For someone who has experienced some of the worst life can throw at you, Casey has a remarkably upbeat outlook on life. It wasn’t always this way.
Scarred by the effects of volatile personal relationships, and struggling to deal with debilitating anxiety and depression, Casey entered a spiral that culminated in the loss of her children and a five-year stint living on the street.
“I’ve experienced what they call multi-faceted trauma,” she says. I left home when I was very young and had my first child when I was 16 and my second a few years later. That relationship ended badly when I was still only 21. There was a court battle, and because I had moved interstate to be with my partner I didn’t have any family support around me.
“When I got back to Newcastle I met my second partner and had four more children.”
Due to what was happening in that relationship the children eventually had to go and live with other family members.
“I had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 12, but I didn’t feel the full force of it until I couldn’t keep my daughter with me. I was not myself by that stage. I wasn’t even really thinking for myself.”
“For the next five years I was on the street. It felt like treading water. I didn’t have anything. I lost touch with everyone. It got to the point where I didn’t even have a phone because they got stolen so often I couldn’t afford to keep replacing them.”
After five years Casey hit breaking point and decided it was time to take back control of her life.
I hit a point where I thought ‘I want to see my kids, and time is ticking. I realised that if I left it any longer I could probably say goodbye to the possibility of ever seeing them again.
“I hit a point where I thought ‘I want to see my kids, and time is ticking.’ I realised that if I left it any longer I could probably say goodbye to the possibility of ever seeing them again. I also felt I wouldn’t survive much longer if I didn’t change my mindset. I realised I had to get up and do something about it.”
Casey applied for social housing and was introduced to the Together Home program, a NSW Government initiative providing housing and tailored support for people with a history of sleeping rough.
“Home in Place found a unit for me in three days, I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “Carrie from Home in Place was amazing. It was like she understood exactly where I was at, and what I needed. It was almost like she was psychic! When I first got the unit I slept for almost three days. When you’re living on the street you have so much anxiety. You never feel safe.
Moving in here was the first time in years I felt like I could actually relax.”
As part of the Together Home program Casey receives ongoing support from the Jeder Institute.
“My case worker Chontelle has been amazing. She has a way of keeping me on track and helping me to help myself.”
With the help of the support provided through the Together Home program Casey is now focusing on rebuilding relationships with her siblings and her children.
“Just having a bedroom here for my daughter is almost surreal. And just a few months after moving into this place my eldest son who I hadn’t seen in years came to visit me. It was an extremely emotional moment. Just having the stability to be able to contact him and let him know where I was so he could come and visit was incredible.”
With life getting back on track, Casey is planning to forge a career in community services. In addition to her existing qualifications she recently gained a life coaching certification and plans to start her own business.
“I have experienced so much; it seems wasteful to not turn it to something useful that benefits other people,” she says. “Everything is looking up from here.”