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Victor Adeseolu – 'Based On My Visa'

Everyone Deserves a Place to Call Home is an intimate collection of stories about people’s experiences of homelessness.

When Victor Adeseolu migrated from Nigeria to Australia to pursue his studies with hope for a better future, he didn’t know the definition of homelessness, let alone that he would experience it – but that’s what happened when he found himself between jobs and travelling from Perth to Bunbury for classes. For Victor, and many other international students, COVID only exacerbated the challenges they already faced and when they needed support the government and many universities failed them. Now Victor is a social worker supporting other international students with a different hope for a better future.

This project was funded by The Town of Victoria Park.

I’m currently a social worker, and also a teacher. I migrated into Australia in the year 2014 from Nigeria, Western part of Africa, to Australia. The hopes of coming to a land that is peaceful, more opportunities for young people to make a better living.

Before migrating into Australia, I never understood the definition of homelessness. I never understood the definition of being homeless as a person. I am from a family of six, my parents, my mum and dad, are very well to do and they, you know. I left the family where we had house help, we had six cars, we had houses. In a single house, we had about six bedrooms, it’s a massive house, six cars at my disposal. Then I moved here, with the hope of having a better future.

Doing social work in one of the universities in Australia, it’s very eye opening, because at some point I had to move to Bunbury to finish my course. And at this point, I was phasing between jobs. I know there was high difficulty in securing a permanent job as an international student. It’s a lot of restrictions, we have limited working hours, and no employer would want to sign you as a full time staff because of that.

So sometimes I had to sleep in my car, on campus sometimes. I remember one particular night where I slept in the car, and I got a knock around 2.30am and I was told, you can’t stay here because you know this is, you’re not allowed to sleep in the carpark.

And I’m like, “okay”. It’s freezing cold and my other option is that I’d have to stay in the hotel, or stay in a back packer. At this point all I wanted to do was come for my lectures, go back, come for my lectures, go back, because of the cost of living again, the cost of transportation and everything.

That night, I had to move to the beach to sleep. Parked my car around the corner and slept, so I did that, back to back, for maybe six to nine months. And another example I had is the difficulty as an international student to even secure a place to live.

The real estate would ask you, “Do you have a referee?” Moving here as an international student, one of the things we don’t have is referees to back us up when you apply for a place because you just moved here, and they want someone to say, “Oh yeah, I know this person”. So the only alternative option is to get a place where it’s individual rental so that you don’t have to go through the stages of rent and all that.

The only alternative we have is to get, like a one-on-one rental, with someone, without going through the process of renting process. So, I lived in many places, where it’s just a shocking experience. I pay for a bedroom, thinking that it’s a two bedroom and I wake up next morning and see five people in the lounge, and I asked the guy who I was paying, and he was like, “Victor, you only pay for the room. The other parts of the place, the house, can be for anyone.”

And I was like “Oh, wow. That’s very different.”

And also, you know, having this kind of experience, kind of brought more light to when COVID hit. At the peak of COVID, you could see where the government officials were even advising international students to go back to their country, who are facing homelessness, there’s no social support for them. There’s nothing. Even the universities don’t really have any kind of support for these international students. And they’d been asked, you know, go back home. And when you send someone to go back home, to where? Because everyone is facing a pandemic. It’s not just a particular country, it’s the world pandemic.

And you’re being also pushed to pay your school fees. I know a lot of international students who faced lots of housing and homelessness, and not because of not wanting to work, but because of their visa restrictions. Because of employers not willing to take the risk of employing a casual. Or even people losing their jobs especially during COVID because the people that were losing their jobs were international students. And, that’s why at some point, because we made some adjustment to let people in aged care, in nursing, work more hours, more full time hours, which shows that there’s a lot of support that international students give into Australia, especially during the pandemic, where the people that were working in these sectors were international migrants from different places because they have to survive. Whatever they have to do to survive, that’s what they had to do. And they stood up for Australia in the most needed time, where everyone was afraid to work. This, to me, shows that international students have been in pandemic for a very long time. Even before the pandemic hit.

All we’re asking for, because we know there’s no social services, there’s no other kind of support, is just the recognition of, if schools have programs, have developmental ideas of how international students can have better living. Like, what does it make sense when you have room for refugees to come in, but for investors that come in, you don’t have the best assistance for them to understand Australia as well.

Being a social worker, and also a trainer, in an international school, has made me use the opportunity to pass information, network with other organisations on how to assist international students facing difficulties in housing and homelessness, and be known that the definition of housing and homelessness according to the social work theory, is living in an unstable environment. Living in a place that you don’t know where, what’s going to happen tomorrow. Living in a place where you don’t know if you’re actually welcome to be there. That is homelessness.

 

 

Copyright © 2022 Victor Adeseolu

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.


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