How do you cope when your child chooses to be homeless?

Hi All,
I need to talk as I just don't know what to do.
My 25 year old son is living on the streets of Sydney, going to food banks, sleeping in the train station all by choice. He suffers from depression and anxiety and doesn't like to talking to people - he prefers the life of not being around people and whenever he gets a job he generally loses it very quickly, and seemingly doesn't care that he has lost it. I have tried so hard to get him to find somewhere to live and to encourage to keep his jobs. I never in all of my life thought I would be having to cope with this - I love him so much and want only the best for him.
When we lived back in NZ he tried to commit suicide (while I was 8 months pregnant) I was so scared as for a while the doctors weren't sure he would make it.
My Mum says to let him get on with it himself, which to me is so harsh.
I have two daughters as well - my older girl is traveling and is also worried about him, and my little one is only four she loves her big brother.
Any support or similar situations would be good to hear.


Well-Known Member
'''You can only help him if he accepts your help. Will he? Is he taking drugs? In your country can you insist that a adult get mental health care? You can't do that in the US. Seriously, even our most psychotic have "rights." I don't know if maybe there are options in Australia that we do not have.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him old American saying that my mother used. You can tell him what may help him, in other words, but you can't make him do it.

Has he ever been tested for a form of autism?


Active Member
Most of us on this forum are dealing with adult children that have issues and refuse to seek help. It hurts so very much to see your child on a path we know is not good for them, and there is nothing we can do about it.

As harsh as your mother's words may have sounded to your ears, she is correct. Other than nag your hands are tied and they don't really listen to you nag either lol! I could actually see my son's eyes glaze over as I tired to 'talk some sense into him' and he tuned me out completely.

In my part of the USA 18 is the legal age and after that it is all his decision. HOWEVER, my son did threaten suicide and I called the police and they talked to him and he said he was not suicidal. My son fights with his girl friend and cuts himself and threatens suicide.

Here, we can "Baker Act" (all states have this but maybe called something else) where they can be held and evaluated if the police feel they are a danger o themselves or others. We can also get court ordered psychiatric treatments. I found out a great deal by calling a suicide hotline and talking to them. Check for them in your area.

My heart goes out to all that have loved ones with problems we can not help them with. I was so worried and concerned over my son it started to affect my health and my other relationships.

Reading the posts on this forum (and SA,substance abuse, forum if it applies to your son) will help. Posting helps too, but the main advice all will give you (no one can tell you what to do, they should not anyway as all situations are different) is get therapy for you and take care of you. You are the only person you can control.

As I learned to detach from my son's choices I started to feel much better and my health improved. There are so many great books on detachment, enabling, etc. that will help you. Starting a journal to write down my deepest darkest fears helped also.

I had to accept my son as he is, and also face the fact that one day my son may actually succeed with his threats. That does not mean I agree with his life style and I have set boundaries. I still love my son, but I have a life too, so do you.

I also said if anyone would have told me my only son would go down this path I never would have believed them, not in a million years.
(((hugs and blessings)))
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Well-Known Member
Hello Tired

My son is homeless in the UK through choice. He's currently living in a squat (a derelict abandoned farmhouse with no running water, electricity or sanitation) with like-minded people, although he finds it difficult often to be around other people and has recently moved into a treehouse that he has built himself a little way away from the main camp. I suffered terribly with grief for his lifestyle for quite a while, but I have now accepted it. He tells me he is happy. Echo who posts on this site will tell you that her son said the same thing. My son says that he is 'free', he doesn't have to work for anyone else, doesn't have bills to pay or worry about making rent and doesn't have to live within the constraints of accepted norms. He makes do from day to day with no money, he scavenges for food, and looks and smells like a tramp.

It's an extreme lifestyle choice, but it is his choice.

It's not what I would choose for him and I could never live like that, but I'm not him. There are things about living within conformed society that are not great aren't there? but we go along and try and do the best we can and raise our children to be 'good citizens'. As parents we tend to think that our children should get a job, live in a house, get married, have a couple of children, pay taxes, save for a pension.

My son has rebelled against this. He has extreme views about the corruption and evil and hypocrisy in society. I used to cringe at his views, but actually there is some truth in a lot of his rants.

I've just accepted him for who he is. This has allowed me to find happiness and optimism again and to just love him unconditionally. I am actually able to find humour in our situation quite a lot of the time now.

Embrace your son for who he is and let him get on with it (as your mother says). I am always here for my son if he wants a bed for the night or a shower or a washing machine for his rags, you can be too. I used to think he would die living like this, but he hasn't died, in fact he often seems to be thriving on it.

Now that I'm no longer trying to change him or 'fix' him, I can get on with enjoying my own life.

I hope you can find a way to do the same.


Well-Known Member
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him old American saying that my mother used.

One of the oldest English proverbs in current use. Dates from the 12th century.

..and yes, very fitting for our difficult children.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
My daughter was homeless for five months. Like most homeless people do, she had the option of shelter living and refused it. She had the option of living with family, but refused that, too. When we came back into her area, she still refused to come in.

Unless we took the homeless man she was living with in, too.

! ? !

Though she would not come home, we began sending her money and that was a mistake.

She convinced us the money was going to help the woman friend she suddenly began staying with (which turned out maybe not to be exactly true, either) to pay for things like the internet and laundry soap.

