After finding it “impossible” to find an affordable private rental, Angela and her husband eventually secured housing through AnglicareSA about six months ago. But 12 months earlier, her life looked very different.
“If I was still living where I was during this pandemic, I’d be sitting in an ex-housing trust unit with holes in the roof, buckets to catch the rain, no electricity in the bathroom, mouldy walls from burst pipes, and a stove and oven that barely worked,” she said.
“And I was paying for this place with pride.”
A decade earlier, Angela was making leaps and bounds — completing studies, working as a supermarket manager, and marking 20 years sober following a history of alcohol abuse.
She purchased her first property in 2011, a small former housing trust unit in Adelaide’s north. It was affordable and at the time she thought it was the best move.
“The idea was to have our own property. It took us out of the private rental market for the first time in a long time,” she said.
“I put a lot of emotional purchase into the fact that my position in life had changed so much – to be a property owner, to be married, to have workplace respect.
Feeling on top of the world, Angela then took a risk and decided to take another job, a decision she soon regretted as she struggled to fit in to her new workplace.
Not being able to stand it any longer, Angela quit without another job to go to, triggering a downwards spiral of financial hardship compounded by health issues.
“I got into trouble financially. I’m quite astute, so I had some amazing budgeting plans but it became a problem of managing the unmanageable — we had significant credit debt,” she said.
Combatting health issues and growing debt
Angela lives with peripheral artery disease, and in 2015 had a heart attack. It flipped her already turbulent situation on its head, and she once again found herself looking for work.
She has historically been the household’s main breadwinner, as her husband also has health issues which impact his employment opportunities.
“My husband had used whatever superannuation he had — he didn’t have much,” she said.
“We had no savings, so much credit debt and were barely ticking along.”
Angela managed to find more work, before again being pushed back to part time hours.
She did whatever she could to keep up her mortgage payments, but as a compromise, the couple’s quality of living and home deteriorated, as their ability to afford maintenance and put decent food on the table was quashed.
At this point, Angela was $48,000 in debt.
Reaching out for support
It wasn’t until Angela took a friend’s advice and approached AnglicareSA financial counselling services that she could finally see the light.
“Alana [AnglicareSA financial counsellor] just cut through all the illusions that I had and brought me back to reality. She was able to coach me through what my different options were and showed me my solutions,” she said.
“With all the stress, I was risking another heart attack, living a sub-standard life, and bankruptcy was the best idea.”
On the brink of homelessness, Angela and her husband secured an AnglicareSA community housing property late last year. She said she now has piece of mind that she hasn’t experienced for a decade.
“The house is spacious, everything works, we’re on a decent block of land and surrounded by friendly people who look out for each other,” she said.
“I feel secure — AnglicareSA actually care. They make contact with me, every time I go to the tenancy office there’s always something new happening.
Angela’s health condition means she now can’t work more than part time. While she enjoys the retail industry, she’s about to start a Certificate 4 in Mental Health in aims of a career change.
“I’ve been volunteering in drug and alcohol support for 20 years,” she said.
“What’s influenced me to take the step further is what AnglicareSA has done for me in my life. It shows what I can perhaps do for others.”
Preparing for a stable life post-COVID19
While Angela and her husband are currently receiving the government’s temporary COVID-19 welfare payments, she warns others to be aware of the consequences and prepare accordingly.
“We’re benefitting from the generosity now, but there’s a trap — once they take this money away, it’s going to hurt people,” she said.
“My husband and I can’t afford to spend the stimulus money. We know that it’s about getting ahead, creating an emergency fund so that we have a buffer.
“We came with virtually nothing, and essentially we’re planning to transition back to not having very much soon.”
Angela said income support payments should “absolutely be higher” than what they were before COVID-19.
“I think a lot more thought needs to go into it, and I think the government needs to listen to AnglicareSA and other organisations that work with the community at a grassroots level.”