After years of couch surfing, camping and temporary accommodation – a mother and her two sons have a place to call home in time for Christmas.
Leasha Valentiner said she and her boys – Joshua, 11, and Sean, 16, – had spent the past six months sharing a one-bedroom motel room, relying on fast food due to a lack of kitchen amenities.
On Friday, thanks to the Housing Trust, the family moved into a three-bedroom home which had been fully furnished for them by the Salvation Army.
It marks the end of uncertainty, and nearly five years on the waiting list for housing.
‘’Ten years ago I fled an abusive relationship with my sons, with nothing more than the clothes on our backs,’’ she said.
‘’We’ve stayed with family and friends, we’ve stayed in motels. We were camping at the start of the year, then the big storms came through and ripped our tent to pieces.
‘’It’s been pretty cramped in the motel room since then. My boys – one who’s seven foot tall – are sick of having to share a bed and sick of takeaway but I haven’t had a kitchen to cook proper meals.’’
Ms Valentiner said she was ‘’overwhelmed’’ at finally having a place to call home.
‘’It’s such a relief to know we have a roof over our head,’’ she said. ‘’Knowing I have somewhere I can put the kids makes a big difference, knowing we have a safe house that we don’t have to leave.’’
It’s such a relief to know ... we have a safe house that we don’t have to leave.Leasha Valentiner
She thanked the Salvo’s which also donated gift cards and a hamper to help them settle in to their home.
‘’Thank you so much – words can’t say it,’’ she said. “The boys are jumping with joy because they have a house to live in. We’ll have dinner at home.’’
Housing Trust CEO Joan Ferguson said unfortunately Ms Valentiner was not alone, with many families facing Christmas without a permanent place to stay.
The not-for-profit organisation began in 1983 to prevent homelessness by providing community homes.
‘’In Australia, one in 200 people are homeless each night, and 10,000 of these are children,’’ Ms Ferguson said.
‘’The number of homeless people in the Illawarra increased by over 66 per cent between 2006 and 2011, and this is likely to be increasing still.’’
To help out those in need contact Wollongong Homeless Hub on 4244 4121 or the Salvation Army on 4227 2994.