'I was living in fear and shame'
During Homelessness Week, we share personal testimony about how refugees are struggling to keep a roof over their head.
Maggie, JRS Australia’s Finding Safety team member, was in Canberra during Homelessness Week as part of our advocacy for a fairer experience for refugees. She gave a powerful speech to Senators and MPs about her own struggles with homelessness, calling on the elected officials to have courage and compassion in finding a solution for the homelessness that refugees face. We’re producing her speech with minor edits to protect certain aspects of her identity.
Hi my name is Maggie.
I live, work, and rent in Western Sydney.
In 2020 I lost my shifts at work because of the pandemic and was soon unable to pay my rent. I had to leave where I was living to squat with friends.
I just passed the night wherever I was able to. I was in this situation of homelessness for two months. During this period I was living in fear, and shame and was always scared of standing out in the street alone at night waiting to be let into a friend’s apartment.
I was constantly worried about having to think about where to shower, how to keep my clothes clean, where to get food, and keeping my self safe from people who may take advantage of women when they are most vulnerable.
Even now that I have a job again, and a diploma from TAFE, despite all this personal and professional growth I find myself facing rental pressure again. Even though we are living in a country with so much, there are people like us who can’t afford to live in a good house.
The high cost of living and the rental crisis in Sydney at the moment is a struggle for everyone. But for me and many others in my community, we also have the added pressures of life seeking asylum in Australia with stress about our futures, challenges navigating the visa system, and being locked out of many support services.
We have no safety net when we are in crisis and have to hope that charities can provide enough to keep us from becoming homeless.
Due to the hike in the rental cost, I was forced to look for cheaper accommodation when my landlady informed me through the real estate that she wants to move into her house as she can no longer afford to pay her own rent where she was living. I searched for over three months but couldn’t find a place that suit the price of my weekly wages.
Even though I have a stable income, it was difficult for me to get a house. Every inspection I went to was fruitless. I was worried about becoming homeless again. Then I told the real estate, that they will need to find me an accommodation since they want me out of the house. A few days later they informed me that they have a house for me, I was happy until I found out that I would have to pay $280 extra from what I usually paid. I had no option but to take the offer because the landlady was on my neck as she wants to move in ASAP.
I should have waited more, but I was tired of searching and being afraid of becoming homeless because there is almost nowhere I can go for support.
Many people like me relied on services like JRS when they became homeless. Every day more people seeking asylum become homeless with the increased cost of living. There is nowhere else we can go as we are locked out of many support services.
I am supported by a community of people from my home country who are permanent residents and also by many other Australians who are passionate about the rights of temporary migrants and people seeking asylum.
Honourable Ministers, Members of Parliament, and distinguished guests, we are struggling to survive in Australia. I ask for your courage and compassion as you consider how you can better support people who have come to Australia seeking safety, only to have no home to go to.