A dad's story of being homeless with his family
Not too long ago, James* and his wife Sophie* were your typical Australian family, with two young children, Rosie* (7) and Billy* (5), and a much-loved family dog. James worked hard to support his family but when his party-planning business collapsed, his world was turned upside down. No longer able to pay the rent, the family was evicted from their home without a place to go.
With mounting debts and no relatives or friends to turn to, the family's only choice was to live in their car with their belongings and the pet dog. James struggled to provide even the basics for his family like food, or petrol to drive the children to school. Things were getting harder and harder and James was losing all hope.
Faced with one impossible decision after another, James and Sophie decided to relocate interstate so they could temporarily stay with James' elderly parents. Just before they arrived, James' father fell ill and their plans fell through. In blind desperation with nowhere to turn, James was feeling worthless and ashamed when someone referred him to Mission Australia for help.
To James' relief, we were immediately able to house Sophie and the children temporarily at a women's shelter. We continued to look for crisis accommodation for James, while also searching for a home for the whole family. During this distressing time, James carried on sleeping in the car with the dog, as our staff continued to look for suitable accommodation and support him and Sophie to get back on their feet.
During 2016–17, almost 50% of people seeking assistance from homelessness support services were families with children.1 Tragically, shelters and crisis accommodation are frequently so full that they have to turn away families, even though they have no place safe to sleep.
I didn't want the kids to know the truth so we told them they were having a holiday with mummy, while I went camping with the dog - says James
To keep life as normal as possible for the children, the family would eat breakfast together in a local park and James would walk Rosie and Billy to school.
Being connected to the Mission Australia was James' first step to getting his confidence back. We helped him enrol the children in a local school, and with our support, he found his family a permanent home so they could all live together and start to build a new life. Our social workers focused on improving the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of the whole family to help them overcome the trauma of their homelessness and start smiling again.
We're excited to report that the family is now happily living under the same roof. We are continuing to support James to get back on track and re-establish his own business so the family can regain their independence, plan a positive future and rebuild their loving home.
Independence is precious
When a family's life is thrown into chaos, like James', all they need is some extra support to get them back on their feet.
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1AIHW (2018) Specialist homelessness services 2016-17
*Names changed to protect the people we help.