Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
How a breakdown in family relationships led to homelessness
Like many Australians who find themselves living on the street, it was a breakdown in family relationships that led to Alex becoming homeless.
Alex had lived with her ageing mother for several years in her mother’s suburban unit, and expected this would be their home together for years to come. However, following a short stay in the hospital to remove kidney stones, Alex discovered that her mother had been admitted to a care facility by family members in her absence. She also learned that her dog, Pebbles had been placed in a boarding kennel and that her home, the property owned by her mother had been placed in the hands of an executor.
Alex was distraught.
“I had expected to check out of surgery and to go home to my Mum and my dog.
“My mother is more than my mother. She is my best friend. So to come home and find she’d been placed in a home was devastating. She had early-stage dementia, but as far as I was concerned, we were doing fine.
“I got Pebbles out of the boarding kennel. I was still recovering from surgery when I learned that the executor who had taken over Mum’s affairs was demanding I pay $600 per week in rent to stay in the place that had been my home for years.
“I could never afford that. I offered to pay $200 a week, which would have been a struggle but I could have managed it, but the executor said no. They served me with eviction notices so they could lease the property out. It was heartbreaking. I was trying to work out what I could do as the eviction date got closer, but then I needed to return to hospital again.
“It was while I was in the hospital that they changed the locks. I came home, and I couldn’t get back in. I had nothing with me. My home and all my possessions were there, but I couldn’t get to them. All I had was Pebbles and my car.
“I’m certain that’s not what Mum wanted to happen."
Alex said she was utterly shocked by what had happened. “Families disagree, but you don’t think this kind of thing will ever happen to you.
“My siblings and I had not been close for a long time. I’m no saint, and there was a time in my life that was pretty dark. I was doing drugs and hanging with the wrong people. I finally got clean, and my Mum saw that. I’ve been clean for over 17 years, but my siblings have really successful careers and they never really struggled like I did. I don’t think they ever forgave me or thought I could be a good daughter.
“Still, I never expected this would happen to me.”
Photography: Katie Bennett
With no place to live and no access to her possessions, Alex reached out to friends for help. “One of my friends let me come over and have a shower, and they were the ones who found out about Micah Projects for me. I set up an appointment, got an interview and that was the first bit of hope I had.
“The Micah guys started looking for a place for me straight away, but they let me know it might take some time. It was hard knowing I’d have to wait but they didn’t abandon me while they were working on finding me housing. They would come out and try to find me in parks and on the street, to check I was doing okay, and to give me any updates.
“I was sleeping in my car, and I needed to move every few days to avoid attracting attention or complaints from people in the neighbourhood. Micah helped me out with fuel cards when I ran out of petrol to move the car from place to place.
“The team members also helped me out by giving me food from the office kitchen; things I could cook on the barbecues in the park because they knew I was sleeping in my car and I didn’t have access to a fridge."
Alex spent 10 months living in her car before it was seized by police. Having registered her car in her mother’s name the vehicle had been reported stolen by the executor.
“I wasn’t charged, but they seized the car and at that moment, I lost the only half-safe place Pebbles and I had to sleep.”
Alex started living and sleeping in a park in Indooroopilly, directly across from the unit she and her mother had called home.
“I could see our unit every day from the park. You never really feel safe, but it felt slightly safer being in the neighbourhood I knew. Some of the neighbours recognised me and would offer me a shower and a chat. One man saw me on his way to the shops and asked if I was homeless. I told him I was, and on his way back from getting his groceries he brought me bottles of water, fresh fruit and dog food for Pebbles."
Being homeless is a terrible, dark place to be. You stay up all night because you’re afraid, and you try to find a place to hide and sleep all day.
"If it wasn’t for Micah, and needing to stay alive to look after Pebbles, I think I probably would have done something stupid."
Within two months of Alex sleeping in the park, Micah Projects Street to Home team was able to secure her temporary accommodation in a boarding house. Six months later, with the support of the team, she was offered permanent housing in a Department of Housing unit.
“I’ll never forget when Paul from Micah called to tell me it was ready for me to move in, I asked him what I needed to bring with me, he said, “just bring your clothes, it’s all you need.
“It was true. Micah had set up the unit for me, so it was ready to go, which was great because I didn’t really have any possessions anymore. I had a fridge, washing machine, bed, TV, cutlery – everything you need to start a home. It wasn’t flashy, but it was all brand new, and that made me feel like I was worthy of having new things again.
“It was like all my Christmases came at once.
“They didn’t stop helping me the second I got a house. They still help me. They give me advice about things I should be doing. They help me with paperwork, housing and medical forms, which is great because I’m dyslexic and I struggle. They connected me to other services that can assist me get to medical appointments and help with cleaning and shopping when I need it.
“What I like best is they just ring me now and then to check how I’m going. It makes me feel like someone really cares like I’m not an ‘it’ or a thing, but a real person.
I’ve been living in my new home for 15 months now. And I finally feel like I’m worthy of having a life.