26 Sep 2022

Through the Housing Continuum

Social housing
In 2016, Natalie and her two sons Zac and Cooper were living in a private rental when a combination of circumstances caused them to fall behind in rent.

Forced out of their private rental property and couch-surfing to keep a roof over their heads, Natalie made every effort to find a suitable, safe place for her family. For six months, they lived with friends – in particular, Joe, who she now affectionately calls ‘Dad’, and Anne – in a shed on their property. This situation was not sustainable and particularly difficult for someone with two children, but the rent was affordable and it gave Natalie the opportunity to connect with a support worker.

Natalie generously referred to the experience of living in the shed as “sort of like camping”—the property ran off tank water, couldn’t use hot water for showers, didn’t have a working toilet and had an outdoor, “makeshift” kitchen. The family lived in the shed for approximately six months during which time they battled the cold and slept with flashlights beside their beds due to there being no proper lighting. Her youngest son was in his early years at primary school at this stage and needed more stability. Zac, Natalie’s eldest son, is on the autism spectrum and said “it was a struggle”.

Natalie’s support worker, Stephen, whom she described as “wonderful”, helped her navigate the accommodation process including seeking accommodation for people in high need. It was six months before a vacancy in our Crisis Accommodation Program became available close to where the family were living, near the children’s school and support networks. 

Our Crisis Accommodation Program consists of 23 properties and is designed to house people in immediate need with children in their care for the duration of their need. Tenants in this program are supported by a Housing Support Worker who works with participants to connect with relevant support services, stabilise their circumstances and set goals.

The family lived in a Crisis Accommodation Program property for nearly three months, after which we offered Natalie the opportunity to transition to the long-term community housing program. It was on this same day – a few hours later – that she also received a call from the Department of Housing who also offered her a long-term housing opportunity. Natalie drove past both properties and chose to move to the Churches of Christ-managed property – a freestanding house with a yard, perfect for her family.

Since leaving their private rental, the family largely lived out of boxes, never unpacking so as not to make more work if they ever had to move again.

“I grew up in foster care,” Natalie said, “so I travelled light.”

It was eight months into living in the long-term community housing property that Natalie realised, as she put it, “this is it.” The family unpacked and made their house into their home. Her tenacity and commitment to providing for her sons has been the driving force behind her success, helped along by access to affordable, safe housing and support.

The pride she shows in her home, the safety she speaks of when talking about it and the peace-of-mind it has given her has truly made her house a home.

As Natalie puts it, “This is our forever home.”