Welcome to
Sam's story

The background

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I’m Sam. They say life starts at 40. Let's hope so.

My early years weren’t up to much with my parents falling to alcohol and drug addiction. They did their best I suppose. They didn’t have the best start in life themselves. All I know is that at age 6 my life turned upside down when I was taken into foster care.


Those years were rough with many changes in foster placements. Things got better though when I went to stay at an Agricultural college. That gave me stability and a qualification and eventually a job. The boss wasn’t much good though. He didn’t have the right safety processes in place and when I hurt my back, I could no longer work.


I stayed with friends for a while but when I could no longer afford the rent, there were no more options for me and I ended up on the streets.


Vision for the future

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Living on the streets tends to beat a lot of hope out of you.

I want to feel safe, to have a stable roof over my head, have purpose in my life once more, and feel connected to my community. I don’t want to feel invisible or like an outsider anymore.

Start the journey

Housing crisis

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Sam packs up his room. He can’t take too much as he has to fit it into his two bags and also, his back injury means he can’t carry too much weight. He fits as much of his life as he can into the bags, before walking out the door for good.


Standing on the pavement he feels like there is nowhere to turn. That feeling isn’t unfamiliar to Sam but it doesn’t get any less painful.


Sam starts thinking about where he is going to sleep tonight.

Housing crisis


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I start walking. It doesn’t really matter which direction, I have no place to be. Carrying these bags is so tiring, especially with my bad back.


I need a safe place to sleep for the night so I walk to a house that I know no one lives in. I jump the fence and go to the back porch. I don’t have a blanket or anything so I curl up on the floor and eventually drift off to sleep.


I wake to the sound of the police. Someone saw me jump the fence. They arrest me for ‘unlawfully being on the premises’. They are rough with me even though I tell them about my back. I cop a $500 fine that I know I wont be able to pay off. At least they linked me to a service who can put me up for couple of nights.


I am feeling pretty numb about the whole thing.


Understand the stats


Over half of families have experienced homelessness

Understand the stats


report they had debt that was not a mortgage

Understand the stats


do not have access to $500 in an emergency

Homelessness Crisis Supports

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The next morning, whilst walking around the city, Sam is approached by Dan, an outreach worker from a homelessness support service.


Dan tells him about some crisis supports he could access. He also tells Sam about some accommodation options he can look into.

Homelessness Crisis Supports

Crisis accommodation

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The last few days have really gotten to me but I know if my situation is going to improve, I need to get a safe roof over my head.


I go to a crisis accommodation place Dan told me about. After telling them my story, I get lucky and they tell me a bed will soon become available. They also link me to Alice, a caseworker who they say can talk to me about long-term housing options.


When Alice and I meet up I can see from her face that she doesn’t have good news. She says that although they have links to different housing options, there is limited availability at the moment. She says I can stay in the crisis accommodation for the next couple of days but that’s all they can offer me for now.


My worse fears are confirmed, I will be going back on the streets.

crisis accomodation staff

Over one third (38%) of family members accessed housing pathway or housing support services (multiple times).


On average, families accessed almost three services, with 29% accessing almost three emergency accommodation services

Understand the stats


of 100 Families WA family members indicated that they cannot afford a decent and secure home - This is compared to 0.3% of Australians

Accessing support

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Not sleeping on the street for two nights has given Sam some needed headspace to make a plan. On Monday when services open back up, he is going to seek some support. He doesn’t want to spend any more time on the street.


He decides he needs two things to help get him back on his feet; register for job seeker payments and explore work opportunities.


He waits outside the library until it opens so he can use their free WiFi. After writing down all of the numbers and addresses he needs, he sets off…

Accessing support


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By the time I arrive at Centrelink at 9am it is already busy. It’s so embarrassing to be carrying around my bags but where can I put them?


Standing near the entrance I am approached by a staff member who asks how she can help. I ask to speak with a social worker but am told none are available so instead, I take my number, sit down, and wait to be called up.


After waiting for an hour, I finally sit down with a staff member but after 10 minutes she tells me bluntly that she can’t offer me any financial help. Instead, she gives me a list of places I can go to get free food. As she walks away from me she checks her hair in the reflection of the window. She doesn’t care about me or my situation and has no idea what I am going through.


I leave feeling angry but mostly, just sad. What am I going to do now?


The system and services not designed from perspective of lived experience

Centrelink staff

Most families (82%) on Newstart (now Jobseeker) have at least one one chronic health condition and at least one mental health condition (76%)


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Sam has been living on the streets for several weeks now. His phone was stolen over a week ago so no one can get hold of him, including the job network provider.


