‘Nobody should have to prove they’re worthy of a home’: Voices of lived experience

11 Jun 2024

In his own words, Kristian Koch says his life, so far, is one with a “huge background”.

After “bouncing around from place to place for years”, Kristian, who is in his 40s, is now settled in a place of his own in Adelaide. He lives with his beloved dog and best mate, Buddy, a deaf seven-year-old blue heeler.

Kristian and Buddy have developed a tight bond, communicating through hand signals and expressions.

“He’s so intelligent,” Kristian says. “He’s learned to look at my face and he can read facial expressions. It’s pretty special the connection you have with your pet after a lot of years.”

Kristian is now also communicating his experience of homelessness, and the challenges of finding stable housing that allowed him to live with Buddy, to a much wider audience.

After undertaking media spokesperson training with the Economic Media Centre, Kristian has been interviewed by The Advertiser, SBS and more.

With support from organisations such as The Wyatt Trust, the Economic Media Centre offers the spokesperson training at no cost to participants. The aim of the training is to bring diverse voices to the public debate about economic policy and influence decision-makers to develop more inclusive social and economic policies.

Kristian is now one of more than 40 members of the South Australian Spokesperson Network. Each of the members has direct experience of poverty and economic marginalisation and is using their voice in media coverage of issues including housing and homelessness, renters’ rights, family violence, disability justice and income support.

Kristian recently shared his story with The Wyatt Trust to continue to help raise awareness of the impacts and realities of current economic and social policies.

Would you like to share a little bit about your background? 

I'll try and keep it brief because my life actually has a huge background. I’ve basically turned my life around in the last four years. I've been clean now for nearly five years after going off the rails when I was young because of family issues. I didn’t get my life back in order until my late 30s and early 40s.

I've been doing lots of training and rehabilitation and doing my best to get back into work. Getting work isn’t easy because of my huge work history gap. I’ve had some part-time NDIS work and I’m still going to interviews but sadly, I'm not working at the moment.

I’d really like to work in horticulture. I was doing gardening with the NDIS work and really enjoyed being outside and working with plants. I’d love to get into landscaping with the council so I’m doing a Certificate III in horticulture and I’ve actually gotten really good at it, I think.

I've even just got a community garden approved in Mitchell Park through Junction and the local council which is about to get started. I've already spoken to a lot of people and quite a few are interested in helping when they can and I've got some support from people in the local area.

You’re now a trained media spokesperson who’s been able to add their voice to a number of issues covered in mainstream media. How did you find out about the spokesperson training and what was that experience like for you? 

I was doing a lot of volunteer work for Safe Pets Safe Families with my friend Jen Howard [founder of Safe Pets Safe Families and the Paws & Pals program]. I was running into a lot of dead ends trying to get back into the workforce and Jen suggested I try this Economic Media Centre course.

And I thought, maybe it’ll help me, so I did it and it was really good. When we did the mock interview at the end I was surprised because I found that I could just do it, you know, and that's what led to me speaking to the media and saying yes to these interviews.

It’s not like I ever wanted to tell my story, because it's not a great story, but maybe the fact I've able to turn it around might help people that way.

I was very surprised because I’ve never done anything like it, you know? I used to be a welder before my life fell apart!

Why do you think getting more voices of people with lived experience of homelessness and financial hardship into the public domain is so important? 

Because the fact is, you see the same experts talking about these things all the time. Occasionally you get a new person with a new degree or a new younger face, but it’s still people who haven’t lived it, they’ve just done a university degree on the subject.

And that means you don't really connect, there is a real disconnect to the news. I think people just tune out.

I think it's good to have real people in there. That way when you’re watching the news you can relate to it a bit better and hear what people have lived through and what they’ve done to get through it.

What's one thing you wish more people understood about homelessness?

There’s got to be more of a focus on homes being an essential thing, a basic right like clean water and air.

People shouldn’t have to be in a desperate place for six or 12 months to actually qualify for help and then have to go and get six different letters from different agencies. You’ve got to jump through so many hoops it makes you feel like you have to prove that you're worthy. Nobody should have to prove they're worthy of a home.


Kristian and his dog Buddy 

Read Kristian’s story in The Advertiser here.

Scroll to top