Elaine’s Story – Housing is a human right

Elaine is a 43-year-old nursing specialist who experienced homelessness nearly two years ago with her four children aged between 6-18 years old. Prior to that experience, she had been physically assaulted at work and as a result she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and found herself unemployed.

During this time Elaine also experienced family violence, and ultimately had to leave because she was concerned for the safety of herself and her family. She and her children left in a car with only $30 and some clothes.

Elaine says, “It was very stressful, especially at night, thinking about how I was going to fix this…It became a catch 22…which do you sort out first, a place to live or employment? It was very hard to be unemployed and homeless.”

She spent a lot of energy figuring out what her options were for housing and stability, where to relocate –if at all—and what effect that would have on the children who had been experiencing significant trauma.

“Even though I felt like I was doing all I possibly could to be organised…and try to find supports, we were stuck because we couldn’t find a place without an income,” she says.

Her experience of family violence and homelessness led her to a support worker at a community organisation who Elaine describes as an “amazing person.”  She says the worker assisted with practical support, including listening and strategising, instilling a strong sense of confidence, and reinforcing that this was a temporary experience and not something that defined her.

My Friends Are Like My Family

When she left her home, not being able to take along basic necessities was a barrier to rebuilding and finding employment. Her friends became more like family, coming together to support with the basics like a mobile phone, food parcels and a place to wash clothes. Elaine comments, they “saw my strength as a survivor when I felt utterly defeated.”

Staying Warm & Keeping the Kids in School

Elaine says she knew that routine is pivotal for children after experiencing a recent trauma, but trying to maintain it with no certainty was tremendously difficult.

For example, she had to figure out how to clean the clothes and fill lunch boxes while persistently struggling to keep the family warm in the middle of winter.

Elaine says, “That disconnect for me was incredible…I was dropping kids at school and we are having this experience. And there are other parents there in a completely different universe…I couldn’t open my mouth as what would I even say?”

She says survival, destabilisation and vulnerability defined her experience of homelessness, when she was forced from planning mode into survival mode. Moreover, she felt isolated by her experience and disconnected from her community.

“What finding a home physically meant for us was that within 30 days of moving in I had taken a job. That meant stability and the kids could start going to sport which they had never done. It meant we could rest. That they could have friends over which they had never been able to have. It meant self-esteem for my kids and self-recovery. ” – Elaine

Finding a home

Launch Housing worked with Elaine and her family to move into a new home, assisting with the bond and first month’s rent.  For Elaine this meant sleeping at night and the single most healing opportunity they had had up to that point.

It meant she wasn’t alone, she had help, that someone, somewhere believed in her, and that meant she could go on. She says, “It meant that my girls and I cried on our first night, with gratitude for what we had been assisted with. In their words: this is our home, where no one shouts, where no one hurts, and where we can be whoever we need to be.”

“I couldn’t have predicted the level of healing of that calm space. That it was ours. That it was a whole new container for us to grow in.” – Elaine

As a survivor of early childhood trauma and family violence Elaine has overcome many difficult personal experiences in her life. Recently taking stock of all that’s happened and the safety and security she now feels, one recent moment stands out: the picture that her daughter drew of a front door with the words: Welcome to our home. Please come in and relax.