Woman standing in front of a garden wall

Elaina advocates for others

Some people in the private rental market and in community housing feel that they can’t speak up because they will be penalised. At least at Home in Place that is not the case. I am not scared to use my voice to stand up for myself and others.

Having a safe and secure roof over her head has helped Elaina to work on herself including her mental health and physical health issues. But she still makes time to advocate for and support other tenants and is encouraging other tenants to do the same.

Elaina was renting in the private rental market when severe mental health issues turned her world upside down. Family took her in so she wouldn’t be homeless. While ever grateful for their support, she knew living in her uncle’s computer room wasn’t a long-term solution.

In 2017 she moved to a boarding house and then into housing with Home in Place. She admits her first home was difficult. Many of the tenants were transitioning from homelessness and battling addiction issues. She is not judgemental or critical. As a recovering addict too, the environment and other tenants leaning on her for support wasn’t helping her recovery.

“Home in Place staff realised that my location wasn’t assisting my mental health recovery and battle with addiction and worked as hard as they could to find me a new place,” Elaina says.

“It was important to have that additional support.”

Since March 2021 Elaina has lived in an apartment in the inner Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo which she says is “fantastic”.

“It is in a great location, is very clean and quiet. My fellow tenants are great. We keep to ourselves but are there for each other if need be.”

She shares the apartment with her cat, Magnus. Tenants, who are responsible pet owners, being able to have pets is something Elaina believes benefits tenants and housing providers. She continues to advocate on that issue.

The importance of housing to health

Elaina is also passionate about government and community remembering that housing is a fundamental human need and right. She says there is a national housing crisis that needs to be fixed.

“You can’t get traction in improving your life if you don’t feel safe and secure or are always worrying about whether you have a nice place to call home.”

“Living in my current home has made an immense difference to my mental health.”

Advocating for and supporting other tenants

Elaina is full of praise for the efforts being made by Home in Place to connect with tenants and continually improve its customer service.

In July 2020 she joined Home in Place’s Brisbane Tenant Reference Group. Last year she was appointed to Home in Place’s national Our Voice Panel which provides advice direct to the board.

“I am passionate about community housing, and it is fascinating to learn more about the sector and housing system. Getting into the nitty gritty and advocating for myself and other tenants is mentally stimulating.”

“I asked Home in Place why they wanted me to join these groups as I had never shied away from making complaints or giving feedback. They said that they wanted tenants to tell them when things were going wrong as well as when things were going right. To provide feedback from a tenant perspective on how to improve.”

She says reference group feedback goes straight to local management so they can fix local issues but common issues across reference groups are taken through to senior management.

“They do listen! Home in Place responded to suggestions that tenants needed to be able to speak directly to local staff rather than the Newcastle call centre. They are ramping up tenant engagement activities and community access support after the pandemic.”

Join a Tenant Reference Group

Elaina is calling for other tenants to join their local tenant reference group (TRG). She says the Brisbane group needs more members to share the load and be more representative of all tenant needs. Meetings are quarterly which is manageable for her.

She says TRGs are working on upcoming tenant led expos to meet the needs of local tenants.

“Come and give it a go. Gain some experience and have your voice heard.”

“Some people in the private rental market and in community housing feel that they can’t speak up because they will be penalised. At least at Home in Place that is not the case. I am not scared to use my voice to stand up for myself and others.”

“The work done by Home in Place staff is not always easy. They can’t always get everything right or fix things if people don’t tell them what isn’t working.”

Home in Place provides support to help tenants participate.

“They pay for expenses associated with being on the representative groups. That includes me having a support worker or carer come with me to meetings in Brisbane and Newcastle.”

A bright future

Elaina is continuing to work on herself with support from the NDIS, including therapy. She will continue to advocate and is looking to return to volunteering with the RSPCA.