.

"It's played on my mind throughout my life."

Despite his auspicious beginnings, Mr Freedman managed to make a life for himself, doing clerical work for government agencies in Canberra such as the National Aboriginal Contracts.

 

STRUGGLE STREET: One of Rockhampton's homeless, Steven Freeman.
STRUGGLE STREET: One of Rockhampton's homeless, Steven Freeman. Allan Reinikka ROK160218afreeman

When the parties were disbanded, Mr Freeman made his way to Weipa where he worked as an employment consultant, helping those who struggled to find a means of employment to support themselves.

When his son died in custody in Canberra and his marriage fell apart, Mr Freeman's life turned upside down and he turned to alcohol.

"Every day since he died, I have drunk," he said.

"I didn't have any sense of responsibility, didn't want to abide by my principles and hygiene wasn't a priority.

"I threw everything out the door and the more I drank, the sadder I got and the more sorrow I felt."

When Mr Freeman moved to Woorabinda, he struggled with the changing rules surrounding alcohol.

"They introduced a wet canteen in Woorabinda and made us all alcoholics," he said.

"Then they shut it down and brought in alcohol management plan which prohibits alcohol in the community.

 

One of Rockhampton's homeless, Steven Freeman.
One of Rockhampton's homeless, Steven Freeman. Allan Reinikka ROK160218afreeman

"Then you see a large influx of the indigenous people from that community coming into Rocky because they want to get away from the high prices out there and look for accommodation here which is the same as what I done.

"They are looking for a less policed community because there are rules you believe with as an indigenous person and most of our ancestors have already gone through that hurt and pain."

On top of his plight with alcoholism, Mr Freeman is unable to work due to his schizophrenia and depression.

So without financial support other than his disability pension, he is forced to seek alternative means.

"We have a centre called the Edward Trub Diversity centre in Alma St that offers bedding and a meal in the morning, but because of the amount of homeless people, there are regular times where there's no room and we head back down to the board walk and sleep there or under the bridge," he said.

"There's not enough focus on homeless people.

"It doesn't matter what culture or background it is, homelessness is widespread in Rocky, you see it everywhere, every day.

It was when he stepped foot in Rockhampton's Red Cross facility three years ago that he realised there was help available for many people like himself.

"Initially it was just the free breakfast on a Wednesday and a lot of were on the riverbank and homeless, struggling at the time and still struggling today," he said.

"We were informed by the management of Public Intoxication Program about the breakfast and they sent a bus to pick us up.

"They have psychologists and programs like Gamblers Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, parenting and financing and you can have a coffee and sit down and talk to others that can relate to you."

Local organisation CQID has also helped Mr Freeman get back on his feet, finding him a place at Neville Bonner hostel and helping him organise an 18 plus card.



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