June 22, 2024 2:26 AM

Help, I Need a Home


Looking at what is left of her home after it was destroyed by fire on January 25 is emotionally tough for Jane (not her real name) given amongst the ashes are her pets she calls her babies.

Whenever disaster strikes the community rallies and that is exactly what happened to Jane (not her real name for privacy reasons) when fire destroyed her home in Singleton in January.

She has had offers of furniture and furnishings to replace a lifetime of possessions that were destroyed in a fire that left her nothing but the clothes on her back and in Jane’s case, it was a bra and undies.

The fire ignited about 6:30am and investigations continue to determine the cause.  She woke with fire singeing her hair, she could smell it and feel it.  She escaped her burning home and was transported to hospital for respiratory treatment.  But it was her pets inside that died in the fire that she continues to mourne along with the loss of her life as she knew it and her possessions.

“My phone was even on fire, I couldn’t get anything,” Jane said but since the fire the stress of having nowhere to live has added to her trauma.

Jane is now living in a caravan park, nothing more than a bedsit according to her NDIS funded carer.

For 17 years Jane has lived on the corner of Barton and Church Street in a home provided to her by Home in Place, formerly Compass Housing and before that managed by Commission Housing that was managed and subsidiesed by the State Government.

She is a quiet person, enjoys her own space and loved her home.  Jane also has mental illness and an assortment of medical conditions that require significant medication and support.  She sees a psychologist regularly but, under normal conditions, manages her health as best as she can.

The fire is a trauma she lives with every time she closes her eyes.  Now all she needs is a place to call home and the hurdles she is attempting to jump through would test anyone’s patience, let along someone living with mental health fragility.

“I can’t go on, I have had all these offers of help but I can’t do anything until I have a place to live, I am so depressed, I feel like driving off a cliff,” Jane told The Hunter River Times.

She has moments of gratitude.  Firstly to her brother who has given her a car to use until the car insurance is processed.  Yes, her car was also destroyed.  She also appreciates the practical support from the ‘Orange Chemist’ in John Street, Singleton, who fast tracked her need for ongoing medication.  The ladies from Prouds Jewellers bought her a pendant with their personal money that she holds close to her chest.

Singleton Neighbourhood Centre has provided clothes that sit in bags in her cabin because there is no space to store them.

Exacerbating her mental stress is the situation she has finding a new home. 

She has been told by Home in Place that she needs to put in new paperwork for public housing and feels like she is at the bottom of the list.

She says she has also been told she needs to apply for private rental by someone handling her case at Home in Place.

“At the moment I am paying half my disability pension on rent at a caravan park, even if I can afford a private rental I don’t think I would be in the running, I am an older woman, no kids and I feel like I don’t matter to anyone, I feel discarded,” Jane said.

Home in Place could not comment on Jane’s situation stating privacy reasons.

A statement from Home in Place said the organisation assists any tenant who is displaced from their home, through no fault of their own, to secure appropriate housing.

“Home in Place is supplying Temporary Accommodation until a property suitable for the client’s requirements becomes available.

“Her application for housing is active and she doesn’t need to reapply.

We will continue to reach out to her to see if there is anything more we can do to help her until a suitable home is found.’’

MEANWHILE the home is barricaded by wire fencing with a sign warning of asbestos contamination.  This sign doesn’t mean there is asbestos, just the possibility.

Apparently there is a five meter safety distance so there is no need for broader community concern as long as people don’t enter the contained area.