As part of National Homelessness Week this week (7-13 August 2023), we are sharing Kym’s story. Kym is just one of hundreds of clients being supported to take their first steps out of homelessness, through the Toward Home Alliance.
“I’ve always struggled with asking for help, but I said to myself, ‘I have to do this for my child’.”
This was the promise of single father Kym, who sought support after he and his child were forced into homelessness due to the current rental crisis.
When Kym learned his rental lease of six years was not going to be renewed, he immediately began the hard slog of searching and applying for houses around his local community in Adelaide’s south.
With his neurodiverse and anxious child struggling to stay connected to their education, it was important to find secure and safe housing as soon as possible, close to school and other supports. But, finding an affordable rental was proving impossible. Initially, each application brought hope and excitement, but following rejection after rejection, Kym found himself facing homelessness for the second time in his life.
“I had been applying for six months beforehand because we knew we had to find somewhere,” Kym says.
“When the lease ran out, I was able to stay with friends for a couple of months, but then because they were renting as well and their landlord was unhappy with having extra people there, we couldn’t stay too long.
“My original plan was to move in with a friend, but we just weren’t having any luck with the rentals we applied for.”
The first time Kym fell into homelessness was not long after his child was born. At the time, he and his former partner stayed with friends for a month, before finding an affordable property.
This time, however, the search for a rental was much more difficult.
Record-low vacancy rates across the country have created a gaping power imbalance between landlords and tenants. According to Domain, all capital cities in Australia hit record highs for advertised house rents earlier this year and it’s not just those on the rental hunt who are feeling it. Australians already in tenancies are reporting widespread rental increases, often in excess of $100 a week. Being unemployed was another barrier to success in Kym’s search.
Needing assistance urgently, Kym connected with the Toward Home Alliance, a Lutheran Care-led network of experienced providers offering services to people experiencing and at risk of homelessness in Adelaide’s CBD, inner and outer southern metro area and the Adelaide Hills.
“We just had nowhere else we could go, so I got in touch with Toward Home to see what they could help me with,” Kym says.
“After that, my caseworker from Lutheran Care advocated for us to have Emergency Accommodation in a motel and that came through pretty quickly down at Maslin’s [Beach].
“We appreciated staying with the friends that we were with, but my child has recently been diagnosed with autism and they have two younger children, which made it very difficult for my not very social child.
“So it was good to have our own space.”
Kym and his child stayed in Emergency Accommodation from February to April this year. When a place close by became available through Junction, Toward Home staff helped the family secure the tenancy.
“We were told we can stay here anywhere between three to 18 months,” Kym says.
“We’ve already been here just over the three now because we had the lease extended until October.
“It’s been really good. The motel was great to have somewhere to be while we needed it, but because we were in the same room, my child and I now have space from each other.
“And because our stuff was in storage for so long, it’s nice to have our stuff again.”
Having stable housing also drives routine and Kym says having a more predictable schedule has been helpful for both him and his child.
“There’s still some other stuff going on for me, with my mental health, but not having to worry about the house at the moment has taken a huge weight off,” Kym says.
Kym’s child is now more connected with their education and attending school more regularly.
“We’re only about five minutes away from the school now, so that is a lot more helpful. It’s been a lot more successful these last few months of getting them to go to school than we had for most of the last year.”
With the goal to secure his own rental at the forefront of his mind, Kym says he hopes to continue making progress and find employment in the next year as well. However, he is concerned that if rental vacancy rates across Adelaide don’t increase, it will make this more challenging.
“Being unemployed doesn’t help with how much I can afford for rent,” Kym says.
“Hopefully we can find somewhere.”
Kym feels confident both Junction and Toward Home will be there to support the family again if they need it.
His advice to others who are struggling to find a rental right now is to reach out for help, though he acknowledges this can be difficult for some.
“The thing that I struggled with was actually just asking for help,” Kym says.
“Don’t feel like you shouldn’t and feel like you’re being a burden for doing it, because if you need the help, you need the help.”