Asan's story: from sleeping rough to café career
February 2017 VIC
When the Property Industry Foundation’s PIF House Bonbeach Lighthouse Foundation Home opened in 2014, one of the first homeless young people who entered the newly built Australand (Frasers Property) home was a seventeen year old refugee, Asan*.
Channel Nine’s The Block had designed four young people’s bedrooms in various colour themes, and they were state of the art in comfort, style, and fittings. Asan was surprisingly casual about choosing his room.
“This one will be just fine,” he said, quickly shutting the door behind him. This was somewhat deflating for the Foundation and Lighthouse team who had expected a massive joyful reaction.
As a child, Asan fled his war-torn country, witnessing the deaths of some close family members. After surviving in horrendous refugee camp conditions, with little education, he found himself alone in Australia. Due to his trauma and his limited English, it was difficult for him to settle into foster care and to concentrate on his education. He soon found himself homeless in Melbourne, sleeping in squats and running with the wrong crowd.
In Asan’s first week in the PIF House Bonbeach home, his carers complimented him on the impeccable way he made his bed each day, carefully placing the cushions in their original positions, without a wrinkle in the bedding. The truth eventually came out: he had been sleeping on the floor, not in the bed.
He explained that he was keeping the bed in good condition for someone else who might need it.
“All I need is this floor, this warm carpet and this room with a door I can close,” he said. “This is the best I’ve ever known. You can put another person in that bed.”
It took many hours of therapeutic counselling to help Asan understand that he was truly worthy of sleeping in the bed, and worthy of making the best of his true potential.
He had to overcome severe insomnia and frequently he woke in panic, covered with sweat. The traumas of his past needed to be worked through with the help of the experienced psychology team at Lighthouse.
Over his 18 months in the PIF House Bonbeach Lighthouse home, Asan found a place of healing, education, and the beginnings of his working life. He made friendships and improved his English rapidly.
With support and counselling from his carers, he began a professional barista course at TAFE. As a ‘people person’ he excelled at the course and his qualification enabled him to find work in a café.
His confidence grew till he was ready to transition to independent living. From homeless young person to confident barista: it was an inspiring journey – and the story continues!
Eventually Asan moved to Queensland to live with an uncle who had recently immigrated to Australia and established himself in Brisbane. Asan soon found a permanent full time role in a Brisbane café.
Asan keeps in touch with his old household at Bonbeach and maintains regular phone catch ups with the Lighthouse Outreach team. Today he dreams having his own café.
This is a great example of the impact that a PIF House can make. The safe environment and therapeutic care programs that can be offered in a home environment are ways that the Property Industry Foundation can tangibly assist in the daily rebuilding of young lives.
*Name and photo changed to protect privacy.