Art as Therapy – Pauline's story

August 21, 2023

Sadly, thousands of people experience homelessness across Australia every night. At UnitingCare, we are determined to do everything we can to seek, provide and contribute to long and short-term solutions.


For Pauline, being connected in with UnitingCare’s Gold Coast Homelessness Hub was a huge relief after she found herself living in her car at 56.


The Hub offers access to a range of tradition support systems, such as financial counselling, and help finding more permanent accommodation, however it also offers a chance for people to relax, be creative and enjoy themselves through the Art Therapy program.


“A year ago I was in a domestic violence relationship, and after I left, it was just me and my Jack Russell Shaggy sleeping in my car,” she says.

Pauline holding her painting Pauline holding her painting Pauline holding her painting

“I rang my counsellor and told her I was homeless. She gave me a number to call and I was put in touch with the Homelessness Hub in Bair Athol where I could have lunch, do my laundry and have a shower. It was heaven.”


Soon after being connected to the Homelessness Hub, Pauline’s dog Shaggy sadly passed away, and that’s when she was introduced to the Hub’s Art Therapy program.


“When Shaggy died, it was the worst day of my life. I was told art would be good therapy for me and it was.”


UnitingCare Recreational Therapy Practitioner Elisha Lindsay said she could see how traumatic losing her dog was for Pauline.


“I just knew that Pauline needed a quiet place to express herself safely. Sometimes it’s hard to find words to express how we feel, so I gave her some art materials, and she created this beautiful water colour piece which in her way depicted the space where she buried Shaggy.”


For Pauline, drawing helped her deal with the strong emptions of losing her best friend.


“It gave me peace in my mind,” Pauline added.


Feelings of helplessness and loneliness can be common for those experiencing homelessness. But through UnitingCare’s art therapy classes at the HUB, clients can process their emotions in a visual and creative way—the ups and downs, the beauty and the pain.


“Painting and drawing helps you have that break of feeling helpless,” Pauline said.


“If you don’t have that expression of words, you can just put it on the canvas whatever it is you are going through.”


The medium of art also helps to build confidence, and feelings of connection, and while Pauline is now housed, she still loves to attend the Hub’s Art Therapy classes once a week.


“I love beauty and bright colours. I love painting anything that’s beautiful. I go home feeling satisfied knowing that my mind has gone back to all the fun things I love doing. Painting’s done a lot for me—it makes me feel good.”


“I still get embarrassed sometimes and think ‘wow I drew that’ and other times I pat myself on the back.”