The Faces of Homelessness #HW2020

This year, CHPQ is commemorating Homelessness Week by sharing real stories of homelessness gathered across Queensland. Client stories have been collected by specialist homelessness services that are members of the Council and have been shared with permission of the clients.

Papua New Guinean family tell their story of making a home in Australia with the help of ACRO

Margaret* came with her family from PNG seeking a better life. She reflects, “When we came, it was hard… it was the most important thing that we had a house to stay in.”

My name is Margaret* and I came from PNG with my two kids after domestic violence. When I came to Australia I had services from organisations – Red Cross, Micah Projects, Hart 4000 and they introduced me to ACRO where I got crisis accommodation. This was very helpful and I thank ACRO and Fiona and Emily, you check on me and my kids.

In PNG, I had domestic violence and it was hard to care for my two kids. I had to look for a job to sustain my family, in April I came to Australia. It was tough at first but organisations helped us. Now my kids are enjoying studying, free from the pain that they saw me going through and are having a normal life.

When I came I stayed in the backpackers for 2 days with my kids, I was googling to get some assistance and found Red Cross and they gave me a list of places to get help. Romera Centre booked us in to Annerley Motel for a weekend and then another week. I went back to Red Cross for some more lists of organisations and called Micah Projects and they got us a weeks’ accommodation at Brisbane Manor. Then we went to organisation in the Valley…. 3rd Space and they got us a week accommodation at Yumba Hostel and called Hart 4000 and they paid for 2 more weeks at Yumba Hostel and Hart 4000 called ACRO. It was tough going from one place to another. When we were told by Hart 4000 about ACRO it was a giant relief when we found out their housing was going to be provided to us. When we came my daughter had a lump on her cheek and I am pregnant – we went to the Mater Refugee Clinic and I am still going there for my antenatal clinic.

I felt safe in the housing places compared to PNG with my husband. But when we got money from Red Cross $400 a month we had to use is very carefully. We needed to have go-cards and I needed to recharge my mobile and the kids needed clothes and things cause we didn’t have much with us and sometimes food (at Yumba Hostel the meals were included so that helped a lot). I came to Australia because there was no support for me and my kids in PNG, there is a lot of corruption in the police and no sort of welfare services like in Australia. In PNG when you complain to the police about violence to you they will say that’s a family problem and you should sort that out in the house.

Now that I am in Australia, I am relaxed, I don’t feel the stress I felt in PNG. I have a peaceful life and no issue with safety now. Since we came five to six months ago I have never felt what I have felt here… happy with my kids, safe and sound.

The most significant change for me is I don’t need to move from place to place and I got a house. There was a lot of pressure moving from place to place and not knowing what would happen to us.  I am very thankful, and ACRO helped the kids with their school needs and the gift cards you gave us… we are so happy now. We had to get a bridging visa before the kids could go to school. The kids were out of school for one term. The kids have changed a lot now – healthier and happier. I can see a big difference… before they were in fear, didn’t look good or happy. It affected them emotionally, physically. When we came it was hard… it is the most important thing that we have a house to stay in.

I don’t know how to repay you for me and my kids will have a good future now, in PNG with the corruption I didn’t know how I would sustain my family but now we have a better future.

*Not her real name

Special thanks to CHPQ member, ACRO.

The MARA Project
Women leaving custody tell their story

The MARA Project works with women being released from three of the four women’s correctional centres in South East QLD. The MARA Project is a CHPQ Council member and offers a unique perspective on the experiences of women exiting custody.

MARA’s InReach services provides prisoners with assistance to make contact with external agencies who can assist them to re-enter the community.

MARA’s Outreach services offer in-depth pre and post release support. Outreach support commences in-prison with detailed re-entry planning. This includes creating referral pathways to support organisations in the community, assisting women coming up for release to create strong supportive relationships in the community and with other agencies.

Elisha’s Story

After experiencing repeat homelessness over the past few years, Elisha once again found herself homeless during the pandemic. Elisha’s mental health and custodial contact made it difficult for her to reside in a shared dynamic. MARA helped Elisha find temporary accomodation at a motel in the Gold Coast where she currently resides while MARA, Department of Housing and Uniting Care work with her to secure long-term, stable accomodation.Elisha expressed her thanks toward MARA and the support provided on several occasions via text message and phone call. Elisha has expressed her desire to lead a crime free life. This accommodation opportunity is encouraging her to move forward with this desire and has given MARA a basis to continue support in other areas including Mental Health, Child Safety and Alcohol & Other Drugs. Read Elisha’s story here.

