Impact Report 2022—2023

Sandra’s Story – Tackling the rental market together 

When Sandra decided to return to Melbourne, she told her friends she’d only need to stay with them for a few weeks. Surely by then she would find herself a home – how much could the city have changed in a few decades? 

It turns out, a lot. 

“Oh, it was shocking. I didn’t sleep. I was totally stressed out. I’d be up at five, six in the morning and I’d be going through the rentals and everything that I could put my hands on, trying to find somewhere to go and live.” Sandra says.  

As a single woman in her 60s, Sandra is part of a demographic increasingly vulnerable to experiencing homelessness in Australia.  

“It just seems to be the sign of the times, where a lot of us women are divorced. I have two daughters, and, you know, I haven’t done it easy. I’ve had a lot of things that I had to do and keep the roof over our heads, and I didn’t get child support you know, the old story.” 

Older women—those aged 55 and over— are one of the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness in Australia.  It’s exacerbated by the ongoing shortage of affordable housing, changes in marital relationships, limited financial literacy and the wealth gap between men and women across their lifetimes.  

“It wasn’t easy to find myself at the age of 64 and without anywhere to live.” Sandra says, reflecting on the stress it induced for her at the time, one when she also had undergone a hip replacement.  

Finding Julie at Launch Housing

“I was on the phone all the time saying, ‘is there anything available?’ I have this long list of places that I called. And one of them just happened to be Launch Housing,” Sandra says, 

“That’s where I met this beautiful lady called Julie, who was magnificent. Every time I called her, she’d answer the phone. She was a red hot, efficient, lovely lady. And that’s when things started to happen,” Sandra says. 

Sandra was connected to Julie, who is part of our Private Rental Assistance Program (PRAP) team. PRAP supports people who are experiencing rental stress with financial assistance to both maintain existing tenancies or establish new ones. 

Over the last 3 years, there has been a 24% increase in the number of people we’ve helped with rental assistance. 

Private rental assistance is a critical intervention for people at risk of homelessness in an increasingly unaffordable rental market.  It’s also a crucial prevention measure to keep people out of homelessness. 

Sandra struggled a lot with her computer literacy and had been recovering from a hip replacement which made it difficult to find a rental online and in person. Through our PRAP program, Julie was able to help Sandra build up her digital skills and view properties.   

“She and I would just go through the rentals with a fine-tooth comb. Pretty much everything I saw, she saw,” Sandra recalls. 

But the rental market in Melbourne, like much of the country, is in short supply. It wasn’t smooth sailing to begin with, Sandra recalls. 

“I saw a place in Mordialloc, it was $300 a week. None of the windows opened, it was like an oversized caravan, you had to go sideways to get into the bathroom. It was outrageous.”  

That’s when HomeGround Real Estate came in. 

Finding a forever home

HomeGround Real Estate is a social enterprise agency run by Launch Housing, offering premium property management services for property owners and renters in Melbourne while reinvesting 100% of profits back into Launch Housing. 

A growing number of property owners are partnering with HomeGround to offer below-market rental rates, which increases the affordable housing supply in Melbourne – which in turn means less people are at risk of experiencing homelessness. 

Julie knew that there were some exciting new below-market rentals coming up through HomeGround Real Estate and she jumped on the opportunity to put Sandra’s name down as a potential tenant. 

Just a few weeks later Sandra was given the keys to her brand-new townhouse in a below-market rental block in Brunswick.  

The PRAP program helped Sandra access HousingVic’s Rent Assist Bond Loan, and helped with the first month of her rent to ensure Sandra had the right start to her new home. Because Sandra was still recovering from her hip replacement, Launch Housing organised movers to help her on the big day. 

Now, Sandra is settled in her one-bedroom unit, even complete with a small courtyard – something she thought she’d have to compromise on. 

“It’s really precious. I’m more relaxed, I feel safe, it’s my little home. I’m relieved and comfortable,” Sandra says, 

“Launch was my savior. That’s really all I can say about that.”  

“Once they’ve got a roof over their head … they can thrive”

Through the months Julie supported Sandra, she helped with computer literacy, and provided important emotional support during this stressful time.  

“It can become very disappointing and overwhelming when people are getting knock back after knock back for properties that they’re applying for, it has a negative impact,” Julie says,  

“It’s just heartwarming to be able to, to help them… Because once they’ve got a roof over their head, and they feel safe and secure, then they can thrive.” 

Sandra says she’s forever grateful for the help Julie provided in her time of need.  

“If there were more people like Julie, the world would be a better place.”   

Now settled in her forever home, Sandra is thriving, having the time to tend to her crafts – like crocheting blankets for her living room or making wind chimes for her courtyard.  

She’s tending to her creative projects, rediscovering the city she loves, building a community with residents in her building block – other older women who have had similar struggles with homelessness.  

“We go for dinner at the Italian restaurant down the street, the three of us have really bonded over our experiences.” 

Sandra now has access to secure housing, something that not too long ago was her biggest worry. 

*For privacy, Sandra’s name has been changed. 

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