NO one sets out in life to become homeless.
Neil was a 63-year-old male, with a 10-year history of rough sleeping.
He was one of seven children, and had three children of his own, but had lost contact with most of his family in the few years prior to becoming homeless.
Neil has been through a number of traumatic experiences in his earlier life including a serious car accident as a toddler that hospitalised his mother for a year, and the tragic death of his youngest brother at age 21.
Struggles with alcohol plagued him most of his life, and contributed to being in and out of jobs over the years.
Family and others had offered to help Neil get off the street, but as one of his sisters recounts, he was too proud to accept assistance, and felt that he himself was to blame for his situation.
“Neil was a warm, caring person, a poet who just got lost in the world,” she noted.
He would sleep at a park where he felt safer, but each day for 10 years sat on the steps of Trinity Church in the Perth CBD, often reading a book. He was well known and respected by people working in the city who would pass by.
Here Homeless Healthcare’s Street Health outreach nurse and GP would stop by regularly to see how Neil was doing, and gradually he opened up that he had a plan “to get a house, job and rekindle my relationship with my children and grandchildren”.
He went onto the priority list
for public housing, and UnitingWA arranged interim accommodation while he waited for housing.
In early 2020 Neil contracted a chest infection and was experiencing shortness of breath when he tried to walk even a short distance.
He had had minimal contact with doctors for much of his adult life, but COPD was suspected and he attended hospital to get some tests.
He was diagnosed with a chest infection and Stage 4 lung cancer.
Neil had quit smoking just a few months before, but had been a pack a day smoker since his early teens, taking its toll on his lungs and health.
Neil sadly passed away in September 2020, only a few weeks after his diagnosis.
A public housing offer came through for him just eight weeks after his death.
In his final month, Neil was able to fulfil his wish to rekindle his relationship with family, talking regularly with his sisters, and reconnecting with his children.
Unfortunately, due to a Covid-19 lockdown, his son was not able to get to Perth.
Neil was well loved in the Perth CBD community as the friendly man who sat on the Trinity church steps, and there were many tributes left to him on the steps.”
The children at my son’s city school befriended Neil and had regular interactions with him. He helped helped teach them about homelessness and humanity. They were devastated to hear of his passing but he left a wonderful legacy.