Saturday, 18 April 2015

My Mum is Homeless and I feel Helpless..

I still remember the day when my Family Service Officer told me that my Mum was living on the Streets in Brisbane. I remember her facial expression when she told me, where we were and how it made me feel. I was 14 years old.

As much as it made me feel sad, it also made me feel mad. I was mad that I was still waiting for her to better her life for us. So we could be with her. So we could be the type of family my friends had and that I envied. While in foster care all I ever wanted was my family back together, happy, healthy but most of all together again. I actually thought Mum would fight for us as she did when we were 9 and 10 years old. But this never happened. And on that day, while sipping a iced chocolate at the West Field Shopping Centre in Strathpine I knew I'd be in foster care long term with no hope of ever going back to Mum.

We had barely any contact with Mum throughout our time in Foster Care. When we were first placed in State Care we were allowed access visits once a week, then access visits an hour every other week to phone calls every other month. I remember wanting more but talking to her under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol made me so mad at her. I remember telling her to call back when she was sober but she never did. Each time I spoke to her she was high. I felt that she had one thing to do, call us sober and she couldn't even do that. I began hating her.

On my very last placement I was housed with a family who had only just became carers to have me. My foster mother worked at the Bahloo Womens Youth Shelter in Woolengabba and her and I became close while I was living there. I didn't fit in at all surrounded by drug addicted teens and disrespectful youth. She and her partner applied to become Foster Carers and within a few short months she quit the shelter and I was on my way to live with her and her family in Bundamber.

I enrolled in TAFE and was doing well at school but apparently didn't fit in to their lifestyle at home and as a result they locked me out of the house one night. I had short shorts and a singlet on. I had no shoes or my purse and no matter how much I tried begging to go inside, banging, calling their phones there was no way they were letting me back in. I was confused and scared. How they could just leave me outside on a cold night was so unfair. So I scrolled through my phone in need of a place to stay.

I don't know why I stopped scrolling at my Mum's name but I did. Maybe it was because I knew she was homeless and on the streets and now so was I. I pressed dial button and made maybe the worst decision of my life.

For the next 12-15 months I lived on the streets. My Mum was well known everywhere I went and it wasn't long before I had found her. The first time I saw her since being placed in care, she was sitting on an old ripped and stained mattress under a bridge chroming (sniffing paint) with street kids as young as 11 years old. That is an image that never leaves a child's memory after longing for a Mum for as long I had.

I walked over and angrily snatched the bottle of paint out of her hand. In doing so I was confronted with 4 indigenous young people who stood to abuse me. "Are you okay Mum?" they asked her. I tried to explain to them who I was but I had to back off because they were now really angry fueling each other. Mum denied I was her daughter saying that she was their Street Mum now. I left feeling so hurt and angry. All this time I wanted my Mum and here she was sitting with homeless youth who called my Mum, Mum. That hurt.

Within the time I lived on the streets I was subjected to who my Mum was. She was a well known Prostitute and apparently good at what she did. She was described to give anybody her last even if it meant she would go without. She was known to always be in the company of a man though she was never in a relationship. After asking her for money one day she said to give her an hour and to meet me somewhere. Upon arriving she came out of a nearby hotel handing me half of the specified amount, she explained that she was waiting for the other half. We waited on the step and a guy arrived in a Taxi. She embraced him, introduced us and told me she'd be back in an hour with the rest leading him up to the hotel. I left mortified and feeling sick. I knew she was a prostitute but her putting it in front of me like that was very confronting and uncomfortable. I never asked her for money again.

Most of the time I bumped into her at the 139 Club or the Soup Kitchens. Depending on if she was sober or not as to whether I said Hi or not. It's sureal looking back now. Mother and daughter in a homeless soup kitchen eating the only meal they'd have for the day not even looking each others way. I loved her but didn't like who she had become. I was quite embarrassed actually sometimes even denying being her daughter.

When I found out I was pregnant at 17 years old while heavily addicted to drugs and living in a house filled with prostitutes and other drug addicts I knew I had to better my life. I had been asking God for some time to give me a way out of the life I was living and I saw this baby to be the answer to my prayers. It was opportunity to better myself and I was determined to take it with both hands.

For two weeks I held my Youth Allowance, cold bited (begged for money) and saved every penny I made. I found out that my brother was no longer in Brisbane and had moved back to Melbourne with our Father. I intended to move back to Melbourne to find my sister whom I knew was already a young mother herself. I found Mum who was with her husband and told my partner at the time that I was leaving. He could come too but I only had enough money to get myself and my Mum back. Our partners came up with the money to come too and we booked our tickets with stolen pension cards.

With the money we had we could only get to Coffs Harbour. We stayed at a backpackers with all the money we had left before we again had no where to stay. Mum and her partner pitched a tent on Macauleys Headland. My son's father stole money so we could afford to stay at the caravan park. For three days the three of them were high every hour of the day. They were Dr Shopping and would split the pills. They would take the pills with alcohol to advance the effect of the medication and became argumentative, angry and violent. I lost count how many times I got beat up for asking them to calm down or be quiet. I was pregnant and should have lost my baby.

