The last 11 months for Robin Roebuck has been hard but a “life-changing helping hand from the public” means he’s no longer suicidal and now sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Being held up at knife point and having my car, my home, and everything I own inside it stolen, including $150 I had saved from Centrelink payments for Christmas was the worst thing I experienced while living on Perth streets.” Mr Roebuck said.
Mr Roebuck, who lived on the streets for six years and was one of the original “bushies” living in a tent in Rockingham, said the reason he was no longer homeless and had a full-time job was because the public supported and believed in him.
Led by South West Australian Homeless People founder Jonathan Shapiera, the community rallied around the 57-year-old after he “lost everything” at knifepoint five days before Christmas last year and donated about $2000 for him to get on his feet.
Part of that money went towards Mr Roebuck’s move to Townsville, where he surprised his daughter who he hadn’t seen in five years, and to see his two-year-old grandson he’d never met on Christmas Day.
“It was an emotional day and a Christmas present to all of us,” he said.
“Had I not got help and the community’s support I would still be in WA and probably would have killed myself – I had tried to suicide in 2016 and was hospitalised. So that money and support has definitely been life-changing.”
The pride in Mr Roebuck’s voice is evident when he tells how his tent has been packed away; how he no longer lives in his car; and how he’s managed to complete a Certificate III in Business since moving back over east.
The grandfather of 10 had lived in WA for 36 years and became homeless after he was injured in a car accident and was unable to work.
“I have a full-time job and can now support myself. I now have a purpose and it’s given me self-esteem. Now I just look forward and suicide is no longer on the table.”
Because this seemingly small amount of money was “life-changing” for Mr Roebuck, he was appalled by the corruption scandal unfolding at the Department of Communities, with Housing Authority bureaucrat Paul Whyte allegedly pocketing $25 million from the public purse over the course of a decade.
“Their job is to help people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, needing support and housing, not fill their own pockets with State money,” he said. “They’ve essentially taken money out of the mouths of children.”
Mr Shapiera, who himself ended up homeless after losing a $100,000 job and now advocates for people experiencing hardship, agreed with Mr Roebuck and said that money could have been used to get thousands of homeless people off the streets and disadvantaged people in to houses.
“It’s like robbing those people,” he said. “The government needs a kick in the ass, it’s clearly not handling services the way it should and there are people seriously struggling out there. That money could have supported services to help WA’ most vulnerable and disadvantaged but now they have been robbed of that.”
With his newfound self belief and 15 years’ experience as a tiler, Mr Roebuck was offered two jobs within five days of handing out his resume to six different companies.
He took a job with a tiling company and plans to start his own business with his new qualification.
This article first appeared in WAToday