Vicki works across northern Adelaide with a select group of vulnerable community housing tenants on the brink of eviction due to the state of their home.
We’re talking about houses filled with so much waste – doors cannot be opened, and homes with no power and broken appliances.
In almost all cases these people are living with complex health issues, have been victims of violence, substance and other forms of abuse, and have never had responsible role models in their life to support them with fundamental life skills.
Every day, Vicki combines thick-skinned resilience with empathy and sensitivity.
“I’m working with someone now who has extreme anxiety and complex undiagnosed mental health issues,” Vicki said.
“At the moment they have no power, no fridge, their father recently died and they owe debt.
Another of Vicki’s tenants has escaped a horrifying case of domestic violence, which led to a path of drug abuse, hoarding and squalor.
“She was in tears as she shared her story – it’s heartbreaking. She has high anxiety – only shops at night, and struggles showing eye contact to people she doesn’t know,” Vicki said.
“It took months for her to welcome me into her life but it’s amazing how far she’s come – she’s even smiling now.
“After being clean for a number of years, we’re in the process of getting an NDIS package, a disability pension and carer support. She’s only 40 years old.”
Due to their vulnerability, it can take up to six months for tenants to trust Vicki and finally open up for much-needed support and guidance.
While the number one goal remains transitioning tenants out of potential eviction status as soon as possible, Vicki said she can’t focus on property condition until the rest of their life is back on track.
“Together, we need to put everything in place,” she said.
“This involves spending extensive time mentoring and motivating tenants, teaching them different and easy ways to approach life, and linking them with important support services.”
This is where Vicki’s role goes beyond simply managing rental properties.
When she’s not with a tenant at their home, she’s constantly on the phone, or texting back and forth to provide motivation and support.
“Through case management, I can organise psychologists and other medical supports, introduce them to community activities and events, and provide that warm supportive environment,” she said.
Vicki is part of an AnglicareSA housing team of eight that work in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
While tenancy officers usually manage around 170 properties each, Vicki supports a rotating group of less than 15 tenants, due to their highly challenging and demanding needs.
“She sees each tenant twice a week in 2.5 hour blocks, and then has the energy to come back and motivate the team at the office. And she claims she only has two coffees a day.”
Vicki described how she engages tenants to better their livelihoods.
“I go in [to their home], do an assessment, and together we build an intense case plan covering everything which they can then follow – from simple household chores to bin collection days,” Vicki said.
“I always break it down so they don’t panic and get overwhelmed – even simple things like putting chore lists in different rooms really helps.
“Some tenants are more challenging and I have to really encourage them. But I put the responsibility on them too – I give them a sense of independence, responsibility and accountability and ask them ‘well what else can I do for you?’”
Vicki has a long history of working in mental health and case management at AnglicareSA and has spent around two years in her current role.
“Why do I keep coming back?”
“I feel like I have specific skills that allow me to relate to people in a way that they feel safe and supported.