There’s little escape from Ballarat’s harsh winter weather for a small group of people who have made ‘home’ on the front doorstep of Civic Hall.
Each of the four is wrapped in blankets, as they sit on a thin mat which covers the cold concrete ground. Some have been sleeping there for more than four weeks, after being ‘moved on’ from their previous set up behind the Ballarat Library.
It’s not their first winter on Ballarat’s cold streets.
Ben has been homeless for five years. He came to the city for work around 13 years ago after the factory where he was working full-time in Sunbury shut operations.
He found himself homeless after a new landlord forced him out of the unit he had lived in for 10 years for renovations.
“He took me to court to get me out. I had just started a new job and couldn’t get to court.
“I just didn’t go. Then he rang me up and said I had 11 days to get out. I had no vehicle, no way to take all my stuff. I took what I could move and left the rest.
“I got blacklisted from the real estate because I couldn’t move all my stuff out. I had no choice. I couldn’t go back to a rental.”
If I could access affordable housing, I would. But nobody has given me a chance.Ben
After being passed between different homelessness support organisations, Ben said he didn’t know who to turn to next for support.
“They just palm me off to everybody else. They send you to this joint, go to another joint, it goes around in circles,” he said.
“I’m not on a pension, I am just on Newstart. My knees are screwed and my back is not good, but I am sort of physically able to work. So they think I am capable of getting work and getting my own house and I don’t need help. It is quite depressing really.”
“If I could access affordable housing, I would. But nobody has given me a chance.”
Ben left to meet with a job adviser after our conversation on Monday afternoon.
He’s not sure where he will call home next week, or next month – the thought of leaving Ballarat has passed his mind – but for tonight, it’s back to the cold concrete outside Civic Hall.