Hope is where the heart is

Homelessness in Albury-Wodonga is at crisis point.

“Why is this happening to me?
It must just be me.”

Courage and conviction

PART 1: ROSE'S STORY

SHE might yet slip. Back to her quiet, burning shame, to being lost and alone. Creeping fears of failure that multiplied, twisted, taunting her, pricking the intelligent, fiercely independent focus.

“Why is this happening to me? It must just be me.”
She had to keep it calm, still does. Complacency was never welcome. It’s forever her way to avoid another round of those months trapped by a terrible uncertainty.
No place to share with her boy and her unborn child made a lie of her modest plans. It was February and they had ended up without a home. This dragged on for five, six months. As she searched, her second boy arrived.
“At that time when I was in hospital with my baby we really did have nowhere. That was probably the lowest point.”
Nothing grand, just a home thanks. Small will do. My room, your room, a corner for the cot, cuddles while watching The Wiggles on tele’, dinner around the kitchen table. Young tummies happily gurgling along with simple fare - don’t worry about fancy.
Tears before bedtime, bathtime, downtime. Deep breaths, clean up the mess and get under the covers yourself. Exhausted. More than you could imagine. But grateful for chaos, even as it crowds-out the grown-up stuff mulled over to keep it all happening, over-and-over, day-after-day.
Again, what everyone wants. What Rose* wanted and thought she wouldn’t lose, even as that old life (not so distant, scarcely a page turned) got all shaky.
Determination has been a gift to Rose since she was a toddler. So many years later it drove the resilience that kept her breathing, measured and with meaning, while stranded in a place she had never contemplated. The only place she now had.
For they were homeless. A young
pregnant mum, in her mid-20s, a boy under five and a life unravelling. The unwarranted shame, loads of it, washed over her when she eventually sought help. Because, you have to realise, what else could she do?
Without family nearby - Rose moved to Wodonga from Melbourne - she had no back-up. What she did have close was her boy and, eventually, blessing her with a happiness that gave some respite from her predicament, wee lad No.2. Her heart, her soul, the reason for not giving up. Even as they slept on friends’ couches.
“I wanted to set a good example for my kids.”

ROSE had settled into contented ways. Her version. It was one she understood and around which she could make the right decisions. Allowing her to feel love and optimism and to contemplate the difficult lessons learnt, at times, from getting it wrong. As you do.
Clear air ahead. Her partner, her little boy, excitement about the baby. They had a business and “a life worked out”. It can be easy though to deceive yourself, good-intentionally denying a reality that weeks later left her questioning the choices made. But at the time she didn’t know. She had no reason to think such frighteningly fanciful things.
Raging arguments meant a shared acceptance. It was over. They had to part as the sparring wasn’t about to stop. It was tiring. Unfair. And so Rose decided she should leave.
“It’s not nice, especially when you’ve got kids and you’re fighting and they see that. It’s not good for them or us.”
Until then they didn’t have the luxury of time to uncover the insight, already sitting somewhere in the back of their minds, that had made this inevitable.
“The relationship just broke down. I didn’t have a job anymore and I had one small child and another on the way.”
And so their engagement too was over and those times gone, so suddenly. Yet Rose was OK. She began hunting for a rental. In a regional centre as big as Albury-Wodonga she doubted it would take long. A few rejections, yes, but that was fine. It happened.
“I thought it was going to be easy. I wasn’t picky about a property, or an area, just as long as it was accessible for me and in my budget.”
One knockback, two knockbacks, three knockbacks, more. On and on it went, ticking over in time with the clock and the crossing-off of days on the calendar.
It was always the response. Twenty, maybe 30 times. “Unsuccessful.” The property managers never told her why.
“It’s the word I kept hearing. I started to feel like maybe I had made a mistake and that all of this was a sign I should just accept my life with my ex and settle.”

