When Alan’s mum was diagnosed with cancer, he stepped up to look after her. But after she passed away, his world became grey. ‘I just felt lost and I didn’t want to keep going,’ he says. In a state of grief, he left his job—but says looking for another job ‘crushed my spirit’.
Alan turned to alcohol, and started drinking throughout the day to numb his sense of loss. Then, his rent went up multiple times in one year, forcing him out of his home.
Alan found himself living in his car for two months. ‘It was pretty bleak,’ he says. His two dogs were his greatest comfort, but also made finding a rental property almost impossible.
Then, someone suggested he visit The Salvation Army. He was welcomed in and given supplies and food parcels to get him through the tough time. Alan began working with financial mentor Jeff Jones, to help him deal with the issues that had dominoed into crisis.
‘We try and use food assistance as a tool,’ explains Jeff. ‘So we’ll say, we’ll get you food parcels for the next couple of weeks so you can start saving for your rental bond. The idea is that they can work their way out of the crisis.’
‘It was really daunting,’ admits Alan. ‘We looked at how much money I was getting, and how many outgoings I had, and found that each week I was minus $150 which is why I was going backwards.’ Jeff advocated with WINZ and helped negotiate debts.
‘It is difficult to live in poverty,’ reflects Jeff. ‘A lot of times people are trying to manage, but things that have an easy solution if you have that spare $2000, can become a vicious debt cycle for someone who doesn’t.’
Alan also found a community of great guys through the Sallies’ Positive Lifestyle Programme (PLP). ‘I wasn't really socialising that well, I was quite withdrawn. But it was really cool to meet people in similar circumstances,’ reflects Alan. ‘It helped share my story and get my sense of self worth back.’
PLP has become a core programme for the Sallies, helping people process the emotional obstacles they face, as well as helping them gain life skills. ‘We talk a lot about overcoming grief issues, and goal setting,’ explains Jeff, who runs a PLP group especially for men. ‘It offers people a chance to regroup, discover more about themselves, and to figure out what direction they want to go. PLP does really work because it is confidence-building and there is also a powerful aspect to community.’
For many men, the loss of a job brings a loss of confidence. Then, there are relationship breakdowns and limited contact with children, which carries a lot of unspoken pain. ‘We encourage the men not to turn away from the grieving,’ says Jeff. ‘All of sudden, this burden they walked in the door with—this struggle no one really understands—they realise a lot of the guys are in that same struggle.’
The friendship formed through PLP was a major stepping stone for Alan. ‘It really helped me reintegrate myself into society, socially. We would go out and do social things—like we went rock climbing, and I didn’t want to do it, but Jeff said, 'Just try it,' and I did it and it was cool! The guys in our course were quite close by the end.’
Another game-changer for Alan was when Jeff asked him to volunteer as a foodbank driver. ‘It gave me responsibility, and confirmed to me that I was useful and I wasn't a write-off like I thought,’ he reflects.
With his confidence building, Alan did the hard work of saving for a bond and finding a home—all with Jeff’s support. Alan even landed a great job, and his life began to fill with colour once more.
Today, Alan regards Jeff as a ‘good mate’ and the Sallies’ doors are always open for him to pop in and have a cuppa. ‘When people who don’t know you help you, it makes you feel life is worth living,’ he says. ‘Life is better than ever now.’