Knox resident Samantha Gilligan hasn’t had it easy in her young life, but if attitude counts for anything in terms of creating new possibilities, her future looks extremely bright. Samantha is a Community Housing Limited (CHL) tenant who has been able to stabilise her life through affordable housing and return to getting an education.
Samantha is completing year 12 with Distance Education Victoria, and is taking Maths, English, Accounting, and Legal Studies.
After being forced to leave home at 13, Samantha experienced extremely difficult times as a teenager which included living on the streets for six months and being housed in youth residential units provided by DHS. She was frequently required to move resulting in a fragmented and disrupted life, making it impossible to build friendships or gain any continuity in her educational experience.
Samantha’s fortunes took a positive turn two years ago when she moved into a transitional housing arrangement with CHL. The two bedroom unit in Bayswater now provides the base for her family life with her one-year old daughter, as well as her education. Samantha says finding stable housing was a critical element of stabilising her life and being able to establish a consistent routine in working and caring for her one year-old baby.
"At the moment, my child goes into day care three times a week and that gives me the time to do my work. If I didn’t have the house, I wouldn’t have any of the facilities that I need to study such as the internet and a place where I can work without interruption," she says.
CHL Managing Director Steve Bevington says Samantha is an excellent example of the benefits that affordable housing can offer young people and how it contributes to the improvement of a society.
"Community housing provides the kind of quality of life, stability, and security that no other form of housing can offer for people who are in the bottom 25% of income earners in this country. In Samantha’s case, and many others, we see community housing acting as a springboard in enabling people to make a positive contribution to our community. They have the time and space to learn new skills without having to deal with the overriding anxiety of knowing a landlord could give them 30 days notice at any time," he says.
In recognition of her determination to complete her VCE and continue on to university study, Samantha recently received a Youth off the Street Scholarship Award, sponsored by Morgan Stanley. The scholarship was presented to her in Sydney as part of a national awards ceremony.
"It was the best, I was lost for words. It was the nicest group of people I’d ever met in my life, all in the same room. I was nervous going on stage in front of 400 people, but there were 20 scholarship recipients and we all went on stage individually,” she says. “It made me feel like I’d accomplished something important and it showed me there are some really caring, positive people out in the community."
Samantha is very happy in the Knox area, and has been able to enjoy community events and the facilities an infrastructure that make Knox such an attractive place to live.
"Knox is a fantastic area for families and the council runs a lot of events for the community. The library is a great resource, and there are so many open spaces and parks to enjoy. I was previously living in neighbourhoods where I was scared to walk down the street," she says.
CHL is currently in the process of locating permanent accommodation for Samantha. This will provide long term security of tenure and a stable base from which Samantha can complete her education, raise her child, and enter the workforce.