The long journey to 'home'
31 July 2020
Today, Dianne* has a secure private rental and, with ongoing Salvation Army support, her life is well on track. She lives with her fiancé and together they are planning their wedding. But, over the past few years, Dianne’s journey through homelessness has been difficult and dangerous.
Blind in one eye and with severely limited sight in the other, Dianne’s experience with homelessness began when she was informed by her landlord that she would have to leave her rental property. At the time she was also dealing with a range of health issues including battles with breast and facial cancer.
“The house I was living in was over 60 years old and the foundations had started cracking and falling apart,” Dianne explains. “So, the landlord said, ‘look you’re going to have to leave because we’re going to have to bulldoze the place’.”
Dianne moved in with a friend and large family but soon, they too, had to leave their rental home due to its poor condition. Sadly, she and her companion dog could not find anywhere else to stay and spent around three months living on the street.
When she finally found somewhere to stay - in a caravan park that housed a highly-disadvantaged and transient population - Dianne says it was even more frightening than living on the street.
“There were fights, stabbings, drugs. Because I need a cane to ‘see’, it was way too dangerous for me to be there,” she says. “That was hell. With all the stuff that was going on through that caravan park. It was hell!”
Dianne was approached by The Salvation Army while living in the park.
“Dianne didn’t have any of the aides she should have had to assist her (in her blindness) such as handrails or even a private bathroom,” Katie from Salvation Army Housing, Victoria who manages her tenancy explains.
“She had to use the communal shower block (in the park) and that was pretty horrible. The living conditions were affecting her health. She (already) had mental health struggles – with depression and anxiety. She was also a diabetic, had a heart condition, blood pressure issues and more.”
Katie, together with case manager Karley, encouraged Dianne to apply for private rentals, as part of the Transitional Housing Management (THM) program, but “The problem is she was stereotyped straight away,” says Katie. “There are certain stigmas attached to living in that park, so it was really tough for people to try and get out of that environment.”
Karley nominated Dianne for urgent transitional housing – with disabled facilities – and helped with other living skills. Time in the Salvos’ service also allowed Dianne to gain a positive reference to use with real estate agents when looking for long-term rental housing. The Salvos’ team also encouraged Dianne to apply for an NDIS package to support her extra needs due to her health and vision challenges.
Dianne actually met her (now) fiancée while she was still staying in the caravan park (he was also struggling with homelessness, disadvantage and health issues) and they were eventually able to secure a private rental together.
“The Salvation Army helped us out with talking to some of the real estates on our behalf; they gave us information on what to do and how to go about it,” Dianne says. “They’re here as support and guidance. They can’t do all the leg work for you, you’ve got to do it yourself, you’ve got to make the effort, but (that help) makes a hell of a big difference.
“They helped us out with furniture, they did everything they could for us...They even helped us out with getting the car registered and roadworthy for us. On top of that they helped us out with food and they also helped us out with medication.”
Katie says the outcomes have been extremely positive and explains the service works to bring about long-term stability and a range of social outcomes, including empowerment; financial well-being; health safety; community connection and suitable housing.
“The collaboration of various Salvation Army agency efforts was the force behind this fantastic outcome. Both Karley and I were a united team from start to finish. We communicated every step of the way to achieve this successful outcome. We have different roles and responsibilities, but the same end goal.”
Katie says that Dianne, and her fiancé, worked incredibly hard once they were offered initial support.
“They’d been applying for so long and just getting rejected. So our role was just trying to improve on what they had already done and making suggestions on applications and providing a reference to the real estate agency with more details to help explain their situation more,” she says.
“I think without the support, they would have been lost, but to see them at the other side now – it’s just unreal and the outcome we all worked and hoped for,” Katie says. “Dianne and her fiancé also left our THM property almost better than when they shifted in. It was a real credit to them.”
Dianne says she is very grateful and feels like she can finally live a normal life.
Without that support, she says, “I would have been living out on the streets again.”