The novelty of sleeping rough didn't last long for Ian Herivel

Gabriel Fowler
By Gabriel Fowler
Updated August 3 2022 - 11:47pm, first published 8:00am
NOWHERE TO GO: Becoming homeless can "happen overnight", says Lake Macquarie man Ian Herivel, pictured with his dog, Sidney. Picture: Marina Neil

IT started out as a way of getting away from his family for a bit, and turned into a two-year stint of being homeless.

Ian Herivel, of NSW's Hunter region, found himself living in a circus tent which had been thrown out, with two big rooms.

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"To start with it was a bit a novelty, camping out sort of thing, but as time progressed it became a full-time job because you've got no fridge, you've got no water, and you've got no food,' Mr Herivel told ACM's Newcastle Herald.

"You've got to get water daily, and food daily, and hygiene too ... you've got to keep yourself clean."

The tent had no poles and was held in place with sticks, and it leaked, so he slept under an umbrella when it rained, and it was often wet, muddy and mouldy.

"That tested your mental heath," he said. "Sometimes it got scary and I had to tell myself I was the scariest thing in the bush."

While he knew there were services available to people like him, he was too embarrassed to ask for help.

There are more than 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in Australia, and for people like Mr Herivel, it can come out of nowhere.

To end homelessness we need a plan - that is the theme of this year's Homeslessness Week, which runs from August 1 to 7.

As part of its annual campaign, Homelessness Australia is launching discussions within the sector about what the national plan needs to include. On the list is the shortage of social housing, which has shrunk from 4.8 per cent of all homes in Australia in 2011 to 4.2 per cent in 2021.

Homelessness is not "rooflessness", but Mr Herivel was among the minority - the seven per cent of people without a home sleeping rough.

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When police reached out to him in May of 2020, he had become a recluse

"They've told me there's this disease thing going around killing people, and I said, 'What, like the plague?'. I didn't even know about this COVID".

He was referred to the Lake Macquarie assertive outreach team and by 22 June he was able to move into his own home.

He is now the proud owner of a five-year-old rescue dog, Sidney, and gets involved with his local community. Mr Herivel said he couldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams that homeless would ever happen to him. "It can happen overnight, it's definitely a reality and people should be aware of that," he said.

Gabriel Fowler

Gabriel Fowler

Journalist

Experienced journalist covering areas including court, community and social welfare, justice, the environment, and broader investigations. Gabriel.Fowler@newcastleherald.com.au