UPDATE: We have found temporary accommodation for Jonas. The next step is to find him a permanent home.
Will you please help by donating today? Your gift can give Jonas food, warm clothing or a bond for his new home.
With your help, ARA’s Emergency Support Service will give Jonas the urgent support he so desperately needs. Will you please support Jonas with a generous gift of $50?
When I met Jonas, my heart broke for him.
He arrived on our doorstep a broken man – cold, hungry and alone. That’s when I sat down to write this letter to you.
It’s my second year as ARA’s CEO and I am still shocked that there are no existing on-the-ground programs, across any agency, that provide urgent, practical, immediate support for everyone who needs it.
I don’t and won’t accept this. As one of our loyal supporters, I’m sure you won’t either. That’s why I am writing to you about ARA’s Emergency Support Service.
Our new service gives people in need the chance to live through a challenging situation with some stability. Day-to-day basics such as groceries, bedding, bus tickets, fuel, a bond for accommodation – anything that will set them on a new path to safety, with confidence.
Jonas is just one person who desperately needs support from you and me.
Do you remember Mara and her children, Soraya and Alima? We are so relieved to tell you that thanks to you and ARA’s Emergency Support Service they are safe, well and happy. Now we must help Jonas the same way.
We desperately need an injection of funds to help Jonas.
People like Jonas are falling through the cracks, coming to ARA as a last resort. But due to extra pressure on our services amidst the COVID-19 health crisis, ARA does not have the funds to help everyone who needs it. That’s where I need your help.
With winter upon us, there are many bitterly cold nights ahead for people like Jonas. People who have left their family home into freezing weather. Refugees and migrants who came to Australia for sanctuary are now fighting to survive a new kind of devastation and trauma. It’s simply not good enough. We must do something.
I want to create a better future for Jonas and together, we can do this. When you support ARA’s grassroots work, you can help refugees and migrants like Jonas build a safe, secure new life. Will you please consider a gift of $50 towards day-to-day essentials for Jonas, like food vouchers and fuel to get to medical appointments?
Sixty-three-year-old Jonas is a gentle, hard-working family man who was a talented master craftsman in his home country in the Middle East.
Growing up in a poor family did not stop Jonas’ drive to succeed in life. He was accepted out of school for a business degree but with no financial support, he had to withdraw. Working as a craftsman, he found his true passion. Learning on the job, in time, his skills grew and he opened his own business. At the height of his success, Jonas owned two shops with four staff members.
He was a successful businessman, married for 26 years, two children, a comfortable house. He earned good money, gave his kids what he didn’t have; a university education. He supported his wife and helped at home while she raised the children.
In Jonas’ culture, and with his family, he was a complete success; highly skilled job, a good income and lifestyle, a good provider.
Then the Middle East plunged into a dangerous period of political and religious persecution. Jonas was in danger, targeted by ISIS for his success. He had to start a new life, hiding in the shadows.
To protect his family, he moved to another country, sending money home. The local economy failed and so did Jonas’ shops. His staff had to take valuable stock as wages. The persecution raged on. ISIS turned Jonas’ family out of their own home.
Jonas applied for asylum for the family in Australia and they fled. Jonas, as head of the family, took on full responsibility for settling in, finding a job and securing a new, safe future for his wife and children. But at 63, with highly specialised skills and developing English, this wasn’t easy. Despite Jonas’ best efforts, he failed to find a job in Adelaide.
“When I lay down to rest, I am told, get up, get moving, you are so lazy. My family make me ‘pay’ for not having a job, not giving them enough money.”
For Jonas and his family, a man’s worth is judged on his job and income. A man without a job is worthless. A family without a breadwinner is shameful. Jonas became despondent and depressed. Every day was full of shame and anxiety. He lost his self-worth and identity. He no longer knew where he fit in.
“I felt like I was in a war with myself, in pain, frustrated and depressed.”
After two months, the stress, fear and constant pressure became too much. Jonas’ blood pressure spiked and he suffered a stroke, losing all movement down the left side of his body. The stroke, his trauma and his age has meant a truly heartbreaking scenario.
He spent many months in and out of hospital and rehabilitation. Jonas is suffering both physically and mentally. Weakness on his left side, back pain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, shortness of breath and sleep apnoea. He needs an oxygen mask to sleep and medications to manage his health and his depression.
Jonas is alone and desperate. Right now, a kind gift of $100 from you means ARA’s Emergency Support Service can give Jonas two new blankets to keep him warm at night and a warm new jacket. Will you help?
In Jonas’ eyes, and that of his family, he has gone from a complete success to a complete failure.
Jonas’ family couldn’t understand. Why couldn’t he just get a job? Why was he letting them down? Instead of the good life they had enjoyed, money was scarce.
“Every day, I work hard in the house but I still feel worse, I feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed. If I cannot work, who am I?”
Despite trying his best by working in the house, and still trying to get a job, Jonas felt useless, after faithfully supporting his family for more than 20 years. Then one day, an argument began and his wife said “we don’t need you in our lives anymore.” Jonas was so distressed and overcome with grief, he left.
There was only one thing he could do; live in his car.
He had nothing but the clothes on his back, a phone and a small amount of cash. Jonas saved the money he had and didn’t eat. That night, he parked under a street light as it felt safer. He was frightened to fall sleep, as he did not have his oxygen machine, and none of his medicine. With only his coat to keep him warm, he was bitterly cold. And even worse, due to his age and health conditions, Jonas is highly vulnerable; outside and alone at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
“That first night in my car was the worst night of my life. I could not believe this was happening. I felt so sad and cold, it hurt. I just cried myself to sleep.”
For the next two days, Jonas stayed in his car. He did not hear from his family. He had nowhere to wash, no safe place to go. Jonas tried a couple of local agencies for shelter and support. But his case is unusual; a man estranged from his family, he didn’t tick all the boxes for emergency help.
He was about to fall through the cracks when finally, he found his way to ARA.
We sheltered Jonas in our office for the day, fed him, and gave him extra blankets. We listened to his story and promised to try and help.
But tragically, we could do very little for Jonas straight away. There were no funds for immediate and ongoing emergency accommodation. Jonas didn’t fit the criteria to access support from other providers. People like Jonas have no one left to turn to. That’s why I must ask you, as a caring supporter of ARA, for help.
We must get Jonas out of his car, out of the cold, out of danger. With your generous gift of $250 we can give Jonas three nights of emergency accommodation. Can you imagine what this will mean to Jonas?
Thanks to you, ARA’s Emergency Support Service has already helped many people in their darkest hours. But COVID-19 is amplifying the stress in their lives. Many have lost work. Family life is fractured, bills are left unpaid to put basic food on the table.
If you can help us, ARA’s Emergency Support Service will be ready and waiting to swing into action immediately. We can save someone the additional distress of another round of ticks and crosses. There’ll be no need to spend days piecing together information, services and funds from inside and outside of the system.
I want ARA to set people like Jonas on the right path. But we need your help.
Right now, we are keeping in touch with Jonas while we look for appropriate emergency accommodation. We are doing our best. But with kindness from people like you, we could do much, much more.
CEO, Australian Refugee Association
PS The last time I saw Jonas, he was returning to his car to sleep for the night. The nights are getting colder and Jonas’ health is so fragile. I’m so afraid for him. Will you please send an incredibly kind gift to help him?