A safe, affordable home has brought peace of mind to a Tasmanian man who was homeless after a series of life challenges.
Gary Brooks spoke recently at an event to mark the 10 year anniversary of Bilton Lodge, a supported accommodation facility in southern Tasmania managed by Anglicare.
Bilton Lodge offers safe, long term communal housing for people who were homeless. This affordable option includes meals, electricity, a weekly linen service and recreational activities.
“A home base makes a lot of difference and I want people to know that I appreciate it,” said Gary. “Anybody can come into a hard situation. I didn’t dream that in such a short period of time I’d be down and out, and thinking horrible thoughts”.
Gary said the downward spiral began when the house he had rented for 15 years was put up for sale. “I got a letter saying the house is going to go on the market and you’ve got to get out in three months,” he said. “I didn’t expect that. I had to get rid of all my possessions and clear the house out. I started living in a van”. In the months that followed, both Gary’s parents died – leaving him grief stricken and depressed. “I started drinking,” he said. “I was waking up in the middle of the night drinking, getting up in the morning drinking”. Gary said he considered suicide.
A friend urged him to contact Housing Connect for help to find accommodation. As a result, Gary visited Bilton Lodge at Claremont where he met with the Anglicare staff. “I started hoping, thinking ‘wouldn’t that be nice?’ I was sick of winter. I’m 61 years old and I wasn’t well. I was really doing it rough”.
Gary said the relief at being offered a home at Bilton Lodge had been overwhelming. “It was fantastic. I got the key and they showed me how to work things,” he said. “I sat on my bed and thought ‘oh thank God’.”
“My kids were worried about me and before then I just couldn’t see any answer to give them,” said Gary. “It was good to be able to tell them and they were all happy for me.”
Gary said his health was improving and he valued the ongoing support from Anglicare. “I’ve been feeling much better,” he said. “I have my own lovely self-contained unit with reverse-cycle air conditioning. I read books and use the local library. As long as I have a book I can relax. I have a radio beside my bed so I can listen to music”.
“And there are people to talk to,” said Gary. “For example, I had an infringement notice for not voting in an election when I was homeless. It really worried me but the team helped me to sort it out”.
A special BBQ lunch was held at Bilton Lodge last month to celebrate the 10 year anniversary. It was also an opportunity to show visitors a newly refurbished foyer and living area, made possible by a generous bequest.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978