Chris* – Melbourne’s East
“I applied for public housing 13 years ago.
I was on the priority list for 6 years before I got my place.
When I first applied, I was renting with my children.
Things weren’t looking too good at the time. I couldn’t do full-time work, had no skills, and was raising young children.
When Wesley Homeless and Support Service helped me get on the priority list the department gave me no indication how long I’d have to wait.
Once, one of the workers actually said to me, “listen, you’ve got no problems. You’re fit and healthy. You’re a bloke. There are many more people out there that are struggling – women and kids.”
It made sense because I was always reading about women and kids who are far worse off.
I went back a second time a year later to see if there was anything I could do and they refused point blank to give me any idea.
They mentioned that blokes wanting one bedroom places, it was near impossible.
I moved into my car for 6 months in 2010.
I went to it first in January for two weeks and it nearly killed me because of the heat, so I forced myself to go on Gumtree and find a place to share with people.
I used up all my money getting in there.
I did that for three months but it didn’t work out, so then I went back to the car.
I was still working part-time during the day and living in my Commodore at night.
I had to be very secretive. When it got dark, I lowered the passenger seat down, had a bit of a mattress, and covered the windows up.
Sometimes I had a shower at certain pools I could go in and pay for.
I used to use public toilets a lot which was tricky because you had to zip in and out because people just think you’re hanging around otherwise.
I then moved to the forest outside Melbourne in September 2010.
I had a big tent with floorboards to avoid the dampness, and to make it level.
I was 4 kilometres from the closest bus and 2 kilometres from the closest houses, so it was very far away and there was a lot of privacy and security, and a forced regime of exercise which kept me going.
During the day I’d work or go to the library. At the time, I was mainly working in factories and doing a bit of courier work.
After 7 years in the forest, I got the call that I was getting into public housing on 27 December 2017.
I had half given up two years before that.
The call from the department was bittersweet. I wasn’t ready to process it because I was mentally preparing for another year in the forest.
They told me I could go have a look at it.
As soon as I walked in and saw it I said, “I’m taking it.”
Wesley Mission helped me with a couch and a fridge – it was amazing.
A month after I moved in, I got a job.
I’ve been there for a year now.”
Chris*, Melbourne’s East