Pulling together to ease the housing struggle

Victoria’s housing crisis is affecting thousands of people. Sadly, those most vulnerable are also dealing with serious issues like unemployment, illness or relationship breakdowns.

Two years ago, Carol Pearson was at her wits end. Her disability pension was only just covering her private rental, leaving her with little money for food and reliance on her daughters to help pay household bills.

Carol was diagnosed with Benson’s syndrome, a rare form of Dementia, at age 46. She had to give up her career as a personal care attendant, her drivers licence, and most of her hopes for the future.

Thankfully, community organisations are pulling together to help people like Carol find the accommodation they need and deserve.

Carol found support through a Home Care Package with social and community health service EACH, providing her with much-needed support around the home. Her EACH Case Manager Lesley Camilleri then referred her to non-profit organisation Villa Maria Catholic Homes’ (VMCH) and its Assistance with Care and Housing (ACH) Program.

VMCH ACH Case Manager Amy Yuen quickly found Carol and her partner Mark some transitional housing in Rowville. While temporary, the rent is affordable and Carol can stay there until Amy finds her permanent housing. She’s currently on a waiting list for public housing (Priority Access Housing).

“It was a relief to move here, not worrying if I could pay the rent anymore,” Carol said. “I’m stable here and I look after the place as if it’s my own. I still don’t feel completely secure but I know they won’t take the roof from over my head.”

Amy (below with Carol) noticed a positive change in Carol as soon as she moved into Rowville, becoming “more positive and hopeful for the future”.

Carol, 53, has also found happiness in her relationship with Mark (below). The pair met 11 years ago and are due to be married in the hills of Olinda in March next year.

“It will be nice to call him my husband rather than my carer. Our love has grown over time and it’s nice to have the wedding to look forward to.”

Carol shared her story at a Yarra Valley Aged Care Network meeting at EACH in Boronia on October 11 in the hope of inspiring others.

“I wanted to show appreciation for how important people like Amy and Lesley are for people like me. I know there’s other people out there that need a stepping stone like this.”

Along with supporting more than 100 older people through its ACH Program, VMCH also provides Affordable Housing to 380 people aged over 55.

CEO Sonya Smart said while the organisation is doing its bit to ease the housing struggle, including plans to expand its Affordable Housing portfolio, more needed to be done.

A recent University of Melbourne study found Victoria needs 164,000 more affordable homes to meet current demand.

“An October pledge from Premier Daniel Andrews to build 1,000 more public housing units if his government is re-elected in November is welcome, but it’s a drop in the ocean for what is required,” Sonya said.

“The safety and certainty of Affordable Housing is a much-needed resource, and we’ll continue to find ways to advocate for better outcomes, including working with like-minded organisations, for the people we support.”