Before he found a permanent home at Brisbane Common Ground (Common Ground), Danny had endured the harsh realities of homelessness and living in overcrowded boarding houses. The daily challenges of cold nights, hunger, and a lack of stability were all too familiar to him.

“It was a nightmare”, Danny told me.

I met with Danny in the community library at Common Ground on Hope Street in South Brisbane. It is one of many community spaces in the fourteen-storey building with views over West End and the city. It looks like just another block of units on Hope Street but is home to some remarkable stories.

Danny is quietly spoken and spare with his words, and he shared just the bare bones of his life story.

Danny said he had wanted to be a jockey from an early age and went on to be good enough to live the high life for a while. He raced at courses around Australia, including at Eagle Farm in Brisbane.

I asked him if he rode any winners. “Yeah, I wasn’t a total waste.” His Mother, he says, still has his trophies.

“That was a lifetime ago. I stopped riding when Dad died in 2016 and life spiralled out of control a bit with alcohol, and depression and anxiety set in, and I ended up on the streets.”

Danny was sleeping rough in Canberra before he came to Brisbane, moving from boarding house to boarding house. He never felt secure.

Danny’s uncle, who lives In Brisbane, invited Danny to live with him here, but the housing rules where his uncle lived would not permit him to accommodate a second person, so Danny went back to living in boarding houses.

He said it was terrible. There was no security; people came and went, and they were often under the influence of drugs.

Danny’s life took a new turn when he was connected to Micah Projects and, through them, to Common Ground Queensland (CGQ).

Common Ground provides safe and affordable housing to people like Danny who have experienced chronic homelessness. It offers a physical home and a comprehensive support system to help them rebuild their lives.

I asked Danny if Micah wanted him to change his lifestyle before referring him to Common Ground.

“No. If you’ve got issues, they will help you. Tell them the truth and what your situation is, and they will accommodate you. They are pretty sympathetic when it comes to things like that.”

Danny said he could not believe he could move into his own unit with a TV, fridge, washing machine, and linen all in place.

“You’re living in a millionaire’s paradise for next to nothing,” he said.

Danny said he is secure now, knowing he has a permanent home. Having the all-hours concierge downstairs means Danny and his property are safe. The Concierge service is integral to supportive housing at Brisbane Common Ground.

“Security downstairs. Rent is secure, everything is secure.”

Through Micah Projects and the collaborative efforts of Common Ground, Danny’s life underwent a remarkable transformation. The stability and support provided by Common Ground’s housing initiative allowed him to rebuild his life and embrace new opportunities. Danny has joined art classes at Common Ground and participates in the roof-top gardening program.

Danny finds living in South Brisbane is accessible and easy to get around on his bike. And while he thinks he is too long in the tooth to take horse riding up again; he hopes to pick up work at the Ekka in August.

I didn’t know I’d be here 12 months ago. I’m getting used to it. Its good. Its great actually. There should be more of them.”

Common Ground Queensland’s CEO urges expansion of proven model after a decade of impact.

Cover image, Jan Bowman