Angie’s Family Portrait – An Inheritance No One Would Want
Not all of us have the picture-perfect childhood. For some, the cradles they are born into become the cages that imprison them for their entire lives.
Angie was born into addiction. Her mother, only a teenager herself, continued to take heroin throughout her pregnancy with Angie. With no father in sight, and no extended family to speak of, Angie was taken from her mother in the hospital and placed into the foster system. The effects of heroin abuse on an unborn child can be catastrophic. Angie was born early, with a dangerously low body weight, and spent a considerable amount of time in NICU before being released into care.
Angie’s ongoing issues as a result of her mother’s lifestyle choices marked her for a life of hardship. Behavioural issues and aggression through her early childhood, coupled with ongoing health problems, meant that the couples whose homes she was fostered into did not have room for her for very long.
Door after door was closed in her face – she was too hard, a ‘problem’. With each rejection, and each forced removal, Angie became angrier and more convinced that the world was against her.
And to be honest, it was.
The large, clean houses that she was invited into as a small child became the rickety walls of group homes that closed in around her and reminded her that, through no fault of her own, she was born into a world that didn’t want to know about her. Counsellors tried. Care workers tried. But with so many children to care for, and with all of Angie’s anger at the world surrounding her like barbed wire, they let her slip through the cracks.
Teachers couldn’t deal with her; they couldn’t find a way to crack the hardened shell she’d built around herself. She had relationships with boys who treated her with disdain and cruelty, which only strengthened her long-held conviction that she was not worthy of love.
At the age of 18, even the group home closed its doors on Angie. With few employable skills, and little desire to be part of a system that had always rejected her, it seemed written in the stars that Angie would gravitate towards a squat in Sydney’s west. It was a place so similar to where Angie’s mother had lived that it was almost as if she’d finally returned home to the family property. Angie had come home to collect the inheritance that her mother had left her – a short life filled with suffering.
Angie spends her days using her body to get what she needs: drugs, food, shelter – even a few hours of sleep. Her tiny body is wracked with disease and she shakes constantly. Angie is never warm. She is never at ease. She is always ready to be abused, again and again, at the hands of a world that told her from the cradle that she had no chance to be anything.
Angie isn’t “one homeless woman” but so many homeless women. Addiction and lack of family support are key factors in why Australian women become homeless. Help us to help Angie afford a little dignity.
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