Growing up was long hard struggle for Jessica, who describes her mother as being verbally abusive towards her. An already troubled relationship with her parents became even more strained when mum and dad separated; leading Jessica to pack her bags and left home at 18.
Over the next 5 years Jessica led a fairly transient life, getting kicked out of numerous houses where she was couch surfing at the time with either friends or family.
Jessica and her then partner soon found some stability after moving in with her cousin. This was meant to be a temporary arrangement as her cousin was married with a child of their own, but after a while Jessica become pregnant with Harley. A couple of months before Harley was born Jessica’s relationship with her partner (Harley’s dad) broke down and Jessica found herself under pressure to find somewhere to live for both her and her newborn.
Having accrued a large amount of debt including personal loans, credit cards, radio rentals and fines and no parenting support from Harley’s dad, Jessica was in over her head and unable to secure independent accommodation.
“I felt so alone, with very little family support other than my cousin I didn’t know where to turn”
During a maternal child health assessment, Jessica and Harley were identified as being on the brink of homelessness and in desperate need of parenting and other supports. Concerned for their wellbeing and safety the shire worker referred the young mum to Windermere’s Mums n Bubs program.
At assessment Jessica disclosed suffering from depression, that she had sought support from her GP since 2009 and was medicated on anti-depressants. She identified that her depression was also affecting the way in which she was parenting Harley, her tolerance threshold and motivation. Jessica described feelings of intense anger and was crying a lot.
“I’ve got a problem, I felt it within myself. I wasn’t myself after I had my son I was upset all the time, and I remember myself before all that and I knew it wasn’t me”
Jessica and Harley were quickly accepted into the Mums n Bubs program, entering the house in September 2014. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be a mum, but this is not what I pictured my life to be like”
Through the program Jessica and Harley were provided with suitable housing, and were able to access a number of activities designed to get them back on their feet. After receiving a few home truths about her behaviour Jessica worked intensively hard on changing for the better. She began to repay her loan debt with the Office of Housing and saving so that she would have some money put aside when it was time to move on from the program. Jessica also made steps towards mending the relationship with her mum and sister, and even spent last Christmas with her family.
Whilst in the mums n bubs house, Jessica expressed her desire to enter the work force and provide a better life for Harley. Supported by the Windermere staff she completed an event planning course, something she had always wanted to do.
Soon after, in recognition of her progress and positive changes two wonderful things happened to Jessica; she was selected for the Cardinia Shire employment pathway program, and began her placement in February this year. Her hard work and determination also saw her nominated and offered a 2 bedroom house in Pakenham through Community Housing, which she and Harley moved into in February.
“The changes in my behaviour have made a huge difference to Harley, it has been amazing to see his growth. It makes me feel like the parent I’ve always wanted to be”
Jessica and Harley spent 5 months in the Mums n Bubs house. In such a short time this remarkable young lady has turned her life around, Jessica was given a real opportunity and embraced it. She is now working part time, contributing to the community and giving her young son the life he deserves.
“None of this would have been possible without Windermere and the Mums n Bubs program I was so much set in my own ways that I needed that external person to give me those home truths. It was the wake up call I needed”
“The amazing opportunity I got coming into the Windermere house and the 100% that I put into the program, has given me and my son a roof over our head and a second chance at a normal life”
Jessica’s story is not unusual, especially not to Windermere working with young mums, children and families who are homeless or at risk on a daily basis.
We hope that by highlighting stories such as Jessica’s we will challenge traditional ideas of homelessness, and that sometimes it happens despite a person’s best efforts.
However with the right support and options, together with the genuine desire of a mother to care for her family, homelessness can be overcome.