He is bored and the futility of his situation is starting to get to him.


Sam manages to use a computer at his local homeless drop-in centre only to get some more bad news through his email. He is in debt.



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Where does honesty and being upfront get you? After I went to Centrelink last month to try and get some support, they now are telling me I owe them money. Apparently, their fancy computer system worked it out.


I’ve done that many casual jobs, they think based on my average income that I’ve been collecting income support at the same time as earning personal income. It’s a mistake! Despite my situation, I have always been honest. Being homeless doesn’t make me a bad person and giving me a debt now is like kicking me while I am down – it’s only going to push me lower.


I really need something to take my mind off of all this stress. I have met a few people on the streets with who I’ve become pals. I’ll see if they are around, maybe have a drink.

Computer robodebt

Families reported they experienced an inability to sleep (65%) and stress-related illness (60%) as a result of debt.

Understand the stats


report they had debt that was not a mortgage


Listen to the audio

Homeless, jobless, carrying debt and without any formal support, Sam feels like his chances of getting off the streets get smaller each week.


He has made a small group of friends and although he knows he can’t fully trust them, they understand and look out for him.
That means a lot.


Sam still wants help but sometimes it feels like the system has been built to keep him down.


Support network

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For the first couple of weeks, I didn’t speak to anyone else on the streets. It wasn’t until I met James that I started talking. James has a similar story to me.


He took me under his wing, introduced me to a few of his mates. He also looks out for me if things get a bit crazy. The streets can be a very violent place.


There are some drugs and drinking in the group, which can cause problems, but at least we can talk about our problems and make each other feel like we matter, like we exist. They know how the streets work and can be a good source of advice.


That sometimes is the only thing that gets me through.


Unstructured social engagement is valued more highly than structured interventions. Agencies could consider how to encourage and support these existing networks and preferences

End of story

Thank you for exploring
Sam’s journey

Scroll down if you want to make an impact

Calls to Action

Families repeatedly asked us before, during and after their engagement; ‘how will my information be used to make a difference? It is through this lens and in the context of your own influence and responsibility that these calls to action should be viewed.

Support people to identify and achieve their life goals – their way

Families are intimately familiar with their own circumstances and needs and hold valuable perspectives about what approaches would work for themselves and their communities.

Elevate the role and amplify the voice of people experiencing disadvantage

Families consistently reported that they often don’t feel seen or heard in policy or practice settings and would like to add their voices and lived experience in designing, implementing and evaluating policies, programs and social change that impacts them.

Ensure every Australian has access to adequate income to meet their basic needs

The 100 Families WA evidence demonstrates the positive benefits that the Coronavirus Supplement had on family members, which ultimately supported them to live with a greater dignity.

Build and strengthen local community networks and supports

Families draw on their relationships with family, friends, neighbours and community networks when available, for both practical assistance and emotional support to meet a variety of needs.

Challenge stigma and create a safe, supportive environment for people

Family members continue to experience stigma and discrimination at individual, community, service and societal levels. Safe, supportive environments can help reduce people’s experiences of stigma and discrimination.

Make it easy as possible for people to access support when they need it

Family members reported a range of personal, organisational and systemic barriers to accessing formal and informal supports. Reducing these barriers can reduce the financial, emotional and time costs for families who are currently navigating multiple formal supports.

Prioritise and develop trusted and enduring relationships

Families’ positive experiences of seeking support depends on being genuinely listened to and supported with care and understanding of their individual circumstances.

Invest in prevention and early supports

Policies, services and community-based programs focused on prevention and early support, in addition to crisis services, can help support people to solve issues before problems escalate.

Recognise the value of caring roles and other contributions to society

Recognising, valuing and supporting the multiple ways that family members contribute to their families and society can create social and economic benefits and reduce inequality


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Click on the links below to download key resources to help you on your learning journey.

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Download the Summary Report
Download the Lived Experience Framework

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Sam is a 40-year-old man that had a tough upbringing. He passed through foster care and went to university but never had stability and frequently finds himself with no place to go.

Today, all I want is to feel safe, to have a stable roof over my head, have a purpose in my life once more, and feel connected to my community. I don’t want to feel invisible or like an outsider anymore.
Background Sam is a 40-year-old man that had a tough upbringing. He passed through foster care and went to university but never had stability and frequently finds himself with no place to go.
Vision/goals Today, all I want is to feel safe, to have a stable roof over my head, have a purpose in my life once more, and feel connected to my community. I don’t want to feel invisible or like an outsider anymore.