She may have only been a young, timid girl at the time but when Maree* strolled the hallways of the local community hospital, she felt like she owned the place.
Between her mum working in the kitchen and her grandmother working in the laundry, there wasn’t a corner of that hospital her family hadn’t covered.
Maree remembers that time in her life fondly. She would finish up at school and then go to the hospital to meet her mum for dinner in the cafeteria. Back then, she recalls, doctors and nurses would sit together and eat. This is where she first got a taste for working in hospitals, but it would be a long time before she went back.
Twelve years ago, Maree was having trouble keeping up with rising energy bills and as a result lost her home. With nowhere to go, she moved into a mixed-gender rooming house in St Kilda. She had to share the bathroom with strangers and remembers some of the men spray painting her door. She never feel safe there but it was all she had. And then she lost that too.
“I was doing contract work at the time so money was unstable and I couldn’t afford to keep living in the rooming house,” Maree says.
“I went to the Mission’s Dining Hall for a meal and spoke to a support worker there. She told me about the new rooming housing opening up on Queens Road, so I applied and was accepted.”
Maree has been living at our Rooming House Plus Program (RHPP) ever since, working different part-time and casual jobs and mainly keeping to herself.
After working in community care for a few years, Maree decided it was time to go back to where it all began and applied for a Diploma of Nursing.
“I never thought I would get in. I sat my entry for the college and was approved for the study loan and that was it, I was on my way,” Maree says.
“I did one placement in aged care and one in rehabilitation. It was hard but I stepped right up to the challenge – I loved it.
“I’m a shy person, but this degree has given me the confidence to interact with other residents. I’ve learnt how to approach people.”
Unlike the rooming house St Kilda, Maree has always felt safe and supported at RHPP.
“There is a sense of community here. We have all been through the same thing – I think that’s why we’re nice to each other,” Maree says.
“For those who need the extra support, the staff are here to provide it – it creates a sense of safety and allows us to live as a community.
“You never feel socially isolated here. The staff organise outings and day trips, you get to meet all sorts of people and connect.”
Recently, Maree became the second person in RHPP’s history to graduate with a diploma – an enormous achievement. Being the quiet achiever she is, Maree has already secured a job working in memory support for people with dementia, assisting people with activities and daily living.
“I feel like I have become a better person – I understand more about the world and about people,” Maree says.
“I am going to take some time to let it all soak in. I will keep working. One day, I would love to move into my own place – but one thing at a time.”
Maree’s story shows that with stable, safe and supported accommodation, people are able to thrive. At RHPP, Maree found her voice and her passion, become part of a community, and achieved incredible outcomes.
*Name changed to protect the identity of our residents.
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