Andrea is a qualified and experienced hairdresser. Working in an upmarket salon, Andrea had a busy and fulfilling job she loved. When the salon closed during Covid lockdowns, she thought it would give her a much-needed break.
Instead, being at home greatly impacted her mental health. She found herself in severe financial stress – without a wage, only receiving Centrelink income and with a landlord who was not understanding of her situation. “I thought I’d be the last person to suffer and be impacted by the pandemic,” she says.
Andrea was overwhelmed when the salon eventually re-opened and she returned to work. The “in and out” of lockdown, and customers’ heightened sense of anxiety and expectations put a lot of stress on her, and she became unable to work. “I found myself homeless – from having a wage to having nothing. It was a rude shock,” she says.
Andrea estimates she moved approximately ten times in six months between hotels, hostels and crisis accommodation simply trying to find somewhere safe to sleep each night. “I’ve seen a lot, it was really hard,” she says.
As an Aboriginal woman, Andrea connected with Elizabeth Morgan House, and it was through this organisation that Andrea found a space at Homefront, Sacred Heart Mission’s crisis accommodation service for women.
“I’d had a rough few days in the hostel – I was attacked the morning of leaving. I got in a cab and had no idea what to expect, but when I got there, I found out that I had my own space, my own little apartment. I was so safe, with staff on site and a lock on the door.”
“I found it very hard to settle – but with the help of the support workers, I built rapport with them, and they have made such a difference to my lifestyle. They actually helped me deal with some things that I haven’t dealt with for a long time.”
Andrea also appreciates the sense of community and understanding of her cultural background. Homefront supported her to connect with her community, specifically through Djirra, an Aboriginal support organisation.
“Being a gay, Aboriginal woman, I felt very welcomed at Sacred Heart Mission. To have support around sexuality and gender stuff, culture, budgeting, how to apply for rentals and write a resume. It’s so much more than housing – it’s about being accepted no matter who you are.
While at Homefront, Andrea was approved for a transitional property. She describes the apartment as “beautiful” and shares it with her beloved cats who she missed terribly while experiencing homelessness. “I am so grateful to have my babies back,” she says.
Andrea thought that her supports would end once she found accommodation, but the Homefront team maintained a connection with her and referred her to the Journey to Social Inclusion program (J2SI). Andrea’s journey continues. Her mental health is improving, and she no longer feels hopeless.
Andrea thinks of how far she has come – recalling days in the city when the weather was wet and freezing and feeling grateful for her new home with a hot meal and shower, clean clothes and a cuddle from her cats. “You know, it sounds like so little, but it’s so huge in my life.”
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