Teri’s Story

Teri is a 19 year old First Nations woman who had child safety involvement during her childhood and adolescent years due to abuse and neglet. Teri was homeless four years prior to her incarceration. Upon release, Teri was couch surfing with family members. MARA and ICYS attempted to obtain Teri crisis accomodation. At this time, Teri reported that “for the first time ever I felt I didn’t need to commit a crime and this is the furthest I’ve ever gotten to getting a place.”

However, COVID-19 restrictions meant that both services were unable to provide much face-to-face support. A lack of face-to-face support hindered Teri’s ability to be able to obtain proper ID to be able to enter a boarding house, and resulted in Teri disenging from all services.

Teri was a young woman who was starting to see hope in her future, open up and trust services and reconsider her choices around criminal activity. If services were providing normal face to face service delivery, the services would have been properly able to engage and assist Teri, and her story would have likely ended with her finding suitable accomodation. Sadly, Teri most likely feels like down by services again. Read her full story here.

Maree’s Story

Being assisted by MARA enabled Maree to have stable affordable housing for herself and her twin babies and three older children. Read her experience with MARA here.

Lisa’s Story

After exiting prison, Lisa had a brief homelessness spell and was sleeping in a park. MARA helped Lisa to find emergency accomodation while more permanent accomodation was secured for her. Lisa said, “I’ve been in custody a couple of times and never asked for assistance, and at first I didn’t think you would be able to help me.  Thank you for helping me.  Without MARA support I would have gone back to jail.”

Read Lisa’s story here.

Shanice’s Story

Shanice was released from custody into an unlivable property. She stayed there for about a week before finding herself homeless and couch surfing wherever possible. MARA is still working with Shanice to find suitable and stable accomodation. Read Shanice’s story here.

Sandra’s Story

Shortly after her release in early April, MARA funded accomodation for Sandra at the Kookaburra Inn. HART4000 provided Sandra with her immediate accomodation in a hotel at Windsor. Read Sandra’s story here.

Special thanks to CHPQ member, The MARA Project, a program of SERO4.

“Home is where my hound is.”
A client story of homelessness and service engagement

I am a mother of three teenagers, I myself moved out of home at the age of 16, a few months after leaving home I started working as a prostitute, a year later I was taking drugs, it started with marijuana and then speed.

I moved to A for about a year with no fixed address I continued to work as a sex worker moving from hotels to motels.

At the age of 18 years I fell pregnant with my first-born child. I went back to working soon after and ran into an old friend who said he could help me get on my feet again, this time I thought was different, only to learn that he was only using me for money, he physically and mentally abused me and kept my son hostage on numerous occasions until I gave him money.

After months of living in fear, I made the decision to leave. I told him I needed to take my son to the Dr’s for immunisation needles and with ten dollars in my wallet and what I could fit into a bag, change of clothes, two nappies a babies bottle I left with nowhere to go.

I went to the local bowls club for shelter, there I met a lovely couple who listened to my story, they took me and my son to their home, gave us food and a warm place to sleep, the next day they drove us from A to B. They paid for a fare to C to go see my mum.  They were the kindest people I have ever met; they were my life savers.

Unable to stay at my mothers, I moved to Glen Haven Women’s Shelter for 9 months until I got my own unit and waited for a Department property to come up.

I was offered a Public Housing unit in a Brisbane suburb and was there for 2 years, I fell pregnant with my second child, my income enabled me to move out of Public Housing into a private rental property. I sustained my tenancy for approximately four and half years with next to no issues. I fell pregnant with my third child a beautiful baby girl.  With no support and low income I went back to work as a sex worker as that was all I knew, my head was not in a good place, and did not have the capacity to deal with securing alternative employment.

My life yet again took a turn for the worst, I met a new partner, we were in an on and off relationship for 5 years, I got caught up in illegal activity with a woman I was working for, she was selling drugs and sadly I got hooked on drugs again and as a result was charged and spent 4 months in jail. My three children were placed in care of my sibling, but this was short term. My older son stayed with my sibling, my 6 year old son went back to live with his father and remained in his care for two years, my  3 year old daughter was a handful for my sister and was approved to be in jail with me.

