‘A single mom like me with two kids isn’t at the top of the list for landlords’

As a tenant with a perfect record renting the same home for 11 years, Julie never imagined she and her two children would become homeless.

But in December, 2021, the sole parent was given an eviction notice for the three-bedroom house she had been renting ever since her daughters, April, 11, and Ella, 8, were born because the new owners were moving into the property.

“I was very worried because I knew there wasn’t much else around,” the 42-year-old from the Bega Valley, NSW, tells Kidspot.

“I hoped that because I had a good tenant record for 11 years that my chances of getting another rental would be good.”

Julie, who lives on a disability pension, applied for every property that came up within her $350 price range, even those with just one bedroom, across several towns in her region.

But even after the three months’ notice, Julie and her two young kids found themselves without a roof over their heads in March last year after she was knocked back countless times.

“I had to pull them out of school and put them in one near my mum’s house”

Sadly, Julie and her girls had to say goodbye to their beloved pet of 17 years, a miniature Jack Russell, who was taken in by a neighbour.

With nowhere else to go, Julie and her daughters spent the next four months living with her ex and their 23-year-old daughter in nearby Bega.

“Me and the girls shared one room and we had no idea we would be there for that length of time.”

The family gave up their dog of 17 years once they became homeless.

When that arrangement couldn’t continue – and Julie was still no further in finding a home – she was forced to uproot her family’s life once again, this time in an entirely different state, to stay with her mother in Victoria.

“I had to pull them out of school and put them in one near my mum’s house, which was hard.”

“Even pitching a tent in a caravan park is too expensive”

Again, that living situation would last just four months.

Heartbreakingly, now 11 months on, the family-of-three are still in dire straits without anywhere to call home.

With all the family’s belongings piled into her small car, Julie and the girls have occupied countless motel rooms and the most basic of cabins in caravan parks, paying up to $600 a week for single-room accommodation.

The mother considered living in a tent, which she discovered was expensive.

“The prices were going to double over the holidays so I was prepared for us to live in my car,” the anxiety-ridden mum-of-three admits.

“I couldn’t afford to stay anywhere. Even pitching a tent in a caravan park would have been too expensive and that’s if I could get a spot, but so many places were booked out.”  

Now, with the help of Mission Australia, they have found their last resort – a women’s refuge in the Bega Valley.

The family lives in a bare basic motel style single room, with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities for $350 a fortnight.

“If I can’t find a rental I’ll have to uproot the girl from school again”

But with the emergency accommodation only available to them for three months, Julie has no idea whether she will be forced to uproot her girls from their school once again if a rental is found elsewhere.

 “They only go back this week and I just don’t know what to do, so it’s been really tough on them,” she says.

“They are finally a little happy here because we don’t have to pack up our things and move every day and they’re so excited just to go to a school they know.”

With no idea where she will go if she doesn’t secure a property by March, Julie continues to apply for homes in several different towns in the desperate hope that luck will be on her side.

single mom
The single mom and her children had to leave their three bedroom home to live inside a motel-style single room.

The desperate mum is also on a priority list for government housing.

“I’ve lost count how many I’ve applied for… I never thought it would take this long,” she says.

“It feels like with all the renters out there, a single mum like me with two kids isn’t at the top of the list… it doesn’t make it easy.

“I’ve just got a message today that I was knocked back for a house. Most of the time, you don’t even hear back. I just see the place isn’t available anymore online. You try to stay as positive as you can but after all the knockbacks – it’s a struggle.”

Not surprisingly, the ordeal has taken a toll on Julie’s mental health, having been diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

“I try not to let the girls see me upset – but it’s hard,” she says, fighting back tears.

“It’s so upsetting. I can’t help but think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ Seeing the girls get upset is the hardest part. I’ve kept telling them, ‘It won’t be long before we have a place’.

“But I haven’t been able to give them a home. You try to have hope, but it’s really hard. All I want is for them to have somewhere to call home again.”

“Securing an affordable rental has become a near-impossible feat”

The Productivity Commission’s latest Report on Government Services confirms that, of the low-income households renting private homes, as many as 43.9 percent were in rental stress and at risk of being pushed into homelessness in 2021-22, despite receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA).

More than a third of people seeking help from specialist homelessness services for accommodation did not have their housing needs met.

“Australia’s situation is dire because there aren’t enough accommodation options for everyone who needs it,” says Marion Bennett, Mission Australia’s Executive of Practice, Evidence and Impact.

“Securing an affordable rental has become a near-impossible feat, right across the country.” 

This article was originally posted by The New York Post.

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