70 year old Edwin Miller was homeless, camping rough in bushland and thinking about taking his own life. He now has a roof over his head and a new lease of life.
Edwin is now living in a Home in Place managed social housing unit in Beresfield and is volunteering in the community.
The father of six had worked all his life. He had a career as a circus performer, was a professional shooter and owned and ran several shops but in 2021 found himself face to face with the brutal reality of the Hunter housing crisis.
Edwin was renting small house on a farm but had to leave when the farm was sold. Unable to afford any of the other rental properties in the area, and not wanting to depend on family, he started sleeping in his car and then camping on a property in Clarence Town before finally going bush.
“In the circus I was a trick shooter and also used to make the plaster ornaments for the shows. It was all hard work, but you didn’t notice it. It is how you are brought up; to work hard,” he said.
“What is hard is being homeless. That’s the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Being homeless was devastating and lifechanging.”
After going bush, Edwin built a makeshift tin shed in a national park with a tarp for a door. No water, power or toilet facilities.
“It is indescribable how bad it was, and I spent eight months there,” Edwin said.
Edwin hit rock bottom and for three nights considered taking his own life but a call to Lifeline gave him hope. The next day he walked out and found himself walking the streets of Cessnock.
“In a daze I went to the social security office, and they told me to go and see the people at Home in Place. I’m walking along the street, and I see a sign. I was ashamed and confused. I walked past the office many times. Finally, I went in there and everything changed.”
“They arranged for me to stay at a motel and gave me support to get permanent housing.”
“I checked out after one night, not realising that I could stay longer until they could help me find something else.”
“I went back to the office to thank them, and I cried, like a sook. I’ve tried to write to them, but I can’t find the words. The staff probably don’t realise it, but they saved my life.”
“The ongoing support has been amazing. They helped me to get a fridge and arranged for me to do some volunteer work in the community.”
Edwin has moved into a one-bedroom unit. He now volunteers every Thursday at the Hunter Food Relief Centre run through the Uniting Church at Cessnock.
“Having a place of my own has helped me to feel normal again. I have my self-esteem back. I can cook my own meals; stand on my own two feet again.”
See Edwin's Story
Home in Place is a Hunter-based community housing provider. It manages more than 7,600 social, affordable and disability housing properties in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and New Zealand.
If this story raises issues for you contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24 hours).