Rough sleep: Big Issue Australia vendors on getting some rest when you’ve no place to call home

By Big Issue Australia vendors

Sue | Melbourne CBD

Every morning at 6am, upon hearing the sound of music, all of us have to wake up. We are a group of less fortunate people who have in some way or another lost the cosy comfort of our beds. We are homeless for all different reasons. The community cafe allows us to sleep there every night, from 11pm to 6am. It sounds perfect, but there is not enough quality sleep. We are sleeping like sardines, either on the floor or on the few wooden long benches, or just on the chairs. The light and TV stand are on the whole night, and people keep walking in and out for free coffee and toasties. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, troublemakers make unnecessary noises, too. Despite all this, we are grateful to have a safe place to sleep, and fortunate to have staff and volunteers who are taking care of us.

Magoo | Brisbane

I have been a rough sleeper on and off for 40 years. My quality of sleep is much better when I have a roof and four walls. When I am sleeping rough, I always make sure I’m around cameras, as it gives me some peace of mind. You can never fully relax when you are sleeping rough – you always have to sleep with one eye open.

Sean | Perth

When I was 14, I used to sleep in the sand hills near Cottesloe Beach. I remember finding it very hard to sleep, as it was hard to keep warm. It was hard to get a solid sleep as you don’t know what dangers are around.

Erik | Melbourne

I find it hard to get to sleep because I’m thinking about the future: work, my relationship and money. I’m always trying to make my mark on society, and because of anxiety I focus on stuff for a long time. I don’t get to sleep until after midnight and sleep until 7.30am. If I had to get up earlier, I would not be able to do it.

Big Issue Australia vendor Erik [Photo taken by James Braund]

Shane | Canberra Centre

In 2011 I lost my best friend, my Uncle Tommy, and then I lost my grandfather to cancer and I fell apart. It brought me to drink alcohol, and now I’ve been sleeping rough for three years. I sleep anywhere I can. I did jump in my sleep a lot, but thanks to my wife Kim I no longer jump in my sleep. I’m now safe and happy.

Kelly H | Sydney

I am very lucky because I have found friends I can stay with. Some of my friends are not so lucky, they don’t feel safe. And if the weather is bad it affects your sleep. When you don’t get good sleep, it puts you in a bad mood and affects your relationship with friends and work. I hope my friends’ situations change and they find a home soon.

Jacob S | Sydney

I used to sleep on the street about five years ago, and I have now found accommodation in Redfern. Sleeping in the street made me feel unsafe. You meet all different kinds of people, some good and some bad. It was very unpredictable, as you weren’t sure if they would be in a good or bad mood. I am very happy with my new home.

Rachel T | Sydney

Sleep? What do you mean? Sleep is danger.

In a world of fear and abuse I’m just a number to be pushed and pulled.

What is sleep when you have no safe place to sleep?

When you try and escape into a world of dreams, nightmares will always haunt you.

To me sleep is a word that goes with exhaustion and pain, it’s friend.

To me sleep is just a concept that people like me don’t feel.

Big Issue Australia vendor Rachel [Photo taken by Peter Holcroft]

Nathan C | Brisbane

I have been a rough sleeper on and off for a decade. I sleep pretty well as long as I am not on direct concrete – it is too cold and too hard. So, I grab as much cardboard as I can find then I lay all of my clothes down. That usually makes things soft enough to allow me to sleep.

Pat L | Perth

When I was homeless after my marriage broke down, I slept at a backpacker’s [hostel]; it is what I could afford at that time. It was better than sleeping on the street. Though I had a roof over my head, the quality of sleep was so bad. The music was terribly loud at night, and brawls common. I slept in bunk beds, and contracted scabies and bedbugs. They feasted on my blood at my neck and on my face. A street doctor gave me some medicine that I had to pour over my whole body each night, and then wash it off in the morning.

I realised I needed to keep moving, keep up hope. I needed sleep. I bought a mosquito net to cover my bed, new pillow cases and bed sheets. I placed plastic bowls filled with water under the bed legs.

My Australian citizenship application was rejected because I didn’t have an appropriate address.

While I applied for the citizenship test for the third time, I moved to another backpacker’s. It wasn’t as bad as the first, but there was still loud music during the night and through to dawn. So, I decided to “sleep snack”, dividing my sleep hours during the day while others were out.

Five months later, my citizenship test was successful and transitional housing approved. A good sleep has just begun.