By Paul Dobbyn
GOLD Coast man Karl Stuart spent five years making bullet-proof vests for the police and military, but nothing could protect him from becoming homeless.
The 44-year-old’s fall through society’s cracks started about two-and-a-half years ago when he had to vacate a flat he had rented for about eight years.
“The place was sold and I had to move out,” he said.
“I thought, ‘oh well, I’ll have to do it tough for a couple of weeks till I can afford somewhere to live’.
“This turned into much longer than I could have imagined – months and then years.
“The combat clothing factory was going through tough times and I was getting less and less work, until I was only getting about two days’ work a week.
“That made it impossible to save enough money to afford a rental place so I continued to be homeless.
“I never expected this to happen … if you’d come along four years ago and said to me, what are you going to be doing in four years’ time, I’d never have put down I was ever going to be homeless.”
His situation took a turn for the worse about eight weeks ago, when he was finally laid off.
Since then Mr Stuart, who describes himself as “someone who has to work, that’s what I do”, has gone through a dark time.
One unemployment payment was received two weeks ago, but he said the money from the cheque was stolen.
“So the last eight weeks I haven’t been living on any money … I haven’t had one cent,” he said.
“I’ve just been sleeping out in the backyard of a condemned house.”
One bright spot has been a constant in Mr Stuart’s life since he became homeless.
“I don’t know where I’d be without Rosies,” he said.
“Not only have they been providing me with occasional meals but they’ve also given me a backpack bed.
“That bed’s the best thing ever … I’ve slept out in storms with rain pelting down and you don’t get wet.
“You don’t get eaten by mosquitoes and sandflies either.”
Rosies manager Troy Bailey said Mr Stuart was “a genuine bloke down on his luck and fairly typical of the people the organisation helps”.
“Karl has worked for most of his life in jobs including a panel beater, a station hand in Queensland’s west and a professional fisherman operating out of Cape York,” he said.
“Being homeless has left him in a Catch 22 situation as he tries to find work.
“You really need a home base to get ready to look for work.
“And you need the sort of money that work brings to even pay a bond on a place to live.
“It’s also important to have an address for all sorts of reasons including just somewhere to receive mail.”
Mr Bailey said “everyone Rosies helps has such different stories, but it’s the same story”.
“It’s one of these things: I’ve just hit this low point in life; something has been a catalyst and just tipped me over,” he said.
“… As long as they don’t see a hole at this time; as long as there’s a hand there to help them.”
Mr Stuart, accompanied by Mr Bailey, will tell his story to a group of local businesses at Red Hill’s Normanby Hotel on Friday, June 13.
“Any way I can help to spread the good news about how this organisation helps people like me is important to me,” Mr Stuart said.