There has been a lot of media coverage about the problem that over 122,000 people around Australia experience on any given night.
Homelessness is more than not having access to shelter. Only 6% of people without a home are sleeping rough. The true extent of homelessness is mostly hidden – made up of people in crisis accommodation, or those who are living in boarding houses, insecure housing, overcrowded dwellings or couch surfing. This was something that Ellie* was all too familiar with before she became a City West housing resident.
Unexpected life change leads to homelessness
A series of challenging life events, including not being able to work due to the COVID lockdowns and being diagnosed with Stage 3 endometrial cancer, had left 48-year-old Ellie without hope. A close brush with death due to her cancer symptoms, undergoing surgery, and months of radiation and chemotherapy treatments had left her physically and mentally exhausted.
On top of this Ellie found renting as a single person unaffordable, even before she became ill and was working as a chef. She was forced to live in a boarding house and couch-surf at friends’ places.
Eventually Ellie was able to move into transitional housing for a period of nine months.
“COVID was still very present and there I could have my own space and not have my immune system compromised further while I was recovering from cancer treatment. It’s rough thinking back to those times because I really didn’t feel like I had any options, and mentally things were getting very dark.”
In the meantime, Ellie’s case worker was helping her to find permanent housing.
From homeless to having a safe home
By the end of the transitional housing period, City West Housing was able to offer Ellie an apartment.
“Knowing I was going into secure housing with income-based rent was game changing. I could relax a bit after a long period of not being confident of my future. Having a home has made a world of difference to my life, my mind and my health.”
Ellie is now thriving
These days Ellie is getting her life back on track. She is studying a Certificate 4 in Teaching and Assessment at TAFE. Along with her 20 years of experience as a chef, this training will eventually qualify her to teach commercial cookery at registered training organisations.
She also volunteers two days a week. One day she cooks for kids in a local school who don’t always get three square meals a day, and the second day she drives a forklift in a warehouse for an organisation that helps people in need of furniture.
“Volunteering helps me remember that I’m of value to the people around me and to my community. Having the ability to do that after the last few crazy years and knowing that my housing is secure has been a gift on my road back to wellness.”
* Real name withheld to protect privacy.