Though some of the money we were sending may have gone for those things, the majority went for drugs and alcohol, I have since learned.

Next time, we will know better and not feel so stupidly helpless. It was the strangest thing. I knew my daughter was choosing to live as she was living. Yet, I felt guilty, felt crazy, felt depressed and angry and whew! I even felt guilty about having a decent meal. I came to hate the city where she was homeless.

I mean, really hate it.

When we would go looking for our daughter, I would want to ask those toughies hanging out around the corners what their mothers thought about what they were doing.

Guilty, ashamed, I watched reports on the local news about the growing homeless population.

It was horrifying, unbelievable.

Our daughter told us there is a rhythm to life on the streets. They meet in the morning to check on one another, they drift to the churches for coffee and to the other free sites for dinner. They have their own places to sleep. They panhandle. In the city where our daughter was homeless, there is excellent medical care for the homeless, there is a place for them to get their mail, there are people to help them (again and again) get their IDs replaced. (Here is a funny thing: So, I got phone numbers for the organizations helping with mail and etc. I would call and say whatever. Our daughter was questioned about why her mom was calling!!!! Ha! It seems funny, now. At the time, it seemed normal enough. Ew.) Each group knows which other groups are dangerous to them. The police know who they are, harass them continually to keep moving, but seldom actually arrest anyone.

What I did do for her that I would probably do again is replace tooth brushes, tooth paste, sanitary wipes, alcohol gel, deodorant, gum to freshen breath, breath mints.

I know, right?

Homeless or not, they want to be reasonably clean.

Sleeping bag. Good, thick socks.

Boots for walking. The homeless need to walk and walk, and keep moving.

No money.

We were so foolish to send money!

Live and learn, I guess.

Even after our daughter finally did come home, she continued to go back to the streets.

Three years ago now, our daughter was a teacher, was engaged, had a truly beautiful home. Today, she is living with her ex-husband and the children they had together.

For now.

No one knows just what to make of any of this.

I'm sorry this is happening to you and to your child. I agree though, with the moms who have written that the best thing you can do is to learn to accept it.

One of the reasons our daughter would not come home, one of the reasons she went homeless in the first place is because she was in relationship with a homeless man.

She called and asked to come home the day he was picked up and jailed for attempted vehicular homicide...of our daughter.


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Well-Known Member
Our daughter told us there is a rhythm to life on the streets. They meet in the morning to check on one another, they drift to the churches for coffee and to the other free sites for dinner. They have their own places to sleep. They panhandle. In the city where our daughter was homeless, there is excellent medical care for the homeless, there is a place for them to get their mail, there are people to help them (again and again) get their IDs replaced. Cedar

I'm starting to realize this more and more. It's a culture and difficult child is not the only one in his position and they befriend each other and look out for each other. There are a ton of resources like food, clothing, medical and shelter if they want them.

Earlier I received a call from the police in the town where difficult child is homeless. Apparently they found his backpack with some of his belongings and were trying to contact him to return the stuff. The officer was so nice and when I explained that difficult child was homeless he asked how old he was and why. I told him he was 20 and mentally ill, unmedicated and unstable and he said "well I know this won't help make it better but the homeless really are well taken care of in this town. They're fed well and clothed and we look out for the ones who are particularly vulnerable."

And actually that did make me feel better. I thanked him and told him I appreciated his kindness very much.

So yeah - our kids are choosing to be homeless and it's out of our hands. We just need to take comfort in the fact that there are resources and help available and that even though being homeless seems like the worst thing in the world to us maybe our kids really are ok in a sense.

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one day at a time
I know it is so hard to think about our own children being homeless. The first time my son was homeless, I thought I would go out of my mind. Just the word was awful.

Today, this is his fifth time to be homeless, and he has been homeless this time for nearly 2.5 weeks. There is a lot of help and assistance of all kinds for people who are homeless.

In fact, I am coming to believe there is too much help.

It is only when we are sick and tired of our own circumstances---completely and utterly sick and tired----that we decide to work for change in ourselves and for ourselves.

If being homeless is made possible by the good intentions of others, will the impetus for change occur? He is falling into the safety net, every single day. Over and over again. I honestly don't think being homeless must be that bad for him. It is actually doable.

I will not buy my son things to help him stay homeless. He needs to get a job, get a place to live and start working to pay for his own necessities.

He is able to do that, he chooses not to.

He is 25 years old. I wouldn't buy his shoes if he were working---why should I buy them if he is homeless?

He is 25 years old. Way past time to take responsibility for himself. Way, way past time.

Natural consequences for his decisions. That is what I am about, today, as much as I possibly can be.


I Am The Walrus
Cat - this is a very old thread. You may want to post your own thread in Parent Emeritus and you will get more responses. It is also helpful if you put something about your situation in your signature so you won't have to keep "explaining" it. You can see mine at the bottom of this post.

Know you are not alone. We are here struggling with our "adult" children who make choices we cannot understand nor control. It is hard to sleep at night. I, too, prefer to not know more often that know because it is easier to live a somewhat normal life if it is lived in ignorance. I have had years of ups and downs with my child. I can't say that it gets easier or that we get harder. Sometimes I think, for me, it is both.


Well-Known Member
Hello Cat

I posted on this thread in 2014. What I wrote then still stands. I'll look out for your thread if you decide to post a new one and I will follow the responses.

Thinking of you