It was a combination of experiences that lead to needing Catherine House. It probably started years ago, at the end of the breakdown of my marriage that really put me in a vulnerable position with housing. It was sustainable for a certain period of time, but unfortunately for me I met somebody new who I ended up in a relationship with, and we moved in together, and that ended up being quite a toxic abusive relationship. In turn, it also created some new challenges that I hadn’t experienced prior to that.
And that then led to me having to leave. We were in the Riverland. I came back to Adelaide, but obviously I wasn’t working, I was very unwell, unable to sustain employment, support myself, and ran out of couches and short term options, and ended up calling Catherine House for support.
I was out in the Riverland just with my partner. All my family and everyone I knew was still here in Adelaide, and we had moved out there together. That actually was, although I wasn’t able to recognise it at the time, a conscious effort on his part to remove me from my support network and isolate me in that area of my life. In order to kind of start somewhere, I had to move back to Adelaide to rely on those that I already knew. I spoke to a few people who I knew that had previously attended Catherine House and explained to them my challenge.
At that point in time I had run out of options and had slept the last couple of nights in my car. Because of the issues I was having with my mental health, I was also feeling very vulnerable, and I hadn’t been getting much rest.
It was quite intimidating entering Catherine House, I was dealing with my own personal kind of disappointments from the perspective of how on earth did I end up here. It was a bit confronting to actually process that. But as soon as I arrived and came in the door, I met with a worker and she was incredibly welcoming and basically told me put all your stuff there, let’s have a tour of the facility, which we did, and then she showed me to my room, and from that point on I was quite emotional, because I was able to see that this was a safe space, the amount of effort they had gone to make me feel welcome was quite overwhelming. There was a little handbag filled with personal items on the bed, those little personal touches really made a huge difference. I then breathed a massive sigh of relief. I was somewhere safe, I was able to get a good night’s sleep, in a warm bed. I had a private room that was lockable, and able to have that privacy, and all the staff were just so compassionate, and gentle.
I felt that I was going to be okay. I connected really well with the staff. I found it very inspirational to see women working in this field, passionate women, advocating for other women, that empowered me to think outside of the box moving forward.
The other women at Catherine House were really good supports through a very challenging time, and it’s a very unique experience and not a lot of women have – having a mutual understanding, is grounds for an ongoing mutual respect that you wouldn’t normally encounter.
I’ve learned how to recognise an opportunity, realising there was a Women’s Centre where not only were there grants to assist you with getting certain things, it was a networking opportunity to open doors and make me aware of opportunities and experiences that I hadn’t previously realised. They purchased a ukulele for me, as a previous musician, it was pretty easy for me to pick it up fairly quickly. Then I went into the computer room and was able to access internet and printing. Helped me clean up loose ends. When I was told I could keep coming to the Women’s Centre forever, I thought, I will!
I could not comprehend the level of support I received when moving out of Catherine House after securing a home of my own. I was assisted with removalists, and Catherine House was incredibly generous with boxes, homewares, food hampers, sheets, towels and all those things that you need when you’re setting up a home.
I left with just an overwhelming sense of gratitude, that was really touching. The level of respect I was treated with was amazing. My caseworker came with me to meet the property agent. Since I’ve got in, I’ve spent the last two weeks unpacking, and turning a shell of a house into a home, and really putting the finishing touches on it. After an experience of being in somewhere like Catherine House, I’ve been able to do it with a new level of appreciation. I’ll never take for granted having a roof over my head. I’ll never rely on another to house me again.