The housing affordability crisis is evidenced by the numerous requests for housing assistance my staff and I receive from constituents every single day.
These people are at breaking point. I am compelled to tell some of their stories in this place to give voice and humanity to their pain, anguish, anxiety and distress.
Amanda is 62 years old and a cancer survivor. She has severe post‑traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues. She has three adult children but cannot rely on them for help. She separated from her partner at an old age and lives on a single disability pension. In the past the Blue Mountains has been considered affordable, but it is no longer. Amanda is forced to share a house with a stranger. She tells me that she feels at risk of being forced out by him and at times fears for her safety, but where can she turn for help?
Joseph is a lovely older man; his smile once lit up the day. For years I have seen him out and about engaging with the community, having a coffee, attending art exhibitions and catching the train. For the past seven years he has lived with his partner in her home in the Blue Mountains, but due to sudden and deteriorating health issues she was moved into a nursing home by her adult children. Joe was asked to move out of the house and he is now at serious risk of homelessness. His rent is more than 50 per cent of his weekly income. He has searched the country for more affordable housing, travelling to Benalla in Victoria, up the coast, and out to Wellington looking for elusive affordable housing. Nothing has been available to him within his price range. His anxiety is increasing and he stares homelessness in the face. Now when I stop to say "hello" he cries. It is gut wrenching to see.
A case that is presently being managed by my office concerns a family in crisis and facing eviction. Due to the dire circumstances facing this family, I have written to the Minister and chief executive officer of our local housing provider requesting urgent assistance. Miss L. lives in a private rental property with her four children. She suffers from major depression and an anxiety disorder and each of the children, aged 14, 11, 10 and six, have a range of disabilities. Miss L. escaped a domestic violence situation around four years ago. As a result, the family became homeless and slept in their car. They lost connection to family and support networks. Eventually they relocated to the Blue Mountains where the family has established links to the community and a range of support services.
Since moving to the mountains and enjoying a period of stability free of violence, the children have made friends, their behaviours have settled and they are making progress with their therapies. For this reason, it is important that the family remains in the locality. Miss L. first contacted my office on 10 August. She is on the priority housing list but it could be several months before a suitable property is found. She has been told to attend Housing NSW on the day she vacates. It has been suggested she may be housed in a refuge or other emergency accommodation at that time. She is fearful about staying in a refuge with her children due to their behavioural issues and other special needs. It would prove difficult for them and other people in the refuge. Given her history, Miss L. is concerned that the family will again be homeless and sleeping in a car. This will put at risk the therapeutic intervention received to date and potentially present a major setback for this family.
What to do? I commend a fabulous new local campaign in my electorate initiated by those who work at the coalface dealing with daily crises.
We have to hold onto hope when nothing else exists.
Last month I participated in the launch of an ambitious project called Heading home—Ending homelessness Here!, which is aimed at the Blue Mountains, Penrith and Hawkesbury districts. The project is led by local homelessness support partners Wentworth Community Housing, Platform Youth Services and Mission Australia and it calls on all members of the community to work together to be the first region in New South Wales to end homelessness.
Heading home —Ending Homelessness Here! is aimed at helping the most vulnerable homeless people, including families, single adults, couples and young people. I wish it every success, and I will work tirelessly to ensure that it is successful.
When one has the lived experience of teetering on the edge of homelessness, one knows that life does depend on heading home.