Every night in Australia, over 116,000 people don’t have safe place to call home1. Roxy was one of those people. Read how, thanks to our teams in Coffs Harbour, she escaped tent city and found hope and housing.

'Tent City’ is home to hundreds of vulnerable individuals and families who have no choice but to reside in temporary shelters outside a community centre in Coffs Harbour. For many of the people living at ‘Tent City’, rental properties are simply unaffordable. Skyrocketing demand and short supply in Coffs Harbour have led to the lowest rental vacancy rates in New South Wales at just 0.8 per cent, according to the REINSW Vacancy Rate Survey for December.

Roxy’s experience of homelessness:

Growing up in foster care without the experience of a stable home, Roxy dreamed of creating the perfect home for her future family. When Roxy married her husband, what she wanted more than anything was the stability and peace she never had growing up.

The first time her husband was violent, she told herself it was a one-off occurrence. For a while, everything was perfect, until it happened again.

Over time, her husband’s violence became too much for Roxy to endure. Her only escape was to turn to substances to numb the pain and escape from reality.

But after a painstakingly brutal attack, Roxy realised things would never change if she stayed. Traumatised and distraught, Roxy left the man she once loved.

Roxy didn’t have the resources to afford a safe home. As a last resort, she pitched a tent behind a nearby community centre until she could find a job. Without a fixed address, Roxy struggled to secure employment.

Two years later, she was still living in her small tent.

“I lost myself and I lost my children. I’d always been house proud and I felt so ashamed. My kids would get teased, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore,” - Roxy.

Like many women escaping abusive relationships, Roxy didn’t have any support networks to turn to for help. Sadly, domestic and family violence remains a leading contributor to homelessness in Australia, especially among women and children who are forced to leave their unsafe homes, often with nowhere to go.

Read more about domestic and family violence in our communities.

A safe place to call home

Roxy’s children told her about Mission Australia and Cylie from our team in Coffs Harbour met with Roxy. Cylie was struck by her determination. “I listened to her speak of extreme abuse, violence, injustice and loss. What resounded most was her underlying sense of hope.” shared Cylie.

“She honoured me enough to share some of her story of survival from a muddy tent inside Coffs Harbours notorious Tent City.”

Working with our services, Cylie slowly helped Roxy regain her confidence and apply for a rehousing program.

“Connecting people with the right support so they can heal and move forward is paramount. It really does take a village to care for our most vulnerable and in creating these bridges between clients and their community, you witness connection and in turn growth.”

Roxy smiles at the camera with her partner. Text on image reads ’I decided I was going to live, not just exist.”

Roxy’s life has changed beyond recognition. “I decided I was going to live, not just exist,” says Roxy. “This time last year I had nothing. Now I have a two-bedroom home, a yard filled with frangipanis, a puppy and my children spent Christmas in my new home.”

Roxy is still getting used to her clean and cosy two-bedroom home but she is thrilled to have her own place once again, "I cried when I was given the keys. I can look at myself in the mirror again and be proud,” she shared.

“Roxy now, has such a beautiful sense of pride. She’s tending her garden and building things in the yard for the kids to play on, walking her dog and we see her experiencing joy in things we so often take for granted.” - Cylie Brown.

Creating housing change in Coffs Harbour

Creating more affordable and social housing is one of our priorities as an organisation. Thanks to donations from supporters alongside a NSW Government infrastructure grant we have completed construction of a new Mission Australia Centre and neighbouring social and affordable unities in the heart of Coffs Harbour.

The Mission Australia Centre is a community hub that provides local people and families with access to a variety of support services. The social and affordable housing units offer a safe home and support for individuals needing housing in the community. We are so excited to help more people like Roxy overcome homelessness and create change in the community.

Learn more about Mission Australia in Coffs Harbour.

Know someone affected by domestic and family violence?

If you are experiencing abuse or violence it is not your fault. There are support services that can help you. If your life is in danger, call 000. For 24/7 domestic violence counselling call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

1Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018): Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'