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Seeking solace on the streets

It was in late 2004 that Phil, a former Australian army soldier, first realised he wasn't dealing with life. Over a period of time, he found himself struggling with intense feelings of social alienation and claustrophobia.

'It got to the point where I couldn't be too close to people,' he tells Warcry. 'The thought of living in close quarters with people, having a landlord, having a neighbour was hell, so I decided to get into the outdoors and started sleeping in the parklands in Adelaide.' After a few tough years in Adelaide, Phil decided to move to Western Australia where, he says, things started picking up.

'I made a closer connection to God, and I got very good support from people at The Salvation Army', in particular, he says, from the Genesis centre.

'I think it's all the support [Genesis] gives. They tend to throw a lot of faith at you and encourage you and it is all very closely connected to God so I think that makes the big difference.'

When times got really tough, Phil says his Christian faith kept his head above water.

'Suicide has figured prominently in my life,' he says. 'I've known a lot of people who have taken their lives. I've got to the last moments of mine on a few occasions but I've just been pulled out of it and I can only attribute that to God.'

Now about to move into permanent accommodation, Phil says life is as good as he could hope for. 'Yeah. I have been working part-time for a little while now and it looks like another offer is going to come up for some full-time work, which is the first time since getting out of the military 15 years ago.'

Phil says that his time on the streets is never far away from his thoughts—or his heart.

'I guess being homeless allowed me to delve into life a little bit deeper than ever before,' he says.
'Not that I would recommend it to anybody, but now I can say that I'm glad it happened to me, because I think it has expanded me as a person; it has made me grow. It has made me, I don't know, be a little bit more humble, I guess.'

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