She now has a ten-year-old son and lives in public housing in the suburbs of Melbourne. After years of homelessness, at first, Gresha was really happy to receive her offer of public housing. However, the move was a difficult one. The housing she was offered was on the other side of town, far from her son’s school and her community supports. It was also in a very rough area which has tested her mental health, and she doesn’t feel secure:
“You have a fear that your stuff will get broken into, you’re never really safe”.
Gresha passionately believes that when placing people in public housing, the government needs to think about safety and security, as well as individual needs and circumstances. This is particularly important when children are involved. Without that, she says there’s a real risk that people with a history of homelessness will be homeless once again.
Gresha had been living in her public housing property for two years when she found a card from the police in her front door stating that she was going to be evicted. She panicked:
Gresha was being evicted because she was approximately $1000 behind in her rent.
The eviction came as a surprise. She’d had a rough time in the previous few weeks and her mind had been on other things. Her son had recently been removed from her care and this left her severely depressed. As a result, Gresha hadn’t answered her door or picked up her mail for a number of weeks. This meant that she had no knowledge that the legal process to evict her from her home was almost complete.
Gresha contacted Justice Connect’s Homeless Law Service asking for help to prevent her eviction. Gresha knew she was facing homelessness. She also knew that without a home, there was no chance that she would regain custody of her son.
Gresha’s Homeless Law lawyers, Peter and James, made an urgent application and the tenancy matter was reopened at the Tribunal. She was assisted to apply for a rent adjustment, which meant that the amount she owed was significantly reduced. In the end, lawyers were able to support Gresha to reach an agreement with the Office of Housing to pay off her outstanding rent. Gresha has recently been advised that she has paid off all her arrears.
While they were working with Gresha to save her tenancy, her lawyers identified a number of non-legal issues that Gresha also needed help with. Homeless Law’s Liaison Officer, Sarah, was able to step in and support Gresha to make links with housing support, drug and alcohol and mental health services, Centrelink and Child Protection. Gresha is extremely grateful for the assistance she received from Homeless Law. She is especially grateful to have been supported by Sarah through the court process and with her other issues.
Gresha still doesn’t feel secure in her current housing – if she could afford it she would love to move into private rental in a safer area: “I want to give my son the life he deserves”. For now, she is trying to get on with life and is working to maintain her tenancy in the hope that she will soon regain custody of her son.