‘My own place’: Alice’s new beginning
Sitting in her brand-new, light-filled apartment Alice* looks back on the last 12 months and says she feels blessed.
Barely a year ago Alice was admitted to a residential mental health facility, dealing with the impact of a lifetime of trauma and violence from her mother. It was at that point though, that as she puts it: ‘The work really started.’
Her mental health worker, and McAuley’s family violence and homelessness worker, supported Jess to understand and recognise that what she’d been going through was violence. Family violence from a parent is often not well-understood or wrongly labelled or brushed aside as just a difficult relationship. ‘It took a lot for people to understand, and for me to understand it,’ Jess says.
From early on, it was clear that a return home would not be safe, and that Jess’s recovery could only come about in a different environment.
Although it had been identified that McAuley House – longer-term housing for women only – would be an ideal solution, there was initially no vacancy. Jess firstly moved to Ozanam House where she stayed for several months.
While full of praise for the help she received there, Jess formed a relationship with another person which unfortunately turned out to be abusive. She experienced new trauma in a vicious assault where she was kept hostage. The man involved has now been imprisoned.
Soon after a vacancy came up at McAuley House, which soon felt like a ‘safety bubble’ for Jess. She took up all the opportunities available, taking part in training as a barista, attending yoga, helping with food preparation, and art classes. In fact one of the beautiful pieces which now has pride of place in Jess’s new home was created in her very first art class. ‘I thought I’d go along, and just sit and watch. But the next thing I knew I was in there getting creative!’
Jess realised that growing up in abuse it had been hard to put herself forward. ‘I had to work on that – on me being me.’
She appreciated that at McAuley House, there was respect for her need to do things at her own pace, and understanding that some days she might not feel as well as others. ‘If I was struggling with anxiety and felt like I didn’t want to go out, one of the residential care workers would offer to walk to the market with me.’
After staying in McAuley House around seven months, Jess was able to move into one of 12 completely new, purpose-built apartments recently opened by McAuley. She was almost overwhelmed when the opportunity arose, wondering if she was ready, and with her usual thoughtfulness, concerned that others might need it more than her.
But now, for the first time, she is living in her own place. ‘My name is on the lease, and for the first time I have my own place’.
She continues a close connection with McAuley House, returning for the weekly community lunch, to join in activities, and see the friends she made living there. She volunteers twice a week at Ozanam House, and has recently applied for a role as a peer worker helping others dealing with homelessness, knowing how much that helped her.
Now, looking around at her lovely home where plants are thriving all around her, Jess says that a year ago, she couldn’t have imagined how far she has come. ‘I have a full, independent life, and I really feel blessed.’