Counselling homeless in fight for survival


Maureen Barlin, Flickr

The “street community” faces prejudice on a daily basis

Sunshine Coast homeless charity president Wendi Rampton describes 31-year-old Aysha Baty as an alpha. Homeless, strong-willed and constantly living on the edge, she had to be.

Ms Baty, who was killed in late August while living on the streets of Nambour, was one of over 785 Sunshine Coast people who experience homelessness. Wendi says she was a “tough street girl” who would constantly fight to survive. She talked about Aysha’s loved ones, from her devoted relationship with her boyfriend Jacob who “worshipped the ground she walked on”, to her mother who did all she could to help her daughter. A tragic end to the life of a woman who would not stop fighting.

The story of Aysha Baty begs many questions, but the biggest is how can a death like this be stopped from happening again?

There are several not-for-profit organisations on the Coast who use their time to help those in need and know the ins and outs of the homeless community. These humanitarians are on the streets every day to help the homeless and to answer valuable questions.

Campsite Rescue president Wendi runs one of the only outreach groups on the Sunshine Coast. Wendi says the group provides necessities to the homeless seven days per week and aims to relieve their hardship.

“We go out and we feed the homeless, we provide clothing, toiletries, bags, swags, tents, bedding and anything else they might need,” Wendi says. “We do this in several locations around the Coast, we move as they move because the homeless are quite transient people. We are helping them help themselves.”

Wendi says the “street community” faces prejudice on a daily basis. Not all homeless people have been living on the streets for the majority of their lives. She regularly helps many ex-professionals doing it tough, from tradesman to teachers, and even lawyers.

“The homeless come from all different walks of life but end up at the same destination,” Wendi says. “The reason lots of people are homeless is because they have had a traumatic childhood and have managed to deal with it for most of their lives. But come around aged 50 and this starts to compound and they can’t deal with it anymore.”

Homelessness is a complicated issue with a plethora of possible solutions, however many have been trailed and proven ineffective. The most notable was in 2008 when the Australian government committed to halving homelessness by 2020. “The Road Home” strategy involved offering social housing and support through public services to members of the street community. Not only was this completely abandoned, but homelessness has increased by 13.5% since. The future pathways to combat the issue have become unclear, however Wendi says counselling is a good place to start.

“I think there needs to be a lot of counselling because the homeless have tried all their life to get over this mountain that they just aren’t able to climb over,” she says. “It will give them more life skills to become resilient and to understand their situation. If anything it allows them to unload the burden that they have been carrying all their lives.”

Aysha Baty was killed in late August while living on the streets of Nambour (@valypi4 Pixabay)

Wendi says counselling the current homeless is not only vital in their progression and approach to life but can also be used to deter the issue from occurring in the first place. “People need assistance long before ending up on the streets is even an option,” Wendi says. “This will help people manage these really difficult situations that push them to the streets. I don’t think we will resolve homelessness until we give people the opportunity of assistance throughout their lives at important times.”

The Shack Community Centre also helps the homeless by providing fundamental needs. The Shack Community Centre co-founder Dale Dowler says contrary to the beliefs of many Australians, inadequate housing and a poor family life are not always the catalyst for life on the streets.

“We have had people come to The Shack who have had absolutely wonderful backgrounds with terrific upbringings and loving families and have ended up homeless,” Dale says. “Where homelessness develops from is just so wide and so varied. It’s a complicated issue but it’s simplistic as well, because the essence of trying to bring someone back from a place of despair comes down to love and connection.”

There are several ways our community can make the lives of the homeless just that little bit easier, Dale says we can start by offering “a welcoming smile”. “People are still a bit ignorant and think that everyone that’s homeless is a criminal, but a large percentage of those that are homeless don’t even fit that profile,” Dale says. “Nothing feels better than when you feel valued and accepted.”

Dale prides his community centre on their welcoming attitude which allows him to build connections with members of the homeless community, including Aysha prior to her murder. Over the years he fostered a relationship with Aysha and recently honoured her by conducting her funeral service in Buderim. Dale says Aysha was a “beautiful young woman” whose story will not be forgotten.

“It’s a case of learning from the fact that people can be so vulnerable,” he says. “We can certainly learn from this and the legacy that Aysha left which was tolerance and love for one another.”