A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF HOMELESSNESS
I am 47 and have found myself in places I could have never imagined since 2017 when my life fell to pieces due to a highly debilitating neurological illness which I thought I'd be able to manage somehow.
I went from being an Interior Designer featured in magazines such as Australian House & Garden and creating dream homes and holiday houses for my wonderful clients to losing my business as a direct result of my illness. This was swiftly followed by the loss of my home & the sense of belonging, security, peace and community that a home provides.
I'd never been fazed by a challenge until this point. However, this experience rocked me to my core. Stripping me of my entire sense of identity, much of my independence, and finding me queueing up at the Salvos with countless other people in hardship for vouchers to help with my groceries and bills. I have nothing but the greatest admiration for their work and had always been very supportive of the Salvos and St Vinnies personally and through my work prior to my demise - even now I will donate when I can afford to. That said, it was completely horrifying to find myself on the other side of the fence. I felt scared, lost and ashamed of my circumstances even though they were not something I brought upon myself.
It took me a lot to concede to the fact I needed welfare support. My pride and determination to find another way prevailed for as long as it could. I am now on the DSP.
Between 2017- Nov 2021 I drifted between my parent's and friends' homes with my car constantly packed to the roof. I was so self-conscious of my situation and felt guilty burdening them with my situation but I had no other choice. I couldn't afford a place of my own, I endured the stigma of being on welfare (landlords and agents don't typically look favourably on welfare recipients) and faced a horrendous waiting list for housing.
I lost a very dear friend of the same age to suicide as a result of his finding himself in relentless hardship due to illness. He would often camp out for prolonged periods in his horse float. A very demoralising and scary place to be. It eventually took a toll. His father found him hanging by a creek.
I am fortunate in that Karabar Housing threw me a lifeline around this time last year. They offered me a 1 bedroom social housing unit. Though a bit anxious about living in welfare housing for various reasons, I grabbed the offer with both hands. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.
Though I have my unit, I still have deep insecurities (and suffer PTSD) about finding myself without a home again given the trauma I've endured to date. I am watching rents skyrocket, people resorting to all sorts of tactics to secure rentals, and people being evicted due to hardship with nowhere else to go. The situation now is beyond scary.
I am highly anxious about finding myself at the mercy of the rental market. Constantly uprooting due to rising rents or landlords selling etc is both exhausting and a source of worry - particularly with the rental market being incredibly tight and options further narrowed by the fact welfare recipients aren't generally viewed in a positive light by agents/landlords in the private market.
Triggered, lost and afraid probably best describes where I'm at right now. All while trying to put on a brave face.
- There needs to be greater support and thinking outside the square to address this situation which can no longer be ignored.
- Everyone, no matter who they are or where they are in life needs to recognise their circumstances can change overnight just as they did for me. Hardship can happen to anyone. I fear the stress of the pandemic will see more people take their lives because they can't find a solution no matter how hard they try.
I'm more than willing to speak further. I feel going from being an accomplished Interior Designer to losing my business and home etc due to illness is a clear example that you can never judge a book by its cover.
Several of my former clients and tradespeople showed their support for my traumatic journey by banding together to renovate my Karaar Housing unit. The genuine concern and support they showed need to be replicated Australia-wide. It's a time to pull together, not cause or ignore further societal divide due to increased hardship.