Finding affordable housing was a six-year long journey for Rima and her young son. Now a new campaign by the St Vincent de Paul Society in NSW is seeking to address the shortage of suitable accommodation for struggling single mums.
Rima fell pregnant at 29 and her parents were not happy. They kicked her out of home.
A baby was growing inside of her and she had nowhere to go.
’I had a caesarean and was in hospital,’ Rima said. “My mum came in and said, ”I hope you have somewhere to live”.
‘I told her I did, but I didn’t really. The hospital tried to find somewhere for me to go. I lived with a friend for a few weeks. Then a counsellor I knew found me a refuge.’
Rima moved into the refuge with her baby boy, who was a few weeks old.
‘Every time someone left, another person moved in straight away, there was never a spare bed,’ she said.’
Before falling pregnant Rima worked as an area manager for a fast food company. She had a company car and a company phone. She spent her 30th birthday with her son at the refuge, then after nine months needed to move out, because it was about to close.
All the while she was receiving income from Centerlink. She couldn't work because of mental health issues.
‘I had no support. I felt like a failure and nothing was working out. The father of my son had disappeared. I had to look after him.
‘If I could afford to put him in childcare for a few hours, it was to go to the doctors to try and manage my own mental health problems.’
Finding her own place through a government ‘affordable housing’ scheme became a full-time job. Her time limit at the half-way house was almost up, and other people were needing to move in.
‘I had to look for rentals where rent could be subsidised by the government,’ she said.
’I was getting rejected from real estate agents.
‘My self-esteem was already low because I felt I couldn’t look after my kid.’
Rima finally secured a home, but six months after moving in - after buying furniture, curtains, setting up the television, and decorating her son's bedroom, the owners put the rental property up for sale.
She was forced to move again and the mental stress took its toll.
’At one stage I was on four different types of medication. I wasn't sleeping at night. I was visiting the psychologist, the psychiatrist. Sometimes the medication (I was taking) would change the way my body worked,’ Rima said.
After six and a half years, she finally secured her own place.
’Six years of food vouchers and Centrelink and psychiatrists and case workers and counsellors. ‘Finally I'm stable. I'm still seeing a therapist, but it's for maintenance.’
Affordable housing and the St Vincent de Paul Society.
The St Vincent de Paul Society in NSW launched a petition in December, urging the state government to deliver more affordable housing through the campaign, The Right to Home.
The Society is fighting for greater volume and easier access to affordable housing in NSW, so that young women like Rima don't have to worry about ending up on the streets while caring for their infant child.
The aim is to get 10,000 signatures, to ensure the matter is debated in the NSW Parliament.
To help people who have nowhere to turn, who are being rejected at every corner,
print a copy of this petition, sign it, and circulate it among your friends, family and colleagues.
Then post it back to us at PO Box 5 PETERSHAM NSW 2049, so that your signature can be included.
This is an edited extract of an article by Caitlin Bishop that originally appeared on mamamia.com.au