Vanessa's "Home at Last"
Originally from overseas Vanessa settled in Australia some 30 years ago and successfully worked and rented during all of that time. However, Vanessa became homeless after she returned to Melbourne from overseas where she had gone to look after three ill family members. Once back in Melbourne Vanessa could not find work or housing and was startled at how much rents had increased in the time she was away. Vanessa couldn't find employment due to her age, and couldn't get a lease on Newstart Allowance. Vanessa couldn't find employment due to her age, and couldn't get a lease on Newstart Allowance.
With nowhere to go Vanessa started sleeping rough, an experience she said was both terrifying and humiliating. At the end of her tether Vanessa went to see the social worker at Centrelink who referred her into the local homelessness service, something she didn’t know existed as she had never needed to access services before. The local homelessness service was not able to assist Vanessa with any housing ,or even emergency funding at that time as they had run out of their allocated crisis housing funds.They referred Vanessa into our Home at Last service for assistance in finding long term housing.
Within a month of working with the Home at Last service Vanessa was offered a public housing unit under the early housing system and is now well settled in her new home and the local community. Vanessa also referred two other women she knew who were in precarious housing circumstances and we were delighted when these women were made offers of housing at the very same site as Vanessa.
The three women have become great friends and are now working together to make their estate and community a safe and nurturing place. They have commenced holding community events including making food for everyone one on the estate to share, Vanessa is growing vegetables and the produce is being shared by all that live there. Other residents told us before life was very lonely and now they are feeling much more secure knowing there are neighbours like Vanessa who care and look out for one another.
Having lived the horrors of homelessness Vanessa has now joined HAAG to campaign for more housing and improved homelessness support. One of the most horrific things that happened to Vanessa when she was accessing the local homelessness service was being assaulted, as she was told by the service she needed to line up at the service by 7.00am every day if she had any hope of receiving funds for motel accommodation that night. Whilst walking in the dark pre-dawn to line up, she was grabbed from behind and dragged to the ground, fortunately she got away with minor injuries but was very shaken.
"Having a safe and secure place to live means I can now live my life worry free, I am so happy and content in my new home, it is just wonderful"
Vanessa was featured in the Federation of Community Legal Centre's Humans of Public Housing Project - see her photo story below
Vanessa “I never used to be the kind of person who hugged anyone – but now, I hug everyone. Seriously – I am a hugger!” A self-nominated busy-body, Vanessa knows everyone in the complex. Warm and energetic, Vanessa was a professional hairdresser before she retired. Now retired, she does the hair of many residents, grows and share vegetables from her plentiful garden and volunteers at the local hospital. “My son and his kids come over, and they go running around the place, through the garden. The first time they came they were so shocked that this place was so nice. I guess they were expecting something worse, being public housing, but this place is just full of love.” Life has not always been as full of light. Vanessa grew up in a chaotic and violent household, and found herself in a violent marriage. She knew she had to escape the cycle of violence, but she found herself homeless and really struggled to find a path. “As an older person, it’s just much harder, and in many ways humiliating. All of that turned around when I found this home. And it really is a home – not just a house.” Life in their complex is full of fun. Vanessa can tell you all the gossip and they just had a birthday party for one of the residents daughters yesterday. “I never really used to celebrate birthdays – but just try and stop me now!” says Vanessa. “For most of my life I really did not want anyone to hug me or touch me. So much of my experience had been pain. Now though, it is really very different – I feel light and love”. “Unlike a lot of services, HAAG really listened, and they really care. Even months after I moved in they followed up – and that is totally different to a lot of other services that I tried to access. I have referred three friends, I put up posters, I’m always telling people to reach out. It has made a huge difference to my life”