Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Meet the 'hidden homeless'

Lee-Ann Liversidge has had to cope with a lot in the past few years.

CHALPAT SONTI August 7, 2014 3:51am

Lee-Ann Liversidge is an example of the "hidden homeless" in Seymour who has battled through and been found somewhere to live. She is holding a large blanket she crocheted herself.

A few years ago, everything seemed to be going reasonably well for Lee-Ann Liversidge.

She was gainfully employed, and with her then-husband was bringing up two children on 4ha at Reedy Creek. They had shifted from Meadow Heights after her father-in-law had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

One Thursday he passed away. That was the beginning of the end.

‘‘On the Monday after I was at work and (her partner) rang me up and told me he’d left me and the kids,’’ she said.

She slowly used up the equity in the house to keep the family’s head above water, but eventually ‘‘I gave it back to the Commonwealth Bank’’ and lost the haulage business she had been running as well. The last straw was her truck being vandalised when parked at Donnybrook and being unable to afford to repair it.

It was then she and her children became homeless to add to her joblessness. The first step was to stay with her sister-in-law in Seymour for about eight months. That was longer than she wanted to, but there was a reason — she could not get a house to rent.

‘‘It’s not easy getting a house up here,’’ Ms Liversidge said.

‘‘The Army gets them first but it is really hard being a single mum to get somewhere.’’

She finally did, through Rural Housing Network, and after staying there about 16 months finally came off the waiting list and moved into her present Department of Housing rental on Kitchener Cres, where she has been for 14 months so far.

She is fully aware how hard it is to be a tenant, and especially one with the ‘‘stigma’’ of being a single parent.

‘‘I can understand some people move into houses and don’t look after them, but I like to keep my house respectable and looking nice,’’ she said.

‘‘I take pride in it (she is a keen gardener) and my kids do too.

‘‘Some people look at people being on a pension or a single mother as not being reliable and not wanting to rent to them and don’t even think we’re trustworthy because I’m a single mum with kids.

‘‘But it was hard for me to get a rental because I had no rental history. I’d owned my own house and farm and didn’t have any references from landlords because of that.’’

That’s not lost on Rural Housing Network’s Jayne Calvert, who has worked on the other side for a real estate agency managing a rental book.

‘‘It’s my experience that people who were on high incomes were also a struggle to get money from too and wouldn’t leave houses in very good condition,’’ Ms Calvert said.

‘‘Whereas people like single parents know if they didn’t pay the rent one week, they would have no hope of catching it up and be terribly nervous they would become a victim, so they would pay their rent and look after their house.

‘‘People see the stereotype and the myth rather than the person.’’

In Ms Liversidge’s case, that’s someone who wants to make her own way. She has enrolled in an industrial cleaning course and hopes to find work in that field.

‘‘I’ve tried to bring up my kids the right way,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s hard being a single parent, you’ve got to be a mum and dad, but you do the best you can. To tell the truth, it was (Rural Housing Network and Salvation Army Pathways) who got me to where I am now.

‘‘If it wasn’t for them, I would be in the gutter somewhere or living in a caravan park. They made sure I had furniture and things like that when I moved in here, paid the first two weeks rent to get me started and gave me stuff to get through.

‘‘When you ring up with a problem, they get someone over here as quickly as possible — they treat us so well.’’

And Kitchener Cres? When Ms Liversidge was first offered the house, she was told she could only turn it down if there was a danger to her life. She is happy with it now, again contrary to another stereotype.

‘‘People think because we’re all in Department of Housing (houses) we’re all the same but there are some lovely people here.’’

A reminder that a sleep out marking National Homeless Persons Week will take place in Seymour tomorrow night.

To mark Anywhere But a Bed Day, a shop at 3/30 Wallis St is expected to feature members of the SES, police and other services.

Rural Housing Network has also had a stall outside its Tallarook St office throughout this week.

St Mary’s College is also taking part in an information session about hidden homelessness in the community.

For more information phone Jayne Calvert at Rural Housing Network on 57352000.

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