Meet some of the people we’ve helped along the way.
Emily, 29, moved to the Gold Coast from Townsville three years ago to find work with her partner, Dave. They have two young kids, Jack, 3 and Ellie, 5. Dave had a history of being abusive towards Emily and the kids, and while things seemed to get a little better when he found a steady job, lately he’d been getting worse, and flying off the handle at the smallest things. The physical abuse had been on the rise again, and last night in a drunken rage he threw Emily down the stairs and screamed at the kids until they were so scared they hid under their beds. Emily had been doing some casual work at a hairdresser, but when she missed a shift because Jack was ill, they said they were going to hire someone on a full time basis and they didn’t need her anymore. With no income of her own, Emily had no idea how she could take the kids and leave, but decided heading into the unknown was safer than staying in the relationship. A local women’s refuge offered them a room for the first night, but couldn’t promise anything longer term. The kids were freaked out by all the yelling in the wee hours anyway. They said her best bet was to contact Centrelink about some emergency payments and try and stay with friends. She didn’t have anyone she could trust on the Coast, and it was probably going to take a couple of weeks to get Newstart payments coming through. She didn’t want the kids going back to their usual daycare because she feared Dave would take them, so she wasn’t going to be able to find a new job just yet. Her parents passed away last year so staying with them wasn’t an option, and her younger brother was at Uni in Adelaide. The next couple of weeks were looking pretty bleak.
Michael, 52, was one of the best boilermakers in Geelong in his day, but cutbacks a few years ago meant he was made redundant and couldn’t find a new job in his hometown. His marriage broke down with the stress of it all, and he decided to head for Queensland to make a fresh start. He figured he’d start driving taxis for a while, and then go back to his trade when he found the right opportunity. Taxis worked out OK for a bit, but you needed to work nights to make enough to get by, and he started getting migraines from the strain of driving in the dark so had to give it up. Boilermaking jobs were hard to come by, so he picked up work in a factory for a bit, but got laid off again a few months ago. He got some work on a farm way outside of town in picking season, but that dried up when Winter rolled in. The money dried up quickly too and Michael fell behind in his rental payments and ended up getting evicted. Try finding a new new rental when you’ve got no job, no bond and an eviction on your record. He’d been sleeping in his car for a week now, and heard about a supported housing program that helped people like him get back into the rental market, but there was a waiting list. He had a job interview in the morning and could really use a shower and a washing machine. A night in a hotel would be so helpful, but he just didn’t have the money for it right now, not if he wanted to eat properly and be sharp for the interview in the morning.
The Mutombo Family
What was left of the Mutombo family escaped war torn Sudan five years ago and spent the best part of the last three in a UN refugee camp in Kenya. They were re-settled in a regional Qld town in 2015 and have settled in nicely to the local community. Kariem found work as a gardener with the local Council and life was looking a lot brighter, until their youngest daughter Grace was diagnosed with a rare cancer that required two weeks of specialist treatment in Brisbane. The treatment was painful for Grace and it was impossible to make the commute each day by public transport, so her and her mother needed a place to stay in Brisbane, close to the hospital. Much of Kariem’s salary went to helping support his brother’s family back in Africa, so money was extremely tight and there was no way the Mutombo’s could afford a hotel room for Grace and her mother each night for two weeks.
Life had been pretty bleak after the Mitchell family lost their home in the Christchurch earthquake. They didn’t have insurance and lost pretty much everything except some savings in the bank and a couple of cars. After a tough winter staying with friends they decided to cross the Tasman and re-settle on the Gold Coast, where they heard it was warm, and there were plenty of building jobs going for Tony. It turned out they’d been right on both counts – the weather was lovely, and Tony got a job pretty quickly on a construction site. Turns out the developer went bankrupt a few months later though, and construction stopped, along with Tony’s job. They watched their savings quickly dwindle while he tried to find new construction work, and it wasn’t long before they were behind in their rent on their short term lease. With the lease about to run out, no government benefits to assist, and not enough money to get back to Christchurch, they were absolutely stuck. Tony managed to get a job in a car yard, thankfully, but the pay didn’t come through for another two weeks, and they couldn’t afford a motel for the last seven days.
*Names have been changed