“All I want is just to have a house and stay-put”.
Dale has been homeless since the age of 16, travelling up and down the east coast of Australia for what seems like forever. He grew up in Maitland, but after a fall-out with his parents, decided to move out at age 16. Dale even had to complete his Year 10 School Certificate while bouncing around from couch-to-couch of various mates.10 years later, Dale lives in his car, which is usually parked in the alley next to The Wayside Chapel Kings Cross. He managed to buy his car for a few hundred dollars, a cramped space of solitude, where he can protect himself from the elements and other horrors of the Kings Cross nights. The Parking Rangers tend to give Dale a pass every now and then and he escapes a ticket, a rare act of kindness. It’s as if they know what he’s going through. When he finished Year 10, Dale moved from Maitland to Sydney and started living at Central Station. He was in a new city, scared and alone. From Central, he just kept moving wherever he needed to go to survive, from the Blue Mountains to Newcastle, refuge to shelter to hostel. Eventually, he found himself back in Sydney and also found The Wayside Chapel.
It was at Wayside where Dale found purpose in helping the Youth Team and his fellow young people with similar experiences to him. It was also at Wayside where Dale found his voice in a whole new way.
Dale raps under the moniker BIG DALE and has had his song Addictions play on the radio.
“Music is a good way to get everything off your chest. Take what’s in your mind and turn it into lyrics and put it in a song, which can potentially help someone. That’s the enjoyment. It’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame. I want to help people and get my story out there and show them what I see.”
Through music, Dale can tell his actual story that sometimes just words can’t say. His song Addictions is about the demotivating effects of drugs on kids’ education, and a new one coming out called Suicidal Tendencies is a brave and moving story about being bullied throughout his life. Dale’s music always tells a story.
In his tiny car, Dale attempts to sleep but rest is difficult. On top of everything, Dale has spina bifida, the chronic spinal condition which occurs when your spinal cord fails to develop properly as a baby. Only finding out last year, Dale has a long road ahead to a place where he can even manage the pain and the symptoms. This is not the only disability Dale faces. He was born blind in one eye, something he was bullied for throughout school. But still, Dale retains the hope for a better life, even through his latest struggle.
Dale is the proud father to Caleb, who just turned 5 and lives down in Nowra with his mother, Dale’s ex-partner. Dale wants to find a house in Nowra to be closer to his son but finds it near impossible to find accommodation in another city while he’s still sleeping rough in Sydney.
Dale misses Caleb very much.
“My partner and I broke up when Caleb was 4 months old… we tried dating again but it went pear-shaped and she hasn’t let me see him in just over a year now. I just want to see my son. That’s it.”
Wayside Youth has been instrumental in helping Dale with the legal processes to take his ex-partner to court. In particular, Dale praises Youth Workers Simon Martin and Amy Mitchell who have helped him gain access to his son.
“There are too many barriers… if you want a house in Nowra and you need to be in the city for help, it makes things difficult. I’ve had a house here but the price went up and I couldn’t afford it anymore. I look for houses every day.”
Wayside Youth has been a place of stability for Dale these past few years.
“When I first came to Wayside when I was younger, I was heaps scared. I’d go in to have a shower then go straight back out. I didn’t feel comfortable at first sticking around engaging or nothing but as the years went by, the workers started making me feel at ease, and now, it’s like home. I got pushed from place-to-place and service-to-service, but Wayside cemented me and helped with a lot of things. Even today they are still helping me.”
Dale wants to show the world through his music and his story that homeless people have stories that are complex, complicated and do not deserve judgement. Dale doesn’t do drugs and hasn’t had a sip of alcohol in over ten years. He supports himself, with a job as a bar-back in some trendy restaurants and bars around the area, washing dishes, stocking the bar, refilling the ice and other laborious tasks.
“I’m not a bad person. Anyone in the public is welcome to come up and talk to me, anyone is free to hear my story. I want people to connect with me on a level, forget about me being homeless but just meet me.
There’s a cycle and it’s hard to get out of it, and the cycle is so hard to beat. If Sydney was a lot cheaper, than a lot of people wouldn’t be on the street.”
But Dale has hope. He looks forward to the day that he moves into a new house near his son, although he knows Wayside will always be there.
“Wayside is family. You’re made to feel at home and that and the more you’re engaged with the workers and the other people, the more satisfaction you get.
“If Wayside Youth weren’t here, in all honesty, I don’t know if I would still be alive today”.
Watch Dale’s Suicidal Tendencies video clip here.
You can help support Dale* and many others like him by making a donation to Wayside Chapel.