Jayne* came to the Emergency Program in her late 20s. She didn’t at all fit the stereotype of a homeless woman. She had previously studied psychology at University, held a government job, was articulate and well dressed. From the outside Jayne was a “normal” young woman with her life ahead of her, living a “normal, happy life”.
Behind her exterior, Jayne had lived a troubled life and the depth of her trauma as a child, teen and young woman would eventually come to the surface during her time in the Catherine House Recovery Program.
During her childhood and teen years, Jayne experienced family and domestic violence and sexual abuse. She was estranged from her family, found herself in trouble with the law and experimented with drugs. At the age of just 12, Jayne was diagnosed with mental health issues.
There was nothing normal about Jayne’s childhood..
Although Jayne was able to function day to day as a young adult, her life took a dramatic change when her long term relationship broke down and her daily struggle with mental illness resulted in her losing her job. She then lost her tenancy and she became homeless.
“I started staying with friends after I lost my place, I don’t think I realised it at that time but really that is when my homelessness started”.
Jayne stayed with various friends until she had exhausted all of her supports. Her mental health declined rapidly during this time and she attempted to take her own life. “I felt like I had lost everything”.
After being discharged from hospital Jayne used what little money she had booking into cheap motels and when her money ran out she started sleeping in her car. “Every day I was hoping that when I called Catherine House they would have a vacancy and I would be the one to get it”.
The day Jayne was phoned to say she had a place at Catherine House she burst into tears.
“I slipped through the cracks my whole entire life, Catherine House was the first place someone really listened to me”.
When Jayne came to the Emergency Program she was not only struggling mentally and emotionally, but she was also in debt. She received assistance from the financial advisors that visit Catherine House, who facilitated access to her superannuation. “They asked me to give them all of my bills; they took care of everything, I will never forget the support they gave me as I honestly don’t know where I would be now.
Jayne stayed in our Emergency Program for three months before moving into our Mental Health Recovery Program. However, after just a few months, Jayne moved out. Looking back now she knows that was a poor decision. She wasn’t ready, she needed more support, she needed more time to start her recovery journey from a lifetime full of trauma, instability and a lack of support.
Jayne returned to Catherine House.
“My case worker fought for me, I had never been shown unconditional care and support before”.
Jayne spent an extended period in the Recovery Program as she continued to work through all that brought her into homelessness. “I needed time; I needed the structure and the support of my case worker”.
Every woman that comes to Catherine House is allocated a case worker and the role they play in every woman’s recovery journey is vital.
“I needed consistency and consequences. Just knowing they were there. I grew up without any consequences, my brother and I spent a lot of time on our own, we didn’t have any guidance.
My case worker didn’t speak for me, but she was there for me. I have needed that long-term support because my life was such a mess; I had so many complex issues. Having extra time in the Recovery Program gave me extra time to focus on myself”.
Whilst staying in the program, Jayne experienced health issues, which resulted in the loss of a lot of weight. This also became a trigger for an eating disorder that she has struggled with all of her life. “It was a really difficult time for me, I have struggled with my eating my whole entire life. I am now seeing a psychologist who specialises in eating disorders and it is really helping me, but I know it will be a lifelong battle”. This is now one of Jayne’s biggest challenges moving forward.
During Jayne’s time at Catherine House she has participated in education courses, physical and mental wellbeing activities, music and has recently shown her passion for singing and dancing at Catherine House events.
Participating in these programs has helped to rebuild her confidence and think about what lies ahead for her.
Jayne is now living in one of Catherine House’s transitional units. The unit allows her to live independently but still have the support of her caseworker and the wrap around support services provided at Catherine House.
“Catherine House is such a unique service, I feel validated with a sense of safety – I have never experienced that”.
Whilst Jayne’s immediate need is to continue her recovery journey and focus on her battle with her eating disorder, she is now planning to return to study and start thinking about her life after Catherine House.
“I would like to go back and finish my psychology degree. I also want to travel overseas and would really love to do some humanitarian work.
I have been so lucky to have the support I have had from Catherine House, I have felt undeserving, but I do feel very lucky. Having someone there consistently believing in me. I know it sounds clichéd, but it was like being reborn, starting from scratch. I had to relearn everything, building those foundations that you should be given as a child.”
An integral part of a woman’s recovery is being accountable for her decisions. “It has been really important for my healing to take responsibility for the decisions I make and for those I have made in the past”.
The next step for Jayne is to leave Catherine House. This will be her ultimate challenge.
Jayne will be eligible to enter the Catherine House Outreach Program which will ensure she has continued support for her first 3-6 months after leaving the Recovery Program.
The Outreach Program provides each woman with a case worker who offers both emotional and practical support for the challenges they may face as they settle in and integrate into a new community, whilst they are working on their recovery.
We know from supporting women over the past thirty years, that providing outreach case work is vital in ensuring they are successful in their new lives and homes. Of most importance to them and us, is that they are successful in ending their homelessness journey.
Only 35% of women leaving Catherine House currently receive outreach support due to a lack of funding.
One of the things we have found that makes the most difference to women in restarting their lives in the community is when their case workers can provide outreach support. This can be the case worker visiting them on a weekly basis – or more if needed. It could be the case worker phoning them, making sure that the supports that have been put in place are still working. It could be someone problem solving with them when the going gets tough and things aren’t going the way they had hoped, or just knowing that they can phone and ask for help at any time. As much or as little as is needed to make sure that the housing placement and their new lives are stable. This can make all the difference between a woman successfully moving on with her life, or falling back into homelessness.
Sadly, Jayne’s story and journey to recovery is just one of the hundreds of women who walk in and out of our Emergency and Recovery Programs each year.
We want every woman to be able to utilise the support services of the Catherine House Outreach Program. We want Jayne to be provided with the best possible chance to continue her recovery and end her cycle of homelessness.
With the end of the financial year upon us, please consider making a tax deductible donation to Catherine House.
Your donation will help to support Jayne and the remaining 65% of women who may not receive this life saving support.
Together, we can provide these women with the tools, care and compassion they need to truly change their lives.
A final note from Jayne:
“Recovery is a process, it’s learning and rediscovering yourself throughout your whole life”
No matter the amount you give, your donation will make an impact now and for years to come.
*name has been changed to protect identity
We thank Jayne for her willingness to share her story. When we invited her to be part of the Tax Appeal, she said she felt honored. After talking it through with her case worker, she agreed, saying she was very pleased to share her experience in the hope that it will help other clients at Catherine House.