When I was released from jail, I then moved to D, I knew I had to stay away from all the bad influences and clean from drugs. I purchased a pet dog 6 week old Great Dane cross Mastiff for safety and two of my three children moved in with me, As a family we lived in D for 6 years until I started having financial problems and could not afford to pay my rent, I decided then  that the only way I could manage was to move tenants in downstairs, this again proved to be a mistake, I started a relationship with a man who controlled me and my money, I was experiencing DV and spiralled into financial debt which I am still in the process of paying off.

After 6 years of having stable accommodation, my relationship took a downward turn, the DV escalated, my children and I were forced to flee with nowhere to go.

I was desperate, couch surfing my only option, I contacted several housing providers and was on the Public housing list. I had to put all my furniture and personal belongings into storage.

Hart4000 assisted me financially to secure a motel room for 2 weeks. I could not afford the motel ongoing and from there I moved my three children into a tent in a friend’s backyard, we lived in that tent for approximately 8 months.

  1. How long have you been accessing the service?

I contacted Zillmere Family Accommodation in June 2018 and they were the only housing providers to put my name on their housing list (Qld Housing Information Platform). Zillmere Families contacted me on a regular basis updating my information. I was encouraged to keep my public housing application updated. After 8 months living in a tent, my family was offered a head lease property managed by Zillmere Family Accommodation Program, our pet dog was approved, and we moved in.

We are still living in crisis accommodation, hopeful that we would secure either Community Housing or Public Housing.

  • How did you come to find out about the service?

I stayed in regular contact with Hart4000, they provided contact details for various housing providers including Zillmere Family Accommodation.  Once I was put onto the Qld Housing Information Platform, I felt hopeful.

  • Looking back over the time you have been accessing/Using the service, what sort of changes do you feel have happened?

Zillmere Family Accommodation offered me 3month lease with case management support, I entered into a support agreement that included case planning.

My plan included goals, such as,

  • Housing, Tenancy education, sustaining, and maintaining my tenancy. Advocate for both Community Housing and Public Housing (with pet approval)
  • Children/Relationship, having all three children living under the same roof. Overcoming relationship issues, feeling safe, trusting each other, respectful communication, and supporting one-another.
  • Education/Training and Employment, enrolling all three children into school, and accessing support for school uniforms and school supplies including laptop to enable home schooling during Covid19.  
  • Assistance to apply for School rail Travel Safety Net
  • Referral to obtain Fair Play vouchers for my children
  • Linking into HELP employment and Counselling services
  • Health and Wellbeing, scheduled GP appointments and went on a mental health plan, referred to Communify for Intensive Family Support and additional in-home support
  • Financial Management, developing and maintaining household income and expenditure, addressing debt.
  • Providing me and my family with food parcels, personal hygiene products and household cleaning products

Zillmere Family Accommodation have made me look after myself by going to doctors appointments and seeing my psychologist on a regular basis.

The have assisted me to improve my debt management skills, budget accordingly to address my debts, enter-into repayment plans and sustain tenancy.

Referred me to other support services that I was not aware of and made me feel better as a person.

Reminded me that I need to look after myself mentally, So I do not go in check out mode and not deal with stuff.

I now feel more confident to succeed due to the support they have given me and the tools to enable me to learn new strategies. I now believe that I am more capable and in control. I now know that I can do whatever I want if I am willing to put the hard-work in. 

I am now in the drivers seat I can now control which path I want to take for the first time in a long time. I want to pursue a career in beauty/nail technician.

My eldest son has secured employment in the hospitality industries and is doing really well. My children are enrolled in school and applying themselves to the best of their ability. They feel, safe, valued, and respected.

After 2 years of living in supported accommodation I now like that I have the best skills and improved decision making skills that will keep me and my family in long term tenancy regardless of any challenges life throws back at me.

My dream is to secure a house I can call home, secure a good job in a creative industry like nail technician that lets me show my kids that you can do what you love to do, and get paid enough to support my family.

Special thanks to CHPQ member, North East Community Support Group Inc.