Tough love: A helping hand out of homelessness

Firm friends: Rose Becke and Daniel Hart. All pictures: Christiane Barro

By CHRISTIANE BARRO

An elderly woman’s brand of tough love became the saving grace for a homeless man who was on a downward path of self-destruction with drugs and alcohol.

Until he met Rose Becke, Daniel Hart was plagued with the stresses associated with housing instability.

“I grew up in the system, in and out of institutions. I’d been homeless before as a teenager so I just accepted it and drowned myself in a lot of drugs,” Daniel said.

Rose thought he was the “nicest beggar” she’d ever met. “I just knew he was something different. I call it gut instinct which sounds really crazy.”

She would see Daniel most days begging outside a Coles store in Melbourne’s CBD. She could “hear his intelligence when he spoke”, she said.

“You’re just a waste of space mate, you’re just going to waste away,” Rose told him very bluntly.

“He got up and said, ‘will you just leave me alone’. I finished my cigarette, got up and put $20 in his begging bowl.”

Rose persisted. “Every homeless person needs someone to believe in them,” she said.

And her belief has been rewarded. Nearly a year after they first met, Daniel has quit using illegal drugs, pays roughly $300 a week in rent and wakes up everyday at 4am to go to work.

Rose said she developed a great appreciation for life after having tragically lost both her mother and brother in a car accident when she was just 15. 

Rose’s brand of tough love worked for Daniel.

She understood how it felt to lose everything and still come out the other end.

When they met, Daniel said he had failed at all attempts to make a better life for himself. He also collected so much money being homeless that he began to enjoy it.

On an average week, Daniel said he pocketed roughly $1050 begging on Melbourne’s streets.

Combined with an extra $460 a fortnight from Centrelink, Daniel received more than the average weekly earnings, which according to the ABS is $1179.

He openly revealed most of this money was wasted on illicit drugs, namely ice and synthetic cannabis.

“I wasn’t saving anything … I was sick of it but it was easier being on it,” Daniel said.

And the very programs that were meant to assist him out of homelessness only deepened his drug problem.

During a five-week stay inside a three-bedroom Salvation Army property, Daniel said he slept 18 hours a day and got into more drugs.

He said there were no Salvos employees present, but he was sharing with alcoholic and an ice addict.

“Just the cycle began again,” he said.

As part of his stay, Daniel agreed to see a counsellor, but never experienced a real breakthrough.

“It was more just to keep them happy.  It’s their job so it’s harder to talk to them and be fully open,” he said.

Daniel has turned away from drugs to make a new life.

“It’s all out there but until you believe it, it’s just hard.”

Rose continued to see him. Over a period of months, she started to invite him to her home so he could take a shower, and they’d have lunch together.

“We just connected. I can speak to Rose about anything. She’s the first person I’ve ever been able to do that with,” Daniel said.

She convinced him he deserved a better life to the one he was living. Daniel said no program could have achieved what Rose did.  

“It was that little bit of self confidence that she gave me,” he said.

Rose said she knew that in order for him to build a new life and reintegrate into society, he needed boundaries so she offered to let him move into her home permanently with two conditions that he find a job and stop using drugs.

“When Rose offered me a room, it was time to stop everything,” Daniel said.

Rose said her “gut just said yes”.

“I know what it’s like to be alone. I just clicked with Daniel on that level. He was really honest and I just really cared,” she said.

For Daniel, it was all important. “I’ve lived life, hard and easy”, and Rose gave him the opportunity to live “an easier life again”.