When we finally arrived in Melbourne it was somewhat a relief for me. I was so excited. Mum called a family member who put us in contact with my Nana. Nana gave my sister our contact details and we slept on the streets for two nights waiting for her to call. It was very uncomfortable but we had no choice. The nights were cold and as a result my asthma began to play up. I wasn't used to the Melbourne air.

Upon reaching my sisters house that was the end of my time on the streets. She took us in but it would take 6 other people to put us up before finally having a place to call my own just 2 weeks before my son's due date in November 2009. Our first place was in emergency accomodation in Powlett Street, then once Jie was born we moved into tempory housing in Lord Street before finally settling in the house I'm in today. 10 years ago now.

While I have made an amazing life for me and my children here, Mum and I had only seen each other twice since I moved here. It had been the choice I made for my family. She was no role model and to be honest I've always remained that because she was never a mother to us, she has no right to take on the title of being a grandmother. I chose to have nothing more to do with her.

Just recently, over the school holidays there was a protest in Melbourne. While at the Protest I saw my mother in the distance for the first time in 6 years. The last time I saw her before this was at my Grandmothers funeral in 2009 and she was drunk. I pointed her out to Jie who was beside me. "That's Mum's Mum" I explained to him. He has always struggled to understand why I have dark skin when my father is a "white fella". He now knew why. He wanted to say hello to his grandmother so after the rally I went to see her on my own. She didn't recognize me at first. I had to introduce myself. She was overly excited and embraced me warmly. She was sober. The most sober I had seen her in a very very long time. I introduced her to my son Jie and Jie to her. She grabbed him and hugged his so tight. He was scared. He wasn't expecting her to be so outrageous I don't think. She began introducing us to her people, elders and street folk. She wanted to get dinner with us and so after the Rally she invited us back to where she was staying. It was just so good to see her. Sober.

She took our hands and held them tight. She hadn't changed much. Still a small frame with no front teeth but she did have more scaring on her face, more gray hair and I swear she had gotten shorter. Her and Jie talked about school and his friends as we walked to a laneway. She took down a side street called Baptist Place and introduced us to streeties along the way. Realizing that she too was homeless I wanted to turn back. She showed us where she stayed. In an alley way. I felt sick. I didn't want Jie knowing that. I thought she was going to show me her unit or something, not the back streets of Melbourne. I felt sad for her but she was so happy still introducing us to her friends. How can someone who lives on the streets, begs for money and eats hand outs be this happy and okay about it? and proudly show us around?

She took us to what she described as the water wall. There were volunteers giving out food for the homeless and Mum encouraged us to dig in.. I told Jie not to eat anything, that the food in the boxes are for people who don't have food. I told him that I'd buy him something on the way to Pops. He was fine with that. Mum ate though. Together her, Jie and her friend pregnant street friend Kelly sat watching a busker. As I was sitting there I was astounded at how she is still alive after all she has
been through and took a photo just as she asked me to come and sit with her..

(click to enlarge)

I know she put herself there and has chosen this as her lifestyle but she is my mother. She was once my protector, my comforter, the one I relied on. The person she is now reflects on the way she was treated as a child, as an unfit mother and as an indigenous person in Australia growing up with absolutely no family to pull her out of the hole she put herself in. She has been out there on her own and finds comfort in those who validate her choices. She feels she doesn't measure up to mainstream society and told me that she has accepted this type of life for herself for the rest of her life.

I'm the one who hasn't accepted it. I cannot change her and the way she lives or stop her from using or prostituting but I can change my view on the way I see her. Underneath the scars, the mental issues, the drug effected woman is a mother who once loved me more than life itself. I only wish there was more I could have done in the time I spent hating her. Now, she doesn't want help and has openly admitted that she doesn't want to change her situation.

We exchanged numbers and I have called her throughout the week to see how she is going. Each time this week she was high. She wants to speak and see my kids but for now I am refusing to subject them to that. I love her but how do I help someone who doesn't want help? How do I explain this to my children especially Jie who finally met his Grandmother? How do you actively love and respect someone who doesn't respect you or anyone else around her? I thought I had overcome that way of life but someone I care about and love is still out there..

I ask you to please pray for me, my Mum, our relationship and her life.. I've always believed that it's never too late for someone to change their life around, but now, seeing and hearing her on the phone, I'm beginning to doubt that there is hope for her. I love my Mum but don't know how to help her..

I've just linked this post to these three Weekend Blog Hops.. 
Faith and Fellowship Blog Hop

3 replied:

Naomi said...

Mel you are such an inspiration and a blessing! God will help your mom, lift her up to Him. I will pray for your mom.

Lux G. said...

My prayers are with you. Our family, no matter how dysfunctional takes a huge part in our lives. I certainly understand that and so my heart goes out to you.

Things will be better, maybe not today but soon surely it will be.

Romany manwaring said...

Hi mel, when I looked at your comment on my blog I thought I'd would hop over and check yours out and when I read your story I thought to myself what an inspiring woman you are. It's true we only get one mum and it doesn't matter what lifestyle choices they make there will always be a part of us that loves them and there will always be a part of then that loves us. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. -- Romany

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