Housing is key to a person's mental wellbeing. But for some on the Border, a safe, secure home is out of reach.
For months a single mother of two children - who did not want to be identified - submitted hundreds of housing applications.
But one by one these were rejected. Due to becoming homeless, her mental health suffered.
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It wasn't until she applied for a house with her mother that she got accepted, in Chiltern, paying well above what she could afford for a place, leaving her struggling to cover the bare essentials.
"Single parents stand no chance, I was couch surfing, and I still had to take my kids to school and work to provide for them ... I still feel like I've failed," she said.
"Celebrating my 27th birthday (it felt) like everything I worked hard to achieve had just been packed into a storage shed to sit there until I can get a place of my own, if ever.
"I am still trying to recover from the mental damage that's been done when we were homeless."
Experts say people with mental illness are more at risk of homelessness due to increased vulnerability, withdrawal from help and difficulties finding and keeping employment.
Wodonga's Beyond Housing chief operating officer Kylie Nelson said affordable housing was crucial for preventing mental health and had a significant role to play in good mental health care.
"Evidence has shown time and again that unless a person has secure housing, mental health programs will be largely ineffective," she said. "People need a stable place to recover in.
"Affordable housing is crucial for the prevention of and recovery from mental ill-health.
"Mental illness contributes to and is exacerbated by the stress and trauma of homelessness. If we want to effectively end homelessness, we need to make mental health a priority."
With the rising costs of living and the rental housing crisis, she said there was a 22 per cent increase from last year, with people citing mental health as one of the main reasons they were asking for help.
Victoria's Big Housing Build has promised around 12,000 homes, including for the mentally ill, in an investment of more than $1 billion.
General manager at Wodonga's Gateway Health Alana Pund said people were experiencing mental illness due to homelessness.
"There are many services out there, but there is also so much pressure, and if the housing isn't available, the services aren't going to count," she said.
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