KELLY says the “unknown” is the hardest part of homelessness.
“I had never been in that situation before, so it's pretty hard,” she explains.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelly and her then-partner had well-paid jobs and structured lives. Yet a series of setbacks saw them camping on the beach at Robe with their children because they had nowhere else to go.
“It's a hard fall from the top to the bottom,” she says.
The couple had hit rock bottom after losing their jobs and rental property. Then, when they were forced to motel-hop during the summer tourist season, their savings ran out.
“We camped for a couple of nights over New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and then we suddenly realised we had nowhere to go,” she says. “It was bad - everyone was scared, so finally we went to ac.care.”
ac.care staff were able to organise a week of accommodation, along with food and clothing.
“It was just fantastic - we had a whole week where we didn't have to stress out, wonder where were going and what we would eat,” Kelly says. “We would not have survived that week without them at all - they gave us clothes, we had food, we had warmth and we had a roof over our heads.”
After her relationship with her partner broke down, Kelly eventually secured a private rental for her and her young son, but they had to vacate when the owner wanted to renovate. Even though she was working up to 50 hours a week, it was not enough to secure another property, with the coastal town experiencing an ongoing accommodation shortage.
“I moved in with family and yeah, that got pretty hectic and a bit too much as I didn't have a great relationship with one of my family members and so it forced me to move into a motel in Robe, which was astronomical at $500 a week rent,” she says.
“It’s awful being forced to live somewhere you don't particularly want to – it’s hard and I sheltered my son a lot from the actual situation.”
Exhausted from working such long hours to pay for her accommodation, Kelly was reluctant to phone ac.care again, but realised that she needed help.
“There are always people worse off, you know what I mean? I was lucky to have the roof over our heads, but we needed a rental, we needed a house,” she explains.
Kelly said it made a big difference being able to explain her situation to a case worker.
“You’re actually speaking to a real-life person and they will meet with you face-to-face too,” she says.
“The worker I spoke to at ac.care was fantastic - they make it feel like it's not your fault.”
Kelly says ac.care has since given her “more than she could ever imagine”.
“I've always donated and then to be on the other end of the stick is pretty bad, but life's good - it's a lot better,” she says.
“There's still that fear of not knowing how long I am going to have my rental for, but I've got a full-time job, my son is in a fantastic school and we've got support - ac.care is one of those support networks that you know you can always fall back on.
“They save lives mentally, physically and financially.”
Kelly has shared her story to raise awareness of the lifechanging impact of asking for help from local services and hopes her journey inspires others to find stability and support in their lives.
ac.care is a specialist homelessness service provider for the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murraylands, supporting people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.
To find out more or seek assistance visit our homelessness service webpage or call 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273).