A recent report by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) revealed an estimated 1.3 million households (or 14 per cent) are in need of housing support. This figure is predicted to rise to 1.7 million by 2025.
Since 1960, VMCH has provided affordable and comfortable housing to people aged over 55 as part of our Mission to help vulnerable people age with dignity and social and financial support.
Ita Holland and Cecilia Leibu are among 399 people across 21 locations who access VMCH Affordable Housing. They’re also among 71 per cent of residents who are female.
Both strong, independent women, their journeys to accessing housing support with VMCH are different, but they share a tenacity to overcome trauma in their lives.
East Ivanhoe resident and mother of two, Ita, 78, was forced to grow up earlier than most.
Her mother died when she was 14, leaving her to help raise her eight siblings, the youngest of whom was two. What resulted was a close-knit family. Ita’s sister, Heather, lives two doors down and she stays in touch with her other siblings. Sadly, 18 months ago, another sister Denise was killed in a level crossing accident. Then shortly after, another sister Sue died from a brain aneurism.
Richmond resident Cecilia Leibu had a difficult childhood but for different reasons.
“My home life wasn’t happy, I was scared of my dad,” she recalled. “Growing up I probably lived in a lot of fear. I journeyed along, worked as a receptionist at General Motors where I met my first husband, Max. I soon began to realise I had made a mistake in the person I married as he reminded me of my father, but I went forth and had three beautiful sons.”
Ita too raised two “beautiful” boys with her husband, Les, in Greensborough. Years later, Les took early retirement and pair moved to Port Fairy. Unfortunately, Les passed away and Ita was left to contemplate her future – choosing the “safe” and “secure” option of affordable housing.
Cecilia too was experiencing big change.
“Sometime in my middle forties I decided I needed psychological help. I spent six years trying to make myself better. In 1996, I walked out (on Max).
Years later Cecilia met her second husband, Martin. Together, they shared a lovely life, though not without adversity. Cancer plaugued Martin and the pair came into financial strife.
Cecilia reached out to Villa Maria Catholic Homes. The pair moved into their Richmond affordable housing unit in May 2017. Martin died five months later.
Without access to subsidised rent through affordable housing, both women fear where they’d be.
“I wouldn’t have been able to afford living in a private house on a pension,” Ita said. “Rents are exorbitant if you’re a widow like me. I’d probably be living in public housing, which is very hard to get. Villa Maria Catholic Homes are excellent. Here, I’m independent and I’m comfortable.”
Cecilia agreed. “(Living here) means that I’m not stressed out. I feel in the private sector, you’re always wondering, ‘are they going to get rid of you’? Here, I feel safe, that’s my main priority.”
VMCH CEO Sonya Smart said the ability for people to keep a quality roof over their heads was one of the most “compelling issues” facing Australian communities.
“Our organisation has a long history of offering affordable accommodation to vulnerable and disadvantaged people,” she said. “With several new housing projects on the horizon, we look forward to expanding our reach to such community members in need for generations to come.”