ISOLATION and guilt (“mum guilt - we all get it”) and despair and panic. Really panicking. A smokescreen to anything resembling a possibility. No choices.
The frustration was poison. She merely yearned for a different but thoroughly acceptable version of the everyday reality she once had. Slipped from her fingers, lost in a haze of doubt.
Rose couldn’t escape the thought “that obviously the last thing I wanted was to be homeless”.
She couldn’t understand why. From Thurgoona to Killara to everywhere on the Border she searched, no day untouched. Facebook, real estate listings, everywhere and everything she could muster.
Her disability threw-up barriers, made some properties impossible, even if she did get the nod - a step in the wrong place, stairs. The next place, perfect. But you’d need a few Centrelink payments a fortnight to get through the door. One wouldn’t cut it, not even go close.
It drained her so much that, towards the end, “I felt like it wasn’t worth it anymore”.
With baby making three, she tried a friend’s house. Another stop-gap move. But her kids meant more kids, which meant the decision couldn’t be put off - they had to leave. Again.
And with that came the moment that saved her small family from the dispiriting, never-ending merry-go-round.
The friend, who agreed the share arrangement wasn’t working, as much for Rose as for her, suggested she contact Junction Support Services in Wodonga. Rose didn’t get a case manager straight away, but change was coming.
“They knew I existed.”
By now Rose had accepted she was homeless, likening the sickening reality to forever floating, bouncing from one friend to another. They weren’t even unpacking, not much anyway. Why bother? Everything was temporary, permanency denied.
The kids?
“I don’t think it really impacted them too much. For (my older boy) it was more like ‘we’re having sleepovers’. But it affected me because kids deserve a home obviously and some security.”
The sense of imposing on people was adding to the pressure. Reluctantly, full of doubt and dread, she returned to stay with her ex. Another “no choice” juncture.
“And then I got that call and it was like ‘oh!’ It was like a huge weight had been lifted.” Someone from Rural Housing Network was on the phone to say they had a temporary place. Two weeks to wait.
“I think I cried. I was just so relieved.”

IT’S 10 in the morning, in a quiet Wodonga street. Picket fences and lovingly tended gardens and nature strip lawns out front cut painfully short, sharp and neat. Just like the next street, or the one over the back of the couple of fibros across the way.
The scream from the electric doorbell pierces the air, overdoing the job, as a woman calls out.
“Hi there, come in!”.
Clear and warm. Clearly happy. It’s Rose’s new place. All hers. With a few nerves rattling about, she is delighted and proud (with a touch of disbelief) to welcome her guests. Comfy couches, kitchen all set-up, a table and chairs, the flotsam and jetsam of a family home, ready for the reassuring aroma of a Sunday roast or home-made pizza on a Wednesday night. Beyond anything she could picture.
“I was in awe. I was just really grateful. To be honest I didn’t really care what it looked like or where it was,” though, she happily admits, “I was pleasantly surprised at the location.”
Eight, maybe nine weeks under this roof have already made a difference to her unassuming good vibes about what’s ahead.
Spend five minutes with her and it might seem easy. Talk to Rose for an hour and the hard work and strength of character that got her to this point tell a different story. Six months with Junction to rebuild her life, to give her the skills to know how to book a doctor’s appointment, sort out her mental health, get the right Centrelink payments.
If she didn’t have enough money, she would get help from Foodbank. She learnt everything to make moving into her own home feasible. It takes a lot more than daydreams breaking the monotony of uncertainty.
“But it was hard still, I had a lot to do,” she says of that time when she started out in emergency housing. “Most of my furniture was from Vinnies, I had to put things like food and fuel on credit cards. It was a struggle. But we had a roof over our heads.”
And, she says with a laugh, “I knew they weren’t going to kick me out”.

SHE has her kids. She’s going to TAFE, the uni’ course enrolment is done. Rose has paid off her debts and is reaching the end of her time with Junction. There really wasn’t anything more to do. As her case manager tells it, “she’s achieved more goals than were on her support plan. Rose is incredibly resilient and that’s something we’ve focused on the whole time.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of setbacks that we haven’t focused on. But Rose doesn’t have surface-level thinking, which is incredible. She is always thinking ahead and it has to be the goals for her life, which for someone who has been in this situation is already phenomenal; to say ‘I want to go to uni’’, to say ‘I want my kids to go to arranged day care’.”
Rose so appreciated the constant reassurance that she wasn’t the only person on such a difficult journey. It has fostered a strong sense of thriving, of having control over most things in her life. Making it work, like she knew she would.
“And I feel like having been through everything that I’ve been through I have a really good perspective on how to help people.”
Help means wanting to tell others, especially the disabled, they’re not the first and won’t be the last to become homeless. That there are always people to offer support, that they “should never feel bad, or ashamed or guilty, especially when you have kids. You have to think about what’s best for them.”
Homelessness has awakened a deep understanding that life is capable of the most unexpected change.
“I always have in the back of my mind that it could happen again. It could have got a lot worse. I could have had my kids taken away, I could have been on the streets.
“I never expected this was going to happen before. And it could happen again.”
*Rose is a name used to protect her identity

“Watch what I’m going to do
to your little boy next”

A flight from hell

PART 2: SUE'S STORY

ABEAUTIFUL boy born as she buried another. A cruel coincidence.

