Two years on, Wangaratta mum Melissa Dromi still finds it “surreal” she is on the other side of homelessness.
Every day she is grateful for her property, secured through a special and sought-after program called A Place To Call Home.
Ms Dromi was suddenly without a residence when the owners of her rental decided they would sell in 2014.
“I applied for hundreds of places and wasn’t selected – I was a great tenant and had references – but I have children and I’m not in a certain income bracket,” she said.
“I did have a job but that ceased.
“The private rental market is very hard for someone like myself on the pension.
“Paying a high price is difficult when you are a single parent, have school fees, and everything else.”
Ms Dromi and her three kids spent two years sleeping on the floor of her mother’s home, as she worked with Beyond Housing to come up with a solution.
Case worker Janette Bussell found a temporary property for the family in Wangaratta, and they were then recommended for A Place To Call Home.
“The focus is getting the family settled in a permanent place,” Ms Bussell said.
“Melissa was doing so well and so were the children, so her other support worker put her forward for the project.
“At the end of the 12 months everything was going really well, so the property now gets handed back to the Department of Health and Human Services as a permanent property.
“I can’t get over the difference in the kids; they are just so well-adjusted, social, and loving school.”
Ms Dromi said her world had changed after so much “darkness and uncertainty”.
“I was always frightened and feared what would come next; you never want to see your children in that situation,” she said.
“Rise above it, you know you can do better if you believe in yourself.”
A Place to Call Home is a federal and state-funded program, and through it Beyond Housing can deliver only 11 properties each year across the Hume and Goulburn regions.
Client services manager Catherine Jefferies said of the 5510 people who sought support from her organisation last year, many had recently gone from a two income household to one.
“That could be through lack of employment or sickness, and you also have relationship break-downs and family violence,” she said.
“People then can’t maintain their housing so they come to us for assistance.
“The cost of living and rent is increasing, and that is the biggest reason people are walking through our door.”
The state of the issue currently has been highlight in the Homelessness in Goulburn Ovens Murray report released for National Homelessness Week (August 6-12) by the Hume Region Homelessness Network.
Between March and June last year “there was a 61 per cent shortfall of affordable private rentals” and the issue is growing, with regional ABS counts revealing the number of homeless people increased by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
Further, the report noted “for single people fortunate enough to obtain a private rental, they pay in excess of 37 per cent of their income on rent for a one-bedroom property, and 57 per cent of their income on rent for a two-bedroom property … far exceeding the maximum national affordability benchmark of 30 per cent”.
“We see a demand for more affordable single-home bedroom accomodation – for someone on a low income, the market is really tight and it’s hard to find something affordable,” Ms Jefferies said.
North of the Border, Department of Human Services community engagement officer Susan Halonkin is seeing strains on the community, and said situations could very quickly “spiral”.
“We’ve got the same issues as any other community, but being rural, we’ve got to be creative as we have limited services," she said.
“The housing agencies within the Albury-Wodonga region do their best and they will never leave someone without a roof over their head.
“As a whole the demand is becoming greater in the community, from our point of view.”
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