Karabar housing didn't just provide me a house when I was homeless but a home to call my own. This act of kindness didn't just enable me to have a roof over my head but a place to make a new start for my life. It gave me peace of mind to allow me to take major steps and make great changes in my life without constantly stressing on where I was going to live. The day I was told I had my unit I literally cried tears of joy. I not only have a home but live in a wonderful community with great neighbours who watch out for each other. The caring group at Karabar Housing do all they can to make me feel secure in the knowledge that I now have my forever home to live in. I can't express how grateful I am and can't thank them enough for what they have done for me. I can now breathe a sigh of relief and have a great burden lifted from my shoulders. I now see an amazing future ahead of me. I am no longer homeless. Thankyou so very much. I don't know what the future would have held without this fantastic opportunity of a place to live.
Natarlie (Age 54)
They came and did the floors and they look just amazing. We are absolutely loving them. And wanted to say thank you to you and Karabar Housing for organising them. We feel very blessed
You changed my life!
Christine (aged 65)
Karabar Housing has been a life saver for me. They got me out of literally a shed and into a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment, which I stay in until I was offered a house with government housing. If I needed anything, I could call, and they would help point me in the right direction. They helped not only to house me in a crisis but also made me feel like I was part of a community. I wasn't just a number to them.
MY EXPERIENCE OF KARABAR HOUSING
A letter from a tenant
Learning of Karabar Housing Cooperative's nomination for a Monaro Service Award prompted one of our newest tenants to pen this letter.
My name is Monique Meijer and I wish to take this valuable opportunity to express my deep gratitude and respect for Karabar Housing Cooperative, the incredible people that run it, and the very fine work they do. I will expand on this in further detail but first some context.
On meeting me, you would most likely be shocked to learn I am a welfare recipient who is not only in awe of all that Karabar Housing does but that I am also in receipt of their services. You will only ever see me when I am physically well enough to venture out and when I do, I generally strive to look my best out of pure dignity and self-respect. Just because I suffer a rare, incurable and very debilitating neurological illness which has seen me endure loss after loss does not mean I always need to look that way. That only serves to make me feel worse.
My situation is probably one of the most ironic there is. I feel it important to share it to demonstrate that there is no such thing as a stereotype for people who find themselves in crippling hardship and homelessness. It can impact ANYONE no matter how rosy life might be or how impressive our achievements may appear at any given time. Anyone who thinks homelessness is self-inflicted is nothing short of myopic. It is often the catastrophic culmination of complexities and challenges that no-one could fathom by merely glancing at or looking down on someone.
You see, prior to my demise I was achieving the seemingly impossible. I had worked in media, marketing and event management in both the public and private sector across a range of industries for many years. I worked for numerous Ministers and on a number of high profile marketing campaigns - all without so much as a formal qualification to my name. I'd always been highly creative and determined in everything I turned my hand to and felt compelled to have a crack at a completely new career - Interior Design. So, armed with nothing but self belief, my natural creative flair, and my expertise in PR and marketing - I took my great leap of faith. Again my lack of formal qualifications failed to hinder me. My work was quickly featured in glossy home magazines - this included my first major project which landed an 8 page feature in Australian House & Garden Magazine. I helped numerous vendors break sales records through high impact pre-sale styling with one of my clients smashing the sales record for their suburb by over $800K. My design input and styling was instrumental in helping one of my builder clients secure a highly coveted industry award. It was our first foray into display homes which made the win all the more rewarding and extraordinary. My glittering list continued.
Outside of my career, I had my own home and treasured my little sanctuary which was surrounded by wonderful neighbours and community. I took great pride in the new life I had steadily created for myself following the aftermath of a painful marital breakdown - a relationship I'd put 16 years into nurturing to the best of my ability. I cherished a happy, healthy and full life - relishing time spent with my much loved family and friends. In other words, I was living my dream.
What was to follow was nothing short of life shattering. It has come close to completely breaking me NUMEROUS times over the past several years. Me...someone who has always relished a challenge and proven resilient. You see, in the midst of living my dream, unexplained and debilitating health issues started creeping into my life. First they crept, then they consumed at an alarming rate. While my determination, pride and passion for my work was adamant I wouldn't concede defeat to my health issues, I soon found myself without a choice. I finally caved to what I discovered to be an incurable neurological illness. Though not terminal, it is extremely difficult to manage at the best of times. It resulted in the complete and utter demise of my business along with any kind of employment prospects despite my impressive resume. This was closely followed by the loss of my home as I was plunged into severe financial hardship. It was completely surreal to find myself suddenly queuing for welfare support. I was literally packing my worldly belongings while trying to muster the strength to honour completion of the last of my projects - all dream homes. In short, it resulted in the loss of ME, my sense of community, future aspirations and life as I knew it.
