A Wollongong woman who has faced homelessness has words of encouragement for those in a similar predicament - there is help out there.
Wollongong resident Shantelle Pavlina, now 27, and her two children became homeless after fleeing a domestic violence situation.
“It was a toxic relationship," she said.
“Because of that break-up I ended up in a refuge with my two young children.
“I was in there for about four-and-a-half months, and then went into women’s housing, where I was for about another four months.
“I still had a roof over my head, but in there the service wasn’t that great. I experienced depression and was in a really emotional state.”
In the immediate aftermath of fleeing the family home, Ms Pavlina and her children were supported with crisis accommodation and transitional accommodation by Salvation Army Women’s Crisis Refuge and Baptist Care respectively.
Family and Community Services provided support through the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy, which allowed them to set up a home in an affordable private rental property. Ms Pavlina and her children (now aged six and four) have remained there for the past three-and-a-half years.
She had sought assistance from multiple agencies due to her homelessness and lack of income. Her case worker from the Brighter Futures program “helped me out with the children… to improve my parenting”.
She also had help from Wollongong Homeless Hub.
“I think that was the pinnacle of my homelessness – having to line up in front of a building with your Woolies bags and having donated food be your way of eating.
“I think it was from that moment where I thought, ‘I am never going to have my children feel like poor people’, and that’s why I got into doing all my TAFE courses, and the assistance from Family Services helped me get the kids into childcare.”
Ms Pavlina has gone on to study and gain full-time employment within the disability sector.
She said while the infrastructure associated with homelessness services could be frustrating for some in that situation, ultimately “there is help out there”.
“You can't have a sense of entitlement, sometimes you have to swallow your pride to accept the help that's available to move forward.
“Don’t rely on the services as a long-term aspect; look at it for the short-term and what you can do within that short-term is paramount.
“In 16 months I was out of the services, don’t use them at all. I don’t need to turn back to them at all, but I know they are there if it doesn’t work out the way I planned.
“You control your own future… But giving up (isn’t an option), because there are people out there, you’ve just got to put in the time. It’s not going to be handed to you on a silver platter; you’ve got to put work into it.”
Homelessness Week runs from August 7-13.
For more details, click here.