Cronulla author Russell Hodge went from the fast lane to living on the streets, as depicted in The Oldest Student at the Sorbonne

Recovery after despair: Russell Hodge with his new book, a memoir that details his experiences with homelessness.
Recovery after despair: Russell Hodge with his new book, a memoir that details his experiences with homelessness.

The release of a memoir by a Sutherland Shire author during upcoming Homelessness Week (August 4-11) reveals a painful truth, but it's one that also lays bare a courageous climb to hope.

A teacher and then successful corporate lawyer, Russell Hodge was living life in the fast lane. But in mid-2011, he impulsively resigned as a director of REX Airlines, and plunged himself into retirement.

By the following year, age 66, he found himself standing in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris - a world away from his Cronulla waterfront property. He was about to embark on a six month trip at the world famous Sorbonne University to study philosophy.

Depressed and alone, Mr Hodge delved into his past for inspiration and understanding as he tried to make sense of his life in Paris before returning home.

However, he felt overwhelmed and fled his shire home, leaving everything behind to live on the streets of Sydney struggling with severe mental illness, before checking himself into a psychiatric hospital.

Detailing the rise of an adventures and unexpected fall to despair, Mr Hodge's new book, a memoir titled The Oldest Student at the Sorbonne is a tale about one man's self-reflective journey.

From high flying deals to friendships with gypsies and beggars in the streets of Paris, and then to Sydney's homeless community in Kings Cross, and also on the NSW south coast, he was living in opposing worlds.

He pens truthfully, showcasing moments of meeting people from all walks of life, including those who changed his perceptions and identity and life itself.

The author describes his book as a powerful insight into his journey - from fall to recovery, and everything in between, plus exploring two of Australia's biggest issues - mental health and homelessness.

"Next time you walk past a person sitting on the street, sleeping on the footpath looking dishevelled an homeless, remember this is a human being," Mr Hodge said.

"Maybe [they are] mentally ill, destitute, but certainly not there by choice.

"I studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. When I returned to Sydney, I left a comfortable home, family and friends, and slept rough.

"After years of treatment and support I recovered.

"I hope my book helps to provide understanding and compassion for homeless and mentally ill people. It can happen to anyone."

He will be signing copies at Berkolouw Books, Cronulla, at 11am on August 11.

The book is also available on Amazon or here.

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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