Larger families facing greater risk of homelessness
28 March 2015
When Melissa was told that the owners of the house she was renting wanted it back at the end of her long-term lease, her heart sank.
The reality of packing and moving with five children, plus trying to find a new house near schools and within budget, would be challenging.
However, despite a great deal of competition for available rentals, she was optimistic about finding another property – until she started applying.
“I got rejected and rejected and rejected,” she says. “I had a good record, but asked a couple of real estate agents who said there were so many people looking for properties that landlords had lots of choice, so steered away from large families.”
With only four weeks to move and having faced 30 rejections (the total eventually topped 50), Melissa says she “really started to panic”.
“The week before I had to move I was just an absolute mess – moving out of my house with nowhere to go!”
After placing their goods in storage Melissa and her children had become homeless. They were forced into 'couch surfing' with family and friends.
Melissa applied for community housing with no luck, but was told to see The Salvation Army’s Caboolture Supported Accommodation Services (CSAS), which provides emergency accommodation, plus case management to exit into secure longer term housing.
“They eventually got us into emergency accommodation for three months,” Melissa says. "During all of that time, I had weekly interviews with Beena (Crisis Case Worker Salvation Army) and she was just lovely. I was still applying and it got to the point that I had an absolute meltdown – I just couldn’t handle any more. I fell into really bad depression and seriously contemplated all kinds of terrible things.”
At that stage, she explains, “Beena just said ‘no, you’re not applying for any more houses at the moment – just stop and have a break’, so they extended our time in the emergency accommodation.”
With support, Melissa and her children eventually secured 12 months transitional housing with a local agency.
Melissa is soon to move again – into her brother’s family home as a tenant (as he and his family are moving out of the area).
Melissa says: “It’s been a rollercoaster! I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I didn’t have Beena and her emotional support. I seriously probably would have been in a mental institution or dead, and that’s the honest truth!”
Beena confirms Melissa’s experience, saying: “At the moment the larger families are really having a tough time and we are finding there are increasing numbers of families of a larger size on our ‘pending list’ because they just continually get knocked back for rentals, no matter how good their record is.
“Melissa was one brave lady with a lot of courage to keep on going after so many rejections.”
Beena says that while it is often deeply challenging trying to secure ‘exit’ accommodation for clients, the team fight to give every family every chance of securing a tenancy. They also work to deal with any barriers the clients may have to maintaining a tenancy, plus seek to provide spiritual and emotional care.
By Naomi Singlehurst