Homelessness: two women share their stories of living through Geraldton’s housing crisis

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Liam BeattyGeraldton Guardian
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Former chef Chrissy Hammond.
Camera IconFormer chef Chrissy Hammond. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

Forced out into the elements by the pressure of a struggling housing market, two women have chosen to share their stories and highlight the pain caused by Geraldton’s “invisible” crisis.

They met on Friday to speak out about the growing homelessness issue in Geraldton and found many others in the room nodding along as their experiences drew parallels.

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Local mother Chrissy Hammond, who has been homeless for almost a year sleeping on couches and in spare rooms, says fighting to bring her children back together was the only thing keeping her alive.

“People just don’t understand how it feels to be homeless and the damage it does to a person,” she said.

“I’m doing everything I can to get my own place but I look at houses every day and I get knocked back every time.

“How could that not hurt?”

Ms Hammond said there were often dozens of people at inspections and it felt like a “slap in the face” when she saw people offer hundreds of dollars more than the asking price just to secure a home.

Her situation took a turn for the worse earlier this year when she caught pneumonia and lost her job as a chef because of the lengthy absences.

Homelessness, she said, was insidious, costing her friendships, her self-worth and her mental health.

“I’m depressed, I’ve got anxiety, and I’ve been losing sleep,” she said. “I’ve been to every organisation in town and it just feels like all they can do is talk.

“I’m hurting.

“I’m at the end of my rope.”

Anne-Marie Cox, Jacquie Law, Jean Webb and Amanda Melrose manage a Facebook page for people affected by Geraldton's housing crisis.
Camera IconAnne-Marie Cox, Jacquie Law, Jean Webb and Amanda Melrose manage a Facebook page for people affected by Geraldton's housing crisis. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

Echoing this sentiment, another local mother, Amanda Melrose, said the stigma around homelessness forced people to suffer silently.

“People going through this instability think there’s something wrong with them,” she said. “It makes me think I’ve failed as a mother.”

She recently started a Facebook group to draw attention to the issue and was “shocked” to hear many stories of locals going through similar situations.

Ms Melrose was evicted from her home on Sunday after 51/2 years of renting the property because the owner was selling.

“I’m angry, I’ve put so much time and effort into finding a new place for me and my girls but there’s nothing out there,” she said. “Having a home should not be a privilege.”

Her eldest daughter suffers from serious health problems, which Ms Melrose fears might force them to split up the family so she can receive adequate care.

Both women say they hope that by shining a light on the housing problem had speaking directly to political leaders, novel solutions can be found to immediately help those suffering in the shadows.

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