Domestic violence forced Kayla* and her little girl into homelessness
Five-year-old Mia* thought sleeping on the couch was great fun the first time her mum laid her down there. The novelty quickly faded, however.
By the second night Mia was already missing her bed and the way her mum used to tuck her in. She was scared of the voices she heard through the garage door that provided little protection from the cold outside. She shivered in the icy air and flinched at the sight of the bucket and rag that her mum used to wash her. Worst of all, she felt sad and confused when she saw her mum crying.
Months earlier, Mia’s mum Kayla made the brave decision to leave her partner, who became addicted to drugs and violent after Mia was born. Despite being pregnant with another little girl, returning to her childhood home wasn’t an option, as Kayla had also been abused by her mother’s own alcoholic father as a child.
Kayla and Mia moved between friends’ houses every few days but in time ran out of places to stay. The dirty garage of some people she barely knew was initially a last resort, but soon her only option.
Did you know that on any given night more than 17,000 Australian children under the age of 12 are homeless, and that domestic violence is the biggest cause of homelessness across the country?1
Mia didn’t sleep well after that first night. She cried every morning, not wanting to leave her mum to go to school. She couldn’t concentrate in class, and the kids teased about her old, worn uniform.
‘It’s not supposed to be like this,’ Kayla said to herself, ‘but what else could I do?’
Feeling helpless, scared and alone, a conversation with Mission Australia proved to be the lifeline Kayla had been praying for.
Kayla was connected with Mission Australia case manager Deborah, who made her feel valued and cared for. Drawing on our vast support networks, Deborah quickly found the family crisis accommodation, organised nutritious food packages, and coordinated appointments for Kayla with counsellors and women’s health specialists. They helped Kayla work through the trauma she’d endured, and feel calm and prepared during the final weeks of her pregnancy.
Deborah also talked with Mia’s school, contacted Centrelink to arrange financial support, and helped Kayla apply for priority housing. All this brought stability into their lives for the first time in years.
It took time, but the family was finally granted a small unit with enough room for Kayla’s baby daughter Chloe when she arrived. At last, Kayla and her girls felt free from the cycle of abuse they’d been trapped in their entire lives.
“The change in Mia has been huge,” Kayla told us. “She’s full of energy now and is excited about school. Her teacher sent a note home last week saying she’s doing so much better.
I’m so relieved. She’s such a good big sister. And I’m starting to feel like a good mum. I’m so grateful.
Almost two years have passed since then. Thanks to Mission Australia’s supporters, Kayla, Mia and baby Chloe are still safely housed. Kayla is studying to help provide for her family, and is doing a tremendous job raising her girls. And with a safe roof over her head and a circle of care for the first time in her life, Mia is thriving at school and enjoying the childhood she has always deserved.
*Names changed to protect the people we help.
1 ABS Census of population and housing 2012: Estimating homelessness, 2011
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