Naomi sat at the kitchen table staring at the eviction notice, years of grief and struggle bearing down on her. She had worked so hard to hold things together. She had prayed constantly. But this was too much. She had three young children to look after, mounting debt, and she was exhausted. How was she going to cope?
There was a time when she had hope for the future. But then her husband’s mother and two brothers died over a period of 12 months, and he had turned to drinking to cope with his grief.
Soon the drinking became a major health problem, and Naomi became a carer for her husband along with her children. She was the faithful rock that her family relied on.
For more than two years Naomi juggled caring for her husband and her children, making it impossible for her to do any paid work to cover their debts or build for the future. “My baby was only a few months old, and I also had to keep looking after my husband. Sometimes I would even need to feed my husband food. He couldn’t feed himself,” she said. The years of drinking had taken their toll. In 2013, Naomi’s husband died.
Suddenly, Naomi was alone with three young children under 8 – including a baby – and no family nearby to support her. It was frightening. She was very vulnerable. Although the family was already in debt from trying to survive, Naomi had to take out loans to pay for the funeral expenses and keep her car on the road so she could get her children to school.
For 12 months Naomi focused on her children and working through her grief. Friends from church would visit when they could, and they would pray together. But the debts kept growing. Finding strength in her faith, Naomi knew she had to take control of the situation.
“I had three children. I was a mother, so I had a full responsibility. So I took up what I needed to do,” she said. For the next three years Naomi battled to stabilise her family’s situation with numerous attempts at study and part-time work. It was a constant, draining cycle of two steps forward, and three steps back.
The ever-looming debt became increasingly unmanageable, made even harder by setback after setback. Naomi was never able to catch up with the increasing demands and costs of everyday living, such as rental payments, bills and grocery shopping, and their car and school expenses. “Everything kept coming up, all at the same time,” Naomi said. “It was just too much, and I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Just before Mother’s Day last year, the letter came advising that the landlord was going to sell the house. After all she had done to keep her family afloat, it was devastating news. “They gave me 60 days’ notice to vacate. I filled in applications for more than 30 houses, and [I was offered] nothing,” said Naomi.
Naomi was desperate until a friend from church suggested she contact Uniting homelessness services. “A few years ago, my friend had also needed some help, and Uniting helped them to find somewhere to live,” she said.
Our team provided Naomi’s family with immediate emergency accommodation, and it wasn’t long before they had moved into one of Uniting’s medium-term crisis accommodation homes – a vacant Uniting Church manse. “I was in a motel for two weeks, and then they told me they found a house for us to stay in,” said Naomi.” They told us on a Monday, and that afternoon we were moving.”
Having a stable home has made such a difference for Naomi and her children. “Every night we pray, the kids and me. They are very happy here. In this house, I just feel the blessings for my family. It is a happy house.”