Photograph of Community Engagement Officer Jo on grey background

A day in someone else’s shoes – Jo takes the homelessness challenge

On any given night in Australia 1 in 200 people are homeless.

These people often find it hard to access the department’s mainstream services. That’s where Community Engagement Officers, like Jo Efaraimo, come in.

With 20 years of experience in the department, Jo provides valuable help to people in need.

Jo recently took part in Wollongong Homeless Hub’s ‘Walk in my shoes’ challenge, an event where community leaders get to see firsthand what it’s like for people experiencing homelessness in their community

“My role includes meeting with people at community centres, soup kitchens and local charity organisations,” Jo said. “I help with simple questions and queries, like setting up an online account, and using myGov.

“When the Hub Manager started talking about the challenge, I immediately knew I wanted to help. When she pulled me aside and said they really wanted me to take part, I was really excited.”

Jo said the challenge aimed to find gaps in services, and establish what was needed to make them better, faster and more streamlined.

For 24 hours, Jo had no home except for her car, no phone credit, and only a small amount of cash. She said beyond the fatigue and stress of the challenge, the most difficult part was not having a support network of family and friends to call on.

“All the services I accessed during the challenge were so helpful,” Jo said. “We’re very lucky to have so many support services available for people in the Illawarra.

“I think what I got out of the challenge was more on a personal level. I’ve always considered myself understanding and empathetic but this really opened my eyes up to the challenges vulnerable people face.

“To know I couldn’t just go to a friend’s house for the night really made me understand what it’s like to not have my friends and family for support.

“It’s hard to look for jobs when you don’t have any credit on your phone. I had to go to the McDonalds car park just to use the Wi-Fi. It made me think about what was available and where people might be struggling.”

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