From nowhere to go, to free and independent

Thursday 21 April 2022

When the day finally arrived for Anne to move into a home of her own, a wave of feelings hit.

“Free was the main one,” she recalls.

“I didn’t have my own house key when I was with him. Something as simple as that was major for me; that meant that I could come and go as I pleased.”

Having spent years in a relationship that descended from toxicity into emotional and physical abuse, the opportunity to start anew and re-establish relationships with family was an opportunity she feared would never come due to her circumstances.

“You might ask why I stayed. The answer is simple – I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had no money and he was threatening me with calling Centrelink and [the Department of] Housing. I also didn’t want to let my family know what was going on.”

To better understand Anne’s situation requires a look into her past.

As a wife and mother of two boys, Anne based her identity in her family.

However, when her marriage of seven years broke down abruptly, she was left devastated by the sudden upheaval of the life she had always wanted.

Presenting a front of normality to the world to hide the trauma she was experiencing, a breaking point saw her spiral off the rails.

Becoming increasingly withdrawn to the point her sons went to live with their father, illicit drug use followed before rock bottom hit in the form of homelessness.

Her fortunes appeared to change for the better while living in temporary housing where she met a man.

“I wasn’t looking for a relationship, but it just happened.”

Moving quickly in the relationship from living together to being listed on the lease of his property, the initial bliss of being with another person evolved into a nightmare for Anne as the years passed by.

“Not only was he violent but the emotional abuse and control was unbearable, along with the jealousy and him distancing me from my family.”

Unable to call upon a support system to escape, Anne lived with her abusive partner for five years before a mixture of fear and courage saw her break free.

Leaving in her pyjamas with little more than her mobile phone in hand, Anne sought refuge at a nearby women’s shelter where a fresh set of challenges awaited.

Feeling unwelcome in her surroundings and racing against a ticking clock to find long-term accommodation, Anne sought help from a nearby Vinnies Support Centre, having had dealings with the Society in the past.

Sharing her story with Jessica, a Vinnies case worker, and Nina, a volunteer, Anne was provided with clothing, toiletries and local knowledge on where to find dinners in accordance with her budget.

“They also helped me with medication, but most importantly they were there for me. They listened, they never judged. They were priceless during that awful time.”

Spending the next few months hoping for a home to become available after a short-lived return to her partner resulted in another stay at the women’s shelter, the breakthrough Anne had yearned for came through a connection of Jessica’s at another local charitable organisation.

Having spent years losing her sense of self, the offer of a fully furnished apartment, rent-free for 12 months, along with continued assistance from the local Vinnies Conference, transformed Anne into a new person.

“My life has totally turned around. I’ve got friends, I spend time with my parents who have been there to support me. I am proud to say that I am now nine years clean.

“I’ve dealt with Vinnies for a long time, the work they do is priceless. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.

“They worked really hard for me behind the scenes and they got for me the greatest wish one could possibly receive: my apartment.”

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The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW has been alleviating the hardship and disadvantage of thousands of people every year for more than 140 years.

To learn more about the various services offered by Vinnies, click here.