Rental assistance helps Aussie battler start living again

29 September 2023 11:13AM

“She didn’t make me feel like I was a charity case. She made me feel like I was a human being. She made me feel like I was whole again.”

68-year-old Leeanne had been struggling to make ends meet with more than 60 percent of her pension going to pay her rent.

Like many women her age, Leeanne had worked all her life – two months short of 50 years – but had little superannuation to show for it. When rents started rising, she used that superannuation and her savings to help pay the rent but after 2-3 years there was nothing left.

Leeanne said she was in despair.

“You work your whole life and after all that you end up with nothing and the rent keeps going up.

“My whole life I’ve never asked anybody for anything. I didn’t know where to turn or who to ask for help.”

So, Leeanne started cutting back everywhere she could.

“You start weeding out and saving every penny you can. Where you see pensioners on the news who feel cold but can’t afford to turn the heater on? That’s how I felt.”

“I used to go to bingo at the senior citizen’s club once a week. I don’t have a large group of friends and it was a lovely way to have some adult companionship. But I just couldn’t afford it anymore.

“I wasn’t living. I was existing.”

Eventually, there was nowhere else to cut and Leeanne realised when her lease ran out, she wouldn’t be able to afford the rent, so visited a Housing Service Centre.

When she explained that her rent was going up by another $40 a week, Housing officer Surya suggested she could be eligible for a Rental Security Subsidy and booked an appointment with RentConnect officer, Jade.

Jade said Leeanne broke down in tears when they first met.

“She didn’t know help was available. She’d worked hard her whole life and never thought she’d need help.

“She was only taking her medication every second day because she couldn’t afford it, she was struggling to buy food and would often feed her little fur baby before herself, and she wasn’t socialising anymore, she just stayed at home.”

Jade recommended Leeanne for a Rental Security Subsidy, which provides up to 12 months financial assistance to Queenslanders who are facing short-term barriers that make it difficult to pay the rent and sustain a tenancy in the private rental market.

The subsidy is enabling Leeanne to do all the things she’s been putting off like paying car registration, getting her car serviced and arranging a long overdue haircut for her support dog Charlie. She hasn’t returned to weekly bingo sessions yet, but that’s what she’s working towards.

Her advice to others in a similar situation is to make a phone call and ask for help.

“Every time you put on the news it’s the housing problem, and rents through the roof, and no public housing, and I thought it was a waste of my time, but I still rang. Swallow your pride and make those phone calls.”

If you or someone you know needs housing help, you can contact your local Housing Service Centre or call the 24/7 Homeless Hotline on 1800 474 753. Find out more about available products, services and supports.