Real Life

Real life: Four people share their stories on how they ended up homeless

My daughter doesn't know I'm homeless

By Brittany Smith
Azita Abdollahian has started an incredible initiative of providing haircuts to homeless people. Take 5 met the inspiring woman, and spoke to some of her clients. They share their stories.

Azita Abdollahian, 45, Castle Hill, NSW

Nearly two years ago I saw a video of a homeless man being harassed.
It was heartbreaking to see someone so vulnerable treated so poorly.
That video triggered something in me.
I knew I had to act.
I started visiting the homeless people in Sydney's Martin Place every week and donating my hairdressing services.
Everyone deserves to look and feel good and I'm happy to give that to people.
Now I run a Facebook group, Shining Light Foundation.
We have more than 700 members who band together to help the homeless in Sydney.
I'm honoured to help these wonderful people who are so often abused and ignored.
Matthew talking to Take 5's Brittany.

Matthew, 22.

I had a rough childhood and I've been homeless on and off ever since I was 15.
Living on the streets is scary.
I've seen people die from heroin overdoses and I've been assaulted a few times.
One random guy slapped me across the head so hard he ruptured my eardrum.
After he attacked me, he cut off a guy's fingers.
He's in jail now but there are others like him out there.
Now I've got a swag and I live in a park in Alexandria.
I've even started working as a garbo.
I was determined to get back on my feet without help from the government so I wrote up a resume and sent it off.
I've saved a little so far but I'm really buckling down now.
I just want a normal life.
My dream is to own a nice brick house and with my new job, I'm hoping to at least be back in an apartment by Christmas.
Christmas is a time when your friends and family matter more than anything.
I've never really had a traditional festive season.
But I want to do the right thing by the people who have treated me right.
I'm working hard to turn my life around and I'm determined to see that through.
Lafu is grateful for the roof over his head

Lafu, 45.

I was homeless for three years, sleeping rough around Bondi Junction.
It started after I lost my job.
A few mates let me sleep on their couches but I felt like a burden.
I thought I'd overstayed my welcome so I packed up and slept on the streets.
I was too shy to beg for money so I went without.
I love smoking, even though I know it's bad for me.
When I was on the streets, I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone for a spare cigarette.
Instead, I carried a lighter and picked up the butts people left on the ground.
Smoking a stranger's discarded ciggie was gross but I had no other option.
Christmas was a very lonely time for me.
I didn't know about any of the services or charities that I could've gone to so I stayed by myself.
It was hard to go without a proper Christmas feast.
Now I'm living in assisted housing and life is much better.
I still see my homeless mates and let a few of them stay with me when they need a place to sleep.
I'm not rich but I won't ever forget where I've come from.
Azita feels honoured to do the work she does.

David, 31.

I married the love of my life, Natasha, when we were just 18 years old.
We had a beautiful daughter and were completely happy.
Then, at 22, Natasha was driving home when a drunk driver flew through a stop sign and ploughed right in to her.
She didn't survive.
After that I was a mess.
I turned to alcohol to deal with everything and I lost my job as a mechanic.
I couldn't stand living in that same house anymore so I sold it and gave all the money to my dad.
He looked after my daughter while I spiralled.
My daughter's 11 now and I see her every now and again.
She looks more like her mother every day but she loves mechanics, just like me.
She doesn't know I'm homeless.
Dad told her I go away for work and that's how I want to keep it.
I don't want her to think I'm a failure.
I haven't celebrated Christmas since I lost Natasha.
That time of year only upsets me and I'd rather spend it alone.
I'm just living day by day, trying to get by.
Brittany and Azita.

Chance, 50.

I was recently injured at work and lost my job.
I have a young son and, unemployed, I didn't have enough money to keep both of us going.
I couldn't bear the thought of my son going without so he moved in with my ex.
I send money to him every week.
That means I'm living on the streets but that's okay.
As long as my son is cared for I can deal with that.
It's what any good mum would do.
Azita has made a huge difference to us homeless people.
She doesn't just donate clothes and hairdressing services.
She's always got so much energy and positivity.
She values our opinions and conversation.
She gives us dignity and that's something you can't buy or donate.

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