Turbulent and dark, enveloped in an undercurrent of fear, yet scarce regrets, of happiness, yet disturbing violence. Unrelenting violence. It was a savagery that failed to ruin her but took away her son. At just 22.
He was punched until he lay unconscious on the floor, his head then beaten with a cooking pot moments after the water it held was tipped over his body. No reaction.
Another day passed before he died, the medicos turning off his life support in a Brisbane hospital. Devastating brain damage meant there was no hope. Thirty-nine injuries suffered in an attack put down to two days of simmering tension between victim and assailant. A broken jaw and teeth, a broken nose, horrid bruising to his face.
Sickening violence first took aim at Sue Davis in the beatings inflicted by her partner. What turned the knife was the agony of seeing that man become the killer of her boy. Right in front of her, so far from her first home, a short while from the banks of the Murray River.
“Watch what I’m going to do to your little boy next,” was the chilling warning Cameron Joseph Bani fired at Sue before calmly walking into the kitchen to grab the pot, back on May 5, 2012. Bani was later found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in jail, with a minimum of 15 years.
Next to be consumed by the violence was her daughter, also in Brisbane, severely traumatising her two small boys, especially the older one born the day of his uncle’s funeral.
It was a critical time, Sue says, where “you’ve just got to put yourself last”.
Now aged 3 and 5, her grandsons and their mother were trapped. Sue never saw the assaults. But she saw the aftermath, those large, frightening bruises, the deep welts. The boys staring at their mother in
silence. Nothing. No tears, no asking ‘Mummy what happened?”. But they didn’t look away.
Errant doors, floors and walls. “That’s what happened,” he’d infer, the blows cowardly delivered out of sight. Another man in the house imbued with the warped thinking that violence was his right.
And so, “leave it alone”, Sue can hear him saying. “Are yous happy now that you’ve split us up? Yous will keep.” And don’t flaunt your own experience as a victim to point the finger. Her epiphany lay in this threat.
They had to leave. No delay. Sue, the grandsons she calls “my boys” and their mum got on a flight heading 2 1/2 hours south to Melbourne, to be collected by family for the drive to Albury. Years in her cherished Brisbane home left behind in a single day.
She first took flight from Albury as a girl of 16, running away from home to chase the world. “And I did,” she says, her face softening, cheekily revelling in the recollection. Sitting a bit further forward, hands clasped, wide eyes smiling.
Sue is back. But her family’s escape from violence left her in another unhappy place. They were homeless.
Sisters took them in but it didn’t work. There wasn’t the space - to move about, to deal with their dislocation. Big brother was especially traumatised by his mother’s experiences. The bed wetting, the nightmares, his own turns of violence. It continues today.
“My oldest grandson will punch his brother in the face severely, give him a blood nose. It’s full-on physical behaviour.” In one house they curled-up on couches. But what went on was unsettling for their hosts.
“They didn’t understand the severity of the boys’ behaviour. They were a bit judgemental towards me, saying ‘you let them get away with things, you baby them too much’. But if only they understood what’s going on. When we go out on the street people look at us because their behaviour is just out of this world.”
The boys will run out in front of traffic. No fear. No belief the cars will cause them grief.
“That’s how they are. And they don’t understand the severity of what can happen.”
Homelessness was a state of feeling “completely lost”, not knowing “where to go, what to do. You just try to do what you do best.”
It was time to phone a domestic violence hotline, which led to a motel room thanks to Albury women’s refuge Betty’s Place. The relief was immediate.
“It felt like you could breathe. You could do your own thing. You can relax. It’s like you had no pressure.”
Weeks later she and the boys got their own room in the refuge. It’s been home now for 10 months. A normality returned, the boys so at ease with her they never let her disappear without a squeal, though they still have a way to go to be truly settled.
“If I go outside for a smoke it’s ‘Nan, Nan, where are you?’.” Mum disappeared, back to Brisbane on a few fruitless trips, before
giving up and returning to Albury. She has now got her own place, through public housing.
“She came down (from Brisbane), seen the boys, stayed for two days, took off, so that was very upsetting. And it was so sad because they’ll be asleep, they wake up the next morning and she was gone.”

