By Grant J Everett
A major plus to being a journalist for Panorama is that I can use my mental health recovery in my stories. After many years in the mental health system I’ve gained a wealth of experience in what (not) to do in life, and to say I’ve been around is an understatement.
I’ve been living in share house accommodation for the last three years. As good as my housemates are, I’m ready to bunny-hop onto the next step towards total independence: gaining my own home. I want a personal space that belongs to me, a place where I feel in control and that I can run in the way that I want. The major factor in this move is that I’m getting married in September, and it’s not appropriate to expect my missus to share a house with four bachelors. Can anybody say “irreconcilable differences?”
So I’m going to find a place to live. And guess what? You’ll be coming along for the ride.
First things first
Evolve Housing in Parramatta offers what’s known as “subsidised housing.” If you are unfamiliar with the concept of subsidised housing, it basically means that Evolve provides private properties to people with mental health issues for a fraction of the normal cost. Evolve isn’t the only organisation that does this: RichmondPRA offers subsidised rent for people with mental health issues through their HASI program, while the Aboriginal Housing Office has a range of options for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Evolve is far from your only option.
Step One: Test the waters
Rather than immediately swan-dive into a stack of forms (more on those later), I decided it would be better to send a few polite e-mails. It didn’t take long to find somebody on Evolve’s website who was able to answer a few general questions, and I immediately whipped off a message to them. In order to avoid confusion, I went into great detail about my situation. After all, if this is a waste of time (for both of us) then it would be best to figure that out as soon as possible. I mentioned that I was on the Disability Support Pension, that I have a mental health issue, that I’m employed part-time, as well as where I wanted to live. I also had a lot of relevant things I wanted to ask Evolve, too: what’s the maximum amount of money I can earn while still being eligible? What level of rent would I be looking at? Is it based on a percentage of my income? What’s the waiting time for a subsidised flat or house? Is it a matter of months? Years?
Step Two: The waiting game
Evolve got back to me pretty quick. Sadly (?) my income is a little bit too high for me to be eligible for fully subsidised housing. Other people need it more than I do, so that’s understandable. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m totally out in the cold: an application for subsidised housing is generally classed as a higher priority if it’s for somebody who has a mental health issue and has spent time as an in-patient at a hospital, and I fit into both of those categories. However, Evolve wasn’t able to promise anything until they knew every element of my situation.
Yup. That’s right. Now it’s time for forms.
Step Three: Trying not to drown in red tape
This country is fueled by endless bureaucracy. Every day of our lives requires paperwork filled out in triplicate, stamped, signed, countersigned, verified and double-checked before being filed away, never to be seen again. At this rate we’ll be filling out Form 47B: Permission to Visit Toilet re: Urination within a decade. So with something as major as getting your own home, especially one provided by the government (or at a discount by an organisation), expect to do a LOT of paperwork.
All the forms I needed could be downloaded from Evolve’s website. In my case, I needed to fill out the following paperwork: Application for Housing Assistance, Evidence Requirements Information Sheet, Employment Income Details, Medical Assessment, and Social Housing Supplement. I needed to attach recent payslips, bank account details, evidence of my rental payments over the last three months, and copies of my Proof of Age card, pensioner concession card, Medicare card, and my birth certificate. This sounds like a lot of work, but don’t be daunted! You can always get help from a social worker, or even go to Evolve Housing in person (though a polite call in advance might be a good idea).
Well, it turns out I’m not eligible for social housing assistance, as I didn’t meet the assets eligibility criteria. I was informed that if I wanted subsidised rent then my maximum income limit (for a single-person-household) was $575 per week plus a Disability Allowance of $95. However, there are still other options I can explore. All of them have pluses and minuses, so I’ll have a good look and balance them as best I can.
Guys, if you get knocked back, don’t get downhearted. There are still plenty more options as you’ll see next time in Freestyle swimming in red tape Part Two: Did Grant get a home of his own?