The tragic loss of the man she loved opened Jan up to be abused by another, who robbed her of her worldly possessions and in fleeing him, she found herself living in her car on the streets with her loyal old dog, Shy.
In her fifties, this static road-trip has been Jan's reality for five years now. Tonight, she'll be forced to move from one roadside to another, often several times before dawn. She is in constant search for safety.
"I thought I needed to be taken care of, but I was weak and tended to be victimised," Jan said of the turmoil after her husband's suicide. She found herself seeking refuge in a man who saw her vulnerable state and capitalised on it with persistent emotional, social and financial abuse.
"He took everything away from me. He had control of my emotions, my happiness, my self-esteem. He had me worried and scared all the time," Jan said. "He would swing back and forth between caring for me and then crushing me."
Did you know domestic violence is the main cause of homelessness in Australia?*
Stripped of her self-worth and strength, Jan endured the abuse until she couldn't anymore. "I came to realise I was in a vicious cycle. You can only take "sorry" for an answer for so long. He was a gambler and a drinker, he eventually sponged all my money and I was left with nothing."
When Jan fled her abusive partner, she had her car, a tank of petrol, and her ageing yet loyal companion. "I live in my car with my nine-year-old dog, Shy. Looking after her gives me something to move me onto the next day," Jan said.
While her nights are filled with fear, she's found a silver lining in the form of the friendly faces at BaptistCare HopeStreet. It gives Jan somewhere safe to go during the day where she can connect with reliable help and practical support.
"The world outside is scary, but you learn to cope with things. I have to move around a lot, from spot to spot, but HopeStreet always feels like home," said Jan.
"The people here don't discriminate. BaptistCare HopeStreet gives me constant help and support. To talk, to eat, to be comfortable; it is safe here. I can always come back," Jan said.
Here, Jan has access to a nutritious cooked meal, a safe hot shower, clothing, groceries, and practical help such as computer access and connections to other services.
"We all need support. Doing it on your own is hard, but the staff here genuinely care," she said.
HopeStreet Community Centre Manager Dianne says winter is the most challenging time for the people they see living rough, some don't make it through the harsh chill of winter. "I know Jan, in particular, gets really cold. She might take extra blankets that are on offer to try and keep warm in her car, but she's not one to ask for anything extra."
"Even layering up for her can be a challenge. She's such a petite woman, and we don't always get those smaller sizes donated. I can remember her once having thongs on in the middle of winter, so I went and found some socks and shoes for her."
Jan comes to HopeStreet and does her laundry. She's private and acknowledges that like her four-legged friend, she too is shy. She doesn't want to get involved in other people's stories, they hurt her too much, and she very much still sticks to herself despite feeling safe and enjoying having people around her. She relishes the hot meal every day.
More often than not, that one hot meal might be the only meal Jan and her companions eat that day. Although, it's not just about the meal. Beyond food provisions, HopeStreet provides a safe place where some of the most lonely and vulnerable people in our community are supported to address key issues, such as personal health, mental health and housing needs.
We know it's a long journey home from homelessness, particularly as the cold sets in this winter. We meet them on this journey, responding with compassion, practical care and support. We assist people experiencing homelessness in developing skills to build independence and resilience.
And despite her ongoing challenges, Jan feels she has grown in confidence and awareness of her own happiness since accessing support from BaptistCare HopeStreet.
"I don't need to rely on anyone else," says Jan. "I have got my independence back and I have a new awareness of my own happiness in being."
With your generous donation and prayerful support, we can continue to deliver vital services for people like Jan who are out in the cold and experiencing homelessness this winter.
If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence, please call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or ACT Domestic Violence Crisis 24-hour Service line on 6280 0900. In an emergency, call 000.
*Domestic violence & Homelessness www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2017/06/29/tragic-reality-domestic-violence-main-cause-homelessness-australia.