Howard's experience in 2021

Howard's story

2 May 2023

Hey, I’m Howard and I’m a member of the Roughin’ It Challenge team at Launch Housing.

Before we put the call out to the general public to participate in the Roughin’ It Challenge, our team made sure to do some trial runs to make sure we knew what we were getting you all into!  

What follows is an account of my own personal, 24-hour, Roughin’ It Challenge. My challenge will be slightly different to yours as our ~to be revealed~ Game Changers were still being refined so I have not included my reflections on all of these. You’re also very lucky I tested some of them out so you didn’t have to!

It certainly was rough and a challenge but I’m glad I did it. It reconfirmed to me why our work is so important. No one should have to live without the basics. Everyone deserves a home.

7pmMy challenge begins..

And I am hopelessly unprepared.  I have no idea where I’ll sleep, not packed a bag and as for food…? 

9.30pm - I can’t avoid the issue of food anymore. 

I walk to Coles (no car) and wander around. Utterly unplanned, I grab an apple, some bread, ham and some beans. At least I can have beans on toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch.  I’ll worry about dinner later. The beans-situation is annoying. I can buy 3 big Coles own brand cans for $2 but there’s no way I want to carry them around in a bag.  So I go for the expensive small tin for $1. I also invest 70 cents on some cheap paracetamol for my bad back. So, all up that $7.  With a 7-11 coffee tomorrow, that leaves me $2 for dinner. 

My wife later researches my options.  A sausage roll in 7-11 is $2.50.  No good.  Maccas has a cheap burger for $2 so that’s exciting!

11pm - I start Game Changer 2.

But I won’t give any spoilers away here. I will tell you it was an eye opener.

11.45 - Try sleeping in the car

11.46 - Nope.  Just…nope. 

Hit the garage.  A lot better.  It’s still hot and airless after the hot day, but at least I can lie flat. 

Rain starts.  I wake a dozen times as the floor was hard and the rain on the tin roof harder.  There were times in the night I felt strangely connected to the city around me.  Maybe it was the Lunar new year fireworks I could hear.  Dunno. 

6am - I’ve got some sleep. 

Not too bad.  Feel disorientated from the usual routine.   


7am  - Sadly, I pack my children’s lunches

Wish I could have a carrot!  I make beans on toast for myself.  Dry toast and beans doesn’t exactly start my morning with a bang.

I have a shower. Shit: I don’t have a towel in my bag. 

8.45 - I walk down to 7-11 to get a coffee. 

I have four meetings before 11.30 including 90 minutes with my boss…I’m thinking real hard about money and the price of things. 

12pm - Ham sandwich.

What it lacks in excitement it makes up for by its sheer Britishness (I’m English by the way so read everything with an accent from here). 

Afternoon is dominated by lock-down news and back to 2020 vibes.  

5pm - I walk down to MacDonald’s. 

People must be panicking to get out of the city as the queue is around the block.  Or maybe it’s always like this on a Friday?  I wait 25 minutes to get my $2 burger. The menu board is a dazzling fantasy of lights showcasing things I can never afford.  It takes 60 seconds to eat the burger. I timed it. 

7pm - My challenge ends with a whim.

The Melbourne lock-down is dominating all thoughts and a pal organizes hasty #panicdrinks at a local bar.  So, as I sip a G&T at 8pm in the evening sun surrounded by laughter and ‘same shit different year’ jokes, I feel I’ve let myself down slightly. I had a moment to reflect on the last 24 hours and it’s been superseded by the need to have fun before 5 days of lock-down. Oh…that I had the choice, right?

Some lessons I learned:

This was a real challenge.  It does preoccupy your mind and influence almost every decision. In no way did I think I was replicating homelessness but I never lost sight of the 24-hour light at the end of the tunnel. For me, this was temporary, but I was all too painfully aware the things I was grappling with impact some people day-in, day-out.

The day proved harder than the night, even though the night was my biggest worry, as I was still attempting to keep up with the demands of regular life. I can only imagine how much more difficult maintaining the norm would be if my challenge were longer.

Throughout and after the challenge, I was letting my family and friends know what I was doing, how it felt, and why I was doing it. While they were glad it was me and not them, it started conversations that wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I’m looking forward to hearing about what others learn as they go through this process. I hope it helps people to have experiences and conversations that open hearts and minds.