GIVE her a river and it’s all sweet. By the Murray and Sue is swimming without needing to plunge her feet into the ice-cold, murky wash.
A “therapeutic thing”, her Betty’s Place case manager says. “If she needs a bit of a release, going down by the river is something that is really meaningful.”
Sue wanted a bloke to look over her and the boys at the refuge. Not because the women working there weren’t right, they were pretty impressive, she says, but they needed a male role model. What they’d been served up so far clearly was an abject failure.
And so she got one. Over the months the pair have built a close rapport, joking at each other’s expense but in a careful, caring way. It has allowed Sue to get the help she needs, the expert support the boys desperately had to have. (The five-year-old still faces years of therapy, his psychologist has warned, to rid himself of his demons).
“He takes me down to the river. We sit and have a yarn, and then I’ll have a cry as we start talking about stuff. It’s like,” she says with a raucous laugh, “the song Cry Me a River coz I’m looking at the river.
“I’ve got to be near the water. I grew up on the Murray River. For me, being an Aboriginal person, you connect to the earth. Water is that for me, it’s so calming.”
What’s beneath the surface is another thing. A worrying darkness, of danger, misery, of the violence that’s run beneath smoother, happier times. She smiles at the all-too-easy analogy. Everything was good, provided she was able to keep herself to herself in her own home.
And there’s smoko, at the refuge. She looks at the trees over the back, listening to leaves crinkling in the breeze. Takes another drag. It keeps her grounded and open to it all. If it wasn’t for the boys Sue knows where she would be; back by the river, sleeping in a tent or under the stars.
Cases where families have been forced to set-up camp by the Murray are becoming more common. It’s the dire situation painted by those working with the homeless. One family of seven was doing so a couple of weeks ago.
But it’s Sue’s nirvana, a natural way of reconnecting to the beliefs at her core. Except, again, there’s the boys.
“You’re torn between all of this,” she says of the violence, of fleeing to safety only to be whacked by another brand of disempowerment.
“All these pieces are getting stretched every which way. And you’ve just come out of a bad domestic violence relationship and someone was taken away from you in the most horrific way.”
Each time it gets back to these children, to the “very angry little boys”, which never fails to unleash sadness. Worrying that little brother sees big brother as a leader, that his lashing out is the way ahead. A simple happiness in having a secure yard in which to play at the refuge, so they cannot run on to the road. Routine and the treats that land in the fridge thanks to the food relief that covers the shortfalls in her Newstart allowance.
Their mental health is at the heart of
getting there, making sure it can be fixed, that the home they’re due to get in a few weeks redoubles efforts to address that properly.
The drastic impact of domestic violence on children is witnessed by the Melbourne-based Queen Elizabeth Centre, whose outreach service helps North East families with the parenting of children up to the age of four.
“The effect of family violence is profound,” Hume region manager Shirley Pilkington says. “It affects learning, social and emotional outcomes and stops children reaching their full potential.”
She says it even more plainly. They’re barometers. And so children, such as Sue’s boys, soak up what they hear and see, which manifests in anxiety or sleep problems or hyper-vigilance.
Imagining her boys still living in Brisbane, in that lonesome hell, of unrelenting damage, unsettles Sue. Their survival mode would not have been enough to forever avoid being physically hurt, or worse. Sue can barely allow herself to tolerate the thought.
If it was just her, Sue wouldn’t have worried about where she could sleep. I just wouldn’t care, she insists. But she does have to care and in so doing has landed them all in a better place. Even if life remains precarious.
“I’ve seen it through their eyes. It’s really made me understand more, with the way they are. I’ve put them first. Because of me not being able to really grieve for my son they have kept me afloat.”
Brisbane would be home if their mother wasn’t attacked, perhaps if Deon had not been viciously killed.
“But unfortunately this is what happened.”

“Why are we so poor Mum? Why can’t I go on a holiday...”

A late cruel twist

ROBYN'S STORY

GLIDE on over, take a seat. Ya gotta love this - best customer on the Border. Works hard, makes it count, keeps the cash flowing. A decent whack, plus a nice little slice for us. Guaranteed. Kindly looking after the bank’s profits, kicking along my career.

