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It's not safe on the streets, stay home, homeless woman warns


Aisha Dow

Bianca Priest lives with her partner and friends under the verandah of an old brick power station in Fitzroy Gardens, just a short walk from Victoria’s Parliament House.

Padding around in stripy black-and-white socks and wrapped in a sparkly scarf given to her by charity workers, she looks like a teenager at a slumber party.

But this baby-faced rough sleeper, 22, is an old hand at living homeless. At 14 she was kicked out of her Brisbane home and at 16 she was raped while sleeping rough.

When she sees ''young kids'' arrive on the street,  she tells them they should go home.

''It’s not safe out here. You could get hurt, you could get killed, you could end up in hospital,'' she said.

''Most young people just run away from home because they just don’t want to do a simple chore. They think they’ll like to be on the streets, that it’ll be a better place than home. But it’s not. It’s better off at home with your parents.''

Bianca is of one an estimated 20 homeless women that live in Melbourne’s CBD - a number that has grown by about 40 per cent since 2012.

Many of those cases have been prompted by family breakdown or domestic abuse.

Homeless workers are concerned about a woman who is sleeping in a laundromat in Ascot Vale.

Another woman reportedly rides the trains all day to stay out of the cold weather, since coming to Melbourne from interstate in a bid to flee a family conflict. At night time, the 60-year-old sleeps in female toilets and doorways along Bourke Street.

For Bianca and her partner Shane, their trip to Melbourne about six moths ago was to be a fresh start.

There are plenty of laughs to be found at their small encampment and it is well serviced by food vans that pull up with an army of volunteers to dispense hot chocolates and pastries.

But at the weekend the wind started pushing the rain into their modest shelter, wetting their blankets. Shane and Bianca have had enough and have started a search for accommodation.

So far the pair have spent nearly 3½ years on the street as a couple. ''That’s as long as we’ve been together,'' Bianca said. 

HuffPost Australia

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