I have since led a very transient life between homes - all the while trying to manage my illness and overcome enormous barriers to regain some sort of stability and sense of security. A very difficult thing to accomplish when EVERY single aspect of your life has been impacted, your personal belongings are scattered to the wind, and you don't have good health on your side. I have experienced deep ongoing shame and frustration that ME 'of all people', with all my skills and experience couldn't find a way forward no matter how hard I've tried. I've never been so blindsided in my life. I have alternated wildly between being courageous and determined to being curled up in the fetal position not knowing which way to turn.
This is precisely where Karabar Housing Cooperative and its incredible team comes in. They have been a God Send in more ways than one. As most people will appreciate, a home provides so much more than a roof over the head. A home is a place where most people nurture and nourish themselves and their loved ones - physically, mentally and emotionally. It is generally a place of security, comfort and belonging. It is a place where we can quietly rest, recuperate, and restore ourselves to the best of our ability so that we are better able to overcome whatever challenges and adversity we may be facing. While I consider myself VERY fortunate to have always had caring friends or family to stay with since losing my home (and I am forever grateful for this as many people are living rough on the streets), it has still been a transient existence filled with many uncertainties. This has caused me to feel highly unsettled and overwhelmed. As such, it came as a huge relief when Sylvia De Luca of Karabar Housing Cooperative contacted me with the offer of a home of my own for however long I need it.
I fully recognise just how lucky I am to be granted a home due to the high demand for public and social housing - I myself was on the list for approximately three years. For me the offer of a home provided an all important glimmer of hope at the end of what's been a very dark, scary and often lonely tunnel as many people struggled to understand or relate to the magnitude and complexity of my physical, financial and in turn - mental struggle. It has provided a critical step towards achieving some stability and forward movement in my life. In all honesty it came at a time that I was seriously running out of steam and hope. I was strongly questioning how much longer I could push on without 'some' way forward. My body, mind and spirit was just completely worn out from the relentless uphill battle.
In essence, Karabar Housing Cooperative is providing me with a new lease of life. I've found them to be highly respectful, supportive and open to the exchange of ideas. They take the time to fully understand the unique challenges of their tenants and work together to provide appropriate support and solutions wherever possible. I suspect this approach has been pivotal to their success in matching tenants to the right property, empowering them as they strive to overcome adversity, and in creating sustainable and affordable housing solutions. They didn't just hand me a key to a home. They provided me with a key to a foundation on which to build a more stable and independent future.
I think it is also important to highlight that all Karabar Housing Cooperative's homes are located in good areas within close proximity to community amenities. They are also neat and well maintained. These factors go a LONG way to providing and fostering a greater sense of security, pride, hope and community among tenants. Sadly, the thought of living in any type of welfare housing is often a very bleak and confronting prospect for anyone who suddenly finds themselves in unexpected hardship just as I did. Karabar Housing Cooperative has certainly broken the mold there - to the extent they actively encouraged me to use my creative flair to spruce up my new abode and make it feel like home. Given my design skills and ability to beautify on a tight budget, I volunteered to take it a step further - proposing to carry out a Mini Makeover on a shoestring which would then be presented as an uplifting case study for others who find themselves in hardship.
The aim of the exercise? To demonstrate that ANY property can be transformed into a 'feel good HOME' on a budget no matter how small, dated or basic it may be. Karabar Housing Cooperative fully supported my idea and its merits. I am thrilled to say my Mini Makeover is almost complete. Striking transformation aside, the MOST uplifting thing about it has actually been the way the local community has rallied behind me with my mission. It has brought people from all walks of life and circumstances together. These include my former tradies and even former clients who readily jumped onboard having witnessed me losing my business and home; a designer friend from the Snowys; a few of my new neighbours who have only known me for 5 minutes and are also in hardship through no fault of their own; friends-of-friends; and family who have all shown up to help in any way they can - contributing time, elbow grease and even donating fittings and materials to the cause. I consider each and every one of my Dream Team to be the epitome of kindness and generosity. Fair dinkum friends! The stunning results of their efforts will serve as an endearing and enduring reminder to me, Karabar Housing Cooperative and all future tenants (should I be in a position to move on one day) of what can be achieved through the power of compassion and community.
In closing, it is fair to say I have experienced both the best in people and the absolute worst since my rapid and unexpected demise. Where the best and the worst came from has often come as a huge surprise. I am pleased to say this is most definitely an example of the best. It is my great hope that my story, the wonderful support of Karabar Housing Cooperative, and the very heartening example of the power of community will serve to encourage greater compassion, understanding and respect for eachother - particularly those who are already doing it tough. This is the first of many stories I will be sharing to help break down the barriers and misconceptions surrounding life with hardship, chronic illness and homelessness. These are all life lessons we can stand to learn in the midst of the global pandemic which is fast proving that no-one can be guaranteed of good health and wealth.
Thank you Karabar Housing Cooperative for your ongoing commitment and dedication to providing the keys to new beginnings - not just for me but for the many other people who have found a home with you. I cannot speak highly enough of all that you do. I look forward to sharing the transformation of 'my' new abode with you all (and more broadly) very shortly.