It’s so gloriously bright, great big dollops of sunshine, when Robyn* is in the building. That small business dynamo racking-up kudos for the branch.
“Quick! Cappuccino for Rob’!” Forget the financial stuff, let’s have a chat. In my office, shut the door - even a social catch-up rates. It counts. Robyn counts. Big time!
Phone me tomorrow, if you really want to, about that place. No worries. Investment property No.2? Three? Or is it already No.4? Doesn’t matter. Don’t need to know. Don’t need the contracts, just go ahead and buy, buy, buy. My door’s always open for Rob’. We love ya!
It’s a breeze when someone else’s life is such a glowing wonder. It couldn’t get any easier.

EASY? Life? Not really, well, not at all, Robyn reflects a few short years later; the beautiful double-storey house on the rural block gone, the easy confidence and social standing shattered.
Houses bought, financial reserves stripped. Houses lost, homes gone, ultimately left to the whims of landlords who “care” but nonetheless ask Robyn and her two youngest to move on. Awkward outcomes for old friends.
She weeps for a life lost as she points the car away from her final dream home - for the last time, no urge to pull over by the side of the road for another look. Too much grief. A sagging emptiness visited time and time again, from homeowner to tenant to absolutely nothing. Out of money, self-esteem and options.
To where?
None of them have any idea. Her sons, with their special needs, make Robyn fret about whether they can handle another relocation. This could be the one that splits the resolve, rendered impossible to repair, or her boys might stonewall with their regimented fears built on the need for an inner reassurance and calm. It has to be about them and so mother’s love commits her to whatever they decide.
“Now I get from them ‘why are we so poor Mum?’. It’s like ‘why can’t I go on a holiday when all my friends at school do?’. It’s been a long time.”

EYES glazed, tears threatening to burst and spill, making a mash of her makeup. Nerves shaking her hands ever so slightly.
I worked non-stop for that success, she says, three decades of never letting-up. And toiling hard to raise my older kids too, each now a success story.
Would I have judged the downtrodden? Well, perhaps a bit of a look down my nose, yes, Robyn says, I did that. Why wouldn’t I throw a rhetorically curly one your way? You know, really, why couldn’t you turn your luck with a bit of hard graft, a little less self-pity?
Homeless? Well, I’m as empathetic as the next person and it makes me sad, old Robyn would then explain. But truly understand? Don’t know if I can. Not in my world.
That’s just how she felt. It wasn’t a perception borne of smugness or spite. She simply didn’t need to give it space. Others might, but for her? No.
Life? “We were just travelling along, smoothly, I had some rental houses, would buy and sell.”
Robyn almost kept the disintegration of her life to herself. She didn’t need to tell this story about how it all went belly-up.
She thought a few times that she’d cancel, then swung back the other way - others needed to know how easy it was to become homeless.
Robyn landed in her 60s without a home and with all that modest success sucked out of her existence, the past three years littered by wrong turns and unforeseen setbacks, marked by a rapid slide to financial ruination.
She now sees the guideposts to how it happened. And if anything it all began years earlier.

DAD died in 2006. She an only child and he “my best friend”. This spun her a few complications. “I had never previously had anything to do with depression or mental health or anything like that.”
She reckons that’s when other things outside her control began to bite, here and there at first before taking over. Her dad’s death came a few years after routine surgery that continues to “set me back in a lot of ways”. The businesses had to be let go, but at least she could stick at her property investments. A dodgy arm didn’t disarm her business nous.
And then they had to sell the big house to build a single-level home, to make life easier for the boys.
“Financially things just started to unravel because we thought we’d have enough to build another home and keep going where we were, but it all blew-out as the saying goes,” she says. “With me not working anymore I was finding it difficult to contribute financially.”
Another setback. This was becoming a new reality. Her husband lost his job and, being older, found it “very difficult” to get another and so they had to move out of another home, into - “much to my horror” - an old house that needed a lot of work.
“We thought it was going to be a permanent thing. We called in his superannuation and used that to renovate the house. And of course, as soon as the house was renovated and really nice the owners wanted it back.”
Work that he could find took him to distant parts of NSW and Queensland. The money was coming in, but it wasn’t enough to erase the layers of trauma that had been gathering for years.
“The marriage just fell apart. But in saying that he’s always been here for the kids.”
He left his job up north to return home to help with the boys after the trio were evicted from a rental owned by someone who, at the time, was a “very, very close friend”. Every cent of his earnings, aside from a small food kitty for those remote places, was evaporating.
The friend gave her some leeway to get organised for her next move, though Robyn knew it wouldn’t be enough.
“By this stage I had said to her that I think we’re going to end up homeless. She said ‘don’t be ridiculous, that’ll never happen’.”
They weren’t ignorant of the reality facing them, having engaged a financial counsellor. It was to be a flawed decision laid bare when, one night, Robyn answered a knock on the door.
A stranger was there to repossess her husband’s car. Why? “Well, no payments have been made on it.” That was a job set aside for the counsellor, who later queried whether it was anything to worry about.
“He was working 1900 kilometres away and comes home every fortnight to see the children. He needed the car.”
Before long, Robyn and her boys were on their own, without a home.
“It was pretty much the end of the line.”

