by Graeme, a Uniting Vic.Tas consumer involved in the Victorian Government From Homelessness to a Home program
This article was originally published in Parity magazine. Learn more about Parity magazine including how to access full editions.
‘It all started in March 2020’
It all started for me in late March 2020 when I was asked to leave the private rental property in Hamilton I was living in at the time. I was staying with a friend of mine and her property manager didn’t approve of me staying there.
This was really tough because it was in late February and March which was when Covid-19 first hit, and my options were limited.
I was only going to stay there for a short time, and I had stored my belongings and my furniture in her garage. We tried to reason with the property manager and assured him that I was doing everything I could to find a rental property, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.
His response was that I need to leave, or else he would evict both me and my friend. I obviously couldn’t take the risk of my friend getting evicted because of me, especially when she had gone out of her way to help me.
By this point she became scared and anxious at the thought that she might get kicked out. I gathered my things and left the house because I didn’t want to get her in any further trouble. I was homeless for the next thirteen months.
I initially lived in my car. I kept everything with me and moved around to avoid loitering. It was tough and I felt overwhelmed.
I tried to get support in the Hamilton area. I rang up Lifeline for support. I also rang a lot of the homeless services. I kept going around in circles, being given multiple numbers to call and getting referred back to the same services again.
There are limited services in Hamilton and while they try to support people living rough, rentals are hard to come by and there just aren’t enough shelters in the region. When the limited accommodation that such services can offer runs out, homeless people are often back to living on the streets.
At times, I was living in motel rooms in Hamilton. I moved over to Warrnambool when I found a cheaper motel. But the price went up while I was living there and I had to pay $590 a week on my Centrelink Disability Pension Payment. It wasn’t easy living in these motel rooms. It was a life of constantly being adrift.
How are you supposed to get through it? What are you supposed to do?
I was applying for private rentals through estate agents and landlords throughout this time, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. Applying to rentals and accessing services is much harder when you don’t have a stable living location or access to internet.
After a few months I got to the point where I basically gave up. How are you supposed to get through it? What are you supposed to do? Who are you supposed to talk to? I wasn’t able to handle it from day one to be honest and there were many times when I thought of killing myself.
I never thought I would ever be homeless, but once I was, I despaired that I would never find a home again.
Finding homelessness support
The Homelessness to a Home program was introduced to me by a Salvation Army Connect housing worker. I remember a phone conversation saying to her ‘look, I don’t think I’ll get a place ever. I’ve tried that many rental agents. I’ve replied to that many. I’ve viewed that many properties.’ What I didn’t know at the time was that the Salvation Army Connect contacted Uniting Vic.Tas on my behalf.
I remember sitting with the Salvation Army housing worker in the car and saying ‘Well, I don’t think you can get me a house, can you?’. And less than a week later, Uniting found me a home.
Imagine my delight when he presented me with an 18 month-lease.
I didn’t have a phone at the time, so most of the communication was on email until we met. Imagine my delight when he presented me with an 18 month-lease. It was a targeted and tailored package that would give me support for that period.
I knew then that they had been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. To be honest I was pretty stunned and amazed because I had pretty much given up on the chance of finding a home by that point. I mean, there are other people out there in pretty dire situations, domestic violence cases for instance and that’s not my situation. So, it’s fair to say that I am impressed with the marvellous job that they had done.
From Homelessness to a Home
I moved into a house in Avoca in May and am signed up till at least October 2022. For the first time in thirteen months, I feel safe. I’ve got security and a roof over my head. I have peace of mind knowing that I’m not going to have to go back to sleeping in my car for a while.
This is not just my story and there are many others who go through the same thing day in, day out. I’m just one of the lucky ones to have a place where I can shelter for the time being.
I’m so thankful to all support workers who’ve helped me over the time. They really do deserve a medal for everything they’ve done for me. I never expected half of this.
The questions I ask is why it is so hard to get a private rental?
But the questions I ask is why it is so hard to get a private rental? Why are landlords and estate agents so difficult to deal with these days? Why are support services struggling to home people all over the country?
I’m telling my story so that people know what it’s like and why the system needs to be fixed.
Nobody should have to go through what I have. If you’re out on the streets you’ve got nothing. The thought of having to go out on the streets and be homeless again scares me. It’s one that I never want to go back to.
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