When Danni visits Women’s House – which is most days – she feels an instant sense of welcome and belonging. For a long time this is all she wanted.
The Women’s House is a welcoming, safe and supportive open house tailored to the needs of women who are experiencing or at risk of becoming homeless. Women’s House provides case management, housing support, meals, a shower and laundry facilities, and – perhaps most importantly – an opportunity to socialise and connect with other women.
Danni has only been back in Melbourne for 11 months following 12 years spent in Western Australia, recovering from a stroke she suffered at just 34 years old. The stroke left her with a significant physical disability, and she underwent two years of intense physical therapy.
“When I got back to Melbourne, my mental health was playing up – I had no stable accommodation and no friends or family here,” Danni says.
“I was (experiencing) homelessness for only a few months, but it was during winter; the hardest time of the year to be sleeping rough.
Danni ended up at Homefront – our crisis accommodation service for women experiencing homelessness – and stayed there for more than four months, two months beyond the standard length of stay.
“Thank God for Homefront,” Danni says. “They supported me to look for permanent housing and kept extending my stay until I could find a safe and secure place to live.”
The team linked Danni in with psychiatrists and health professionals to help her manage her mental health, as well as address her history of addiction.
“The moment things changed for me was when I became homeless and realised addiction was leading me there,” she says.
“It was a cycle – I was in and out of psychiatric wards every 12 months. I had to put something into action so I tried sobriety and I realised ‘I can handle this. Life is okay’.”
During her time at Homefront the team supported Danni to secure permanent housing. Every Friday, for four months, Danni would call South Port Community Housing Group, where she had been interviewed and was finally accepted for her very own home.
“My persistence paid off,” she says with a smile. “I have permanent, safe and warm housing.
“I’m in a beautiful house with 14 other women. It is fully self-contained, and I have a cat. I never thought I’d live anywhere I could keep a cat.
“Her name is Priscilla. She’s my best friend. I rescued her from a lost dogs’ home. She has extreme anxiety, so we’re the perfect match,” Danni laughs.
Danni attributes her success to having a long-term plan of achievable goals. The plan, which she created at Homefront with her caseworker, focused on housing, independence and finding a sense of community here in Melbourne.
“I don’t have any family here, so I had to create something in my life where I felt I belonged,” Danni says.
“I found that here, at the Women’s House. This place has been critical to my success.”
The caseworkers at Women’s House supported Danni to complete Peer Worker Training at the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre, after she had expressed a desire to support others through addiction.
“I am turning a negative into a positive; all those years of addiction weren’t wasted,” Danni says.
“I have compassion, I have lived through it and I understand how hard and how scary it is.”
As for the future, Danni has a four-year plan to save up enough money to visit Amsterdam to see her sister and celebrate her 50th birthday.
“I will continue to be a part of this positive community and take each day as it comes.”
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