SHE left the appointment “a wreck”. She still had no home. She thought she might never hear from them again.
But Robyn was gladdened by how seriously they took her desperate situation. They were “amazing people” who urged her to take care of herself because if she didn’t, “your children are going to suffer. And I did try really hard not to show my anxiety and fear of the unknown in front of the kids.”
A few months earlier she had made her first appointment at Rural Housing Network in Wodonga. Robyn had no idea about what they did, but a friend had suggested they could help. She had virtually given up on finding another place after a fruitless search for a private rental. Even a friend in real estate lucked out.
At that first appointment, late last year, the Rural Housing worker could see she was depressed from not knowing where she and her boys could go. She then decided to tell her landlord she had to stay a bit longer again as “I just can’t get a place anywhere”.
But it was inevitable she had to try again with Rural Housing, fueling her anxiety about what might eventuate.
“I was absolutely terrified of going back in there, absolutely terrified. I was sitting in the waiting room for a while and I kept thinking ‘don’t want to be here, don’t want to be here, I just want to get up and walk out’,” she says. “I was feeling like I was going to be sick.”
Instead, she left grateful for having met such helpful people, so content that if she never heard from them again “at least they were kind to me”.
Within a week they called back with news of a small house in Wodonga that might suit, so she began talking about the positives to her boys. Her sons had to be on-side, one of them having declared: “I’m not leaving here Mum, this is where I was born.”
When she first saw the house it was a mess. A lot of cleaning and the stained lounge room carpet still needs replacing. But by the time Robyn sits at her smart kitchen table, the whole living area bathed in natural light, the house is all white and pristine, furnished as if a display home.
And the boys allayed her fears, both happier than she has ever seen. They’ve got a footy oval close by for a regular kick and a treasured older brother visits every night after work.

"What we would like to do in terms of the community’s response to homelessness is to say that it can happen to anybody"

– Jan Armstrong, pictured above

HOMELESSNESS is like that for many people. It is, one expert says, “very rare” to actually see people sleeping rough.
“There are people in the community who for one reason or another, they just see the stereotypes,” says Jan Armstrong, co-ordinator of the Hume Region Homelessness Network.
The organisation is able to get a clear insight into what is actually happening, given that it acts as a resource for the 14 agencies supporting homeless people in the North East.
“If you saw the news recently about the rough sleeping problem in Melbourne and how it looks to people, well, we don’t see that in regional and rural Victoria,” she says.
“What we would like to do in terms of the community’s response to homelessness is to say that it can happen to anybody.”
It can be losing your job, a marriage break-up, an accident at home or work or an illness that drags on. And the problems strike when people lose that financial buffer.
“Any life change can be the difference between you maintaining your home or not. Most people I know are two, three, maybe four pay packets away from homelessness.
“And so if anything goes wrong, you’re in trouble.”

SHE draws enough pride from her home to see a clear path ahead. Robyn is homesick for the old place but is grateful for her good fortune. She has also shed the shame over what went wrong.
But prejudice still lurks, experienced when she goes to the bank where “even those people treat you differently”.
“Now I walk into the bank and I feel like I can’t even look at the tellers because nine times out of 10 when I get a balance I’d
have to get it sorted out. They’d say ‘do you know you’re overdrawn on your bank account?’.”
And there’s the woman at Robyn’s garage sale from her last place who, during a casual chat, worked out her plans. “Oh, you’re going into one of those commission houses.”
“She said it as if we were just scum,” Robyn says.
“People have the perception that if you’re in one of these homes that you have to be someone who is lower than them.
“You’re not. It could be them next time.”
* Robyn is a name used to protect her identity