January 2

Melbourne for Immigrants, the Hard Way

"Homeless" by George Hodan

Opening up is always hard. Specially when English is your second language. I can hear that tiny little voice now. "You are not good enough for this. Stop it." Oh well... I guess my current situation has taken a bit of a toll on my self-confidence.

The fact is, if I don't speak up, how would you then know my story?

My name is Luis. I come from a crime-ridden third world country. Left all my family behind and I came to Australia to pursue my studies. Alone.

Everything was good. That is, until my dad disappeared and so, I was cut off from all financial support.

My country's embassy has told me that, without any formal request, they cannot intervene and that I should ask relatives for help first.

My mum and siblings have provided me with what little help they can give while trying to fend off by themselves back there. But they can only do it for so long.

I have looked for a job for some time now and I have gotten a few side gigs here and there but, unfortunately, not enough to pay for rent and groceries on a regular basis.

I started a job-hunting log book a few months ago. It says that I have already sent 573 job applications to date, not counting any previous ones. A few have become interviews. None a hire.

A few friends have helped me out a bit and I am currently living -stealthily- off a shed with no electricity and only minimal services, using rechargeable battery packs I have built myself out of donations for energy purposes. As you can imagine, I have become somewhat proficient at urban survival, security electronics, undercover operations, and energy management overall. It wasn't always like that. At some point, I got to know what it meant to sleep rough and how dark some Melbourne streets can be.

I finished my university degree in Information Technology at an Australian university but, with no Aussie experience, no Permanent Residence (a.k.a. PR), and a working visa that I have become to know only too well it is frowned upon by most companies here, it has been proven to be harder than expected to get a stable job. Forget about CentreLink. I already tried that and they have told me I am not entitled to any kind of support from them. As if not being Aussie wasn't already bad enough.

These circumstances have gathered in such a way that I was forced to meet face to face with the other Melbourne. The Melbourne that people don't want to see. The Melbourne that makes people turn their heads away. Welcome to Melbourne, foreigner.

Hit the streets by 6am if you want breakfast. Work on sending those job applications. Knock on a few more doors. If I want dinner, I have to be at some point in the city by 6pm sharp. Fifteen minutes late and there won't be any food left. Lateness here means no food for the day.

If you wanna know the true underground Australia, go homeless.

I have been there and I have experienced it first hand. No job, no money to stay, but neither to leave. Stranded on an island... Literally.

Uhm... Help?

This is how I learned about AngliCare and how I became one of their "customers", so to speak. It was there where I met Alex, Phil, Louise, and many other good people. People that are working on making of Australia a better place. As far as I know, there have been no casualties and I'm still alive so I guess they are doing something right.

A cuppa. A bowl of cereal. Some bread and butter. A friendly face. Someone to talk to. Things that people usually take for granted, suddenly become the most valuable thing around.

But they can't do it all by themselves.

They need your help.

I need your help.

To know how you can help AngliCare, please call 1800 809 722, or you can visit their website on //www.anglicarevic.org.au/

And if you think I am good enough, have a job offer, make a donation, are interested in getting to know my full story, or whether I am for real, you can always get in touch with me.

This article originally appeared on the Christmas 2017 Lazarus Centre Chaplaincy Newsletter, Volume 4 Issue 4, and was reproduced with permission.