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Loving life in ‘paradise’ after 37 years on and off the streets

Image of a older gentleman with his back to the camera sitting at an outside table with another person talking

Loving life in ‘paradise’ after 37 years on and off the streets

Stan loves American muscle cars and is such a huge and vocal fan of Aldi supermarkets that they should really consider employing him as a spokesperson. His hobby is building electric bikes from parts that he sources from different sources and online sellers: wherever he can snag a bargain. He is also a hat collector, and rarely seen without his lucky hat.  

Stan has travelled all around Australia, having adventures and some misadventures, whilst experiencing the good and dark sides of places many of us have only dreamed of visiting. He has many a story to tell about his colourful life that it would be practically impossible to record them all.  

For 37 years, since the age of 15, Stan has experienced homelessness on and off. He describes his journey as a drifter’s life. However, Stan has recently started an exciting new chapter: at age 52, he now has his own place to call home in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.  

“I wake up in the morning and it’s another good day…I love life.”  

Part of this renewed sense of enthusiasm, is that Stan is now winning in his battle against alcoholism. No longer does he need a few pints of wine in the morning to get him to a base, functioning level for the day. And although he allows himself to have some drinks socially, he doesn’t feel imprisoned by the bottle. Stan’s previous alcohol dependency had a devastating impact on his health, leading to him having his left leg amputated at the knee last year. He is a wheelchair user and also has a prosthesis, complete with his trademark thong (as he much prefers them than shoes). He’s taking it all in his carefully-practised stride, grateful to not be in pain anymore, although learning to walk again at the age of 52 was obviously a significant challenge. 

Stan was brought up in suburban Adelaide, the adopted son of English migrants, whom he says were good and loving people, but strict. “I rebelled against them a bit,” he admits. 

He left home at age 15, wanting freedom and to escape; to experience life on the streets.  

Initially he connected with some other young rough sleepers, with whom he pooled resources. When one of them received some money, they shared it with the group. By the time they’d spent it, it was usually payday for the next person. 

There was drinking and drug taking, however from an early age, Stan learned the importance of finding food, connecting with services, keeping clean and being alert to danger during his periods on the street. 

“You need to know where’s safe and where’s not safe.” 

Stan has always been mechanically minded, and secured a motor mechanic’s apprenticeship as a teenager. 

“I’ve worked hard all my life,” he explains. 

Stan has had many jobs although his alcohol dependency was a barrier to continuing to work.  He has been a welder, a machine operator, a labourer, involved in the car manufacturing and service industries and worked for a company that made drill bits for diamond drilling. His work stints would usually last for about a year before he was keen for a change of scenery. 

The list of injuries he’s received over the years, including a broken back, broken jaw, broken ribs, missing teeth and being three-quarters blind in one eye, paints the picture of someone who has, literally, experienced some hard knocks. He’s been robbed while he slept and there have also been some hard times emotionally. Stan had three children however is sadly not in contact with them although he would like to be. “My drinking had a lot to do with losing family,” he explains. He misses his parents who have now passed on, but still has some good friends with whom he keeps in touch, including one he has known since kindergarten. 

Stan has been so hungry that he has had to go through bins to find food. But he has never begged. He has called out others on the street for begging before, advocating for them to go to Centrelink, or ask someone where there are local services or churches who may offer some kindness or food. 

“You don’t have to ask for money – you can ask for advice.” 

About three years ago, Stan returned to South Australia. He set up a base in Glenelg, sleeping in a car park. He was on good terms with the regular car park users, and would keep an eye on their vehicles for them overnight. 

“I ran that carpark!” Stan says, only half joking. 

Staff from local eateries would bring down leftover food at the end of the night… “pizzas, baked spuds with sour cream.” 

“They’d feed me and my mates as well!” 

From there, Stan connected with the Toward Home Alliance and credits the team for helping him get off the street and turn his life around. 

The Toward Home Alliance Wellbeing Team from Sonder connected with him in Glenelg one day about a year ago. 

“I was with my swag in the sun having a lazy day, minding my own business under the ferris wheel,” he remembers. 

“It wasn’t obvious I lived on the streets but my swag gave it away!” 

He says he hasn’t been very interested in connecting with services before, as he feels organisations can “make promises and nothing happens”. 

However, he decided to “give them a shot”. 

The two team members said they would come back to see him every week. And they did. Every week.  

They supported Stan into Emergency Accommodation; he stayed in two different motels. 

They visited him in hospital following his amputation and during his period of rehabilitation, and they assisted him with his NDIS paperwork to get him assistance and link him in with specialist care and support. 

The South Australian Housing Authority (SAHA), through the Adelaide Zero Project also worked hard to find a property that would set Stan up to succeed, eventually offering Stan a wheelchair-accessible two-bedroom unit at Largs Bay.

Stan says he lives “in paradise”. The home is not too far from the beach, has its own little yard and driveway, and his lease renewal period has just been extended from three months to six months. 

A cleaner and a gardener assist him to with housekeeping thanks to the NDIS, however Stan does all his own cooking as he enjoys it so much. He has someone to take him to the gym twice a week amongst other activities. He enjoys online gaming and the sense of community that brings. 

He watches his money and budgets.  

“I realise over the years, how much [the cost of] food’s gone up. My gosh! 

“Aldi is the place to go!” 

He is grateful to the Toward Home Wellbeing Team from Sonder and thinks pay rises and promotions should be in order. “Their support is what I really needed,” he says. 

Stan wants other people living on the street to know support is out there. 

“You don’t have to live on the street forever,” he says. 

“Don’t ever be afraid to ask. 

“Toward Home were the ones who did the hard work for me. 

“That’s what made my life so much better – it’s turned around.” 

Read more real life experiences of homelessness here.