Ironically, it was the fact that Sharleen was working that made it so hard for her to get assistance in finding accommodation. When she had to leave her home after a relationship breakdown, she had no money saved, so could not raise a bond herself but was earning just a little to much to qualify for rental bond assistance. She was not on Centrelink, so the Department of Housing could not help her. Neither could the Salvo’s or Vinnies. The YWCA gave her a place to stay, but only for a few weeks before they arranged for a place in a boarding house. It was an improvement on friends’ couches but of the 106 residents, only three were women. This was unnerving but she stuck it out for eight months.

“I put this rant on Facebook about how people who are earning a living, paying taxes, but can’t get any assistance when they actually have the ability to pay the government back. After my rant, one of my friends actually put up the money and said pay me back when you can.”

Another friend who works at the casino told Sharleen about City West Housing. “CWH people are so willing to accept people for who they are, no matter what they’ve gone through. They look at it as a fresh new start for everyone. “For me that was incredible. Before I managed to get the unit I had reached such a low point in my life that I didn’t feel anyone would be willing to give me a second chance and give me a home.”

At the boarding house she was thankful to have a roof over her head but … now she has a place of her own, she can put up photos of her children, she can have friends over. “I felt too embarrassed to do that before. I didn’t even want to tell people where I was staying. Now I’m building more of a social network.”

She is a lot more positive. She suffered from depression, such that she could not look after her children and they went to live with her mother in Wollongong. Now that she has stability again, she has the opportunity to create a future for herself. She paid her friend back quickly and is beginning to save money. Where she used to be worried about what was going to happen to her, where she would end up, now she is able to focus on creating a positive future.

“City West Housing have not just given me a home; they’ve given me my life back.”

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