Tenant Stories

Tenant Stories

Scott's New Found Freedom

Thanks to Compass Housing Scott is experiencing a level of independence and freedom he had never believed possible.
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Scott was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder which affects walking and general mobility.

Now living in one of the brand new disability housing properties delivered by Compass under the Australian Government’s Supported Accommodation Innovation Fund, Scott is experiencing a level of independence and freedom he had never believed possible.

“Before I got the place, I had been living at home with my mum and dad and two sisters for my entire life,” Scott said.

“Ever since I was a kid I have always wanted my own space and my own freedom. We found out about these properties and I put in an application but I never really thought I’d be successful. I just figured there would be someone out there who would need a place like this more than me.

Scott describes his first day in his new home as the happiest of his life. 

“Moving into this Compass property has completely opened up my world. Just simple things like being able to have mates around without having to worry about inconveniencing anyone makes so much difference.

“Having my own place has allowed me to start becoming who I want to be.”

Helping Mazin Find Refuge

After losing his arm during the Iraq-Iran War in 1987 Mazin was struck down by gunfire in 2007 while standing outside the Catholic church where he studied theology. After fleeing Iraq, spending six years in Damascus and going through a family breakdown after finding refuge in Australia, Compass has helped Mazin settle in to his new home.
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In 2007, at the height of the second Iraq war, Mazin was struck down by gunfire while standing outside the Catholic church where he studied theology. He suffered serious injuries to his liver, spleen, diaphragm and lung, spent 12 days in hospital and was lucky to escape with his life.

Incredibly, the shooting wasn’t his first near death experience. In 1987, during the Iran-Iraq War, Mazin lost the lower part of his left arm in an explosion as he and his fellow conscripts patrolled the mountainous border region separating Iraq and Iran. Shortly after being released from hospital after the church shooting, Mazin and his family fled Iraq for Syria, where they spent the next six years living as refugees in Damascus.

“When we first arrived, Syria was OK, but as time went by it became very dangerous. I had applied for refugee status but without family in a host country, it takes a long time. A nice lady from the UN was helping arrange my paperwork and then one day with no warning I got a call from the Australian Embassy in Jordan, telling me that we could go to Australia.”

“When we first arrived here I spent a year living in Woodridge, but then went through a family breakdown and had to move. I lived in a share house for a while but I didn’t like it. I had nowhere else to go and was expecting to be homeless when I was put in touch with Compass. Compass helped me find an affordable apartment and put me in touch with people who could help with things like furniture and a fridge.”

Since linking up with the Compass Settlement Grants Program (SGP) Mazin has not only secured stable accommodation in a Compass housing complex, but also reconnected with the Church, joined a local choir and is now focused on improving his English skills at TAFE. He worries about his family in Baghdad, and tries to stay in contact on Skype.

For a man who has experienced so much tragedy, happiness comes remarkably easily to Mazin. Despite having experienced great suffering, his sunny disposition remains undefeated.

Helping David Find His Feet

David became a Compass Housing tenant after a perfect storm of bad luck left him teetering on the brink of homelessness.
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David became a Compass Housing tenant after a perfect storm of bad luck left him teetering on the brink of homelessness.

“Back in 2011, I developed serious medical problems which meant I couldn’t work,” David said.

“Around the same time I went through a break-up, then had to move out of my place because I couldn’t afford it anymore, and ended up couch surfing with friends and family.

“My health improved but without stable accommodation it’s hard to hold down a job and when you stop being part of the working class, you stop feeling good about yourself and it takes you to your lowest level of self-worth.”

David said since obtaining secure housing through Compass, he has been able to resume his career and concentrate on his future. 

Having stable housing is everything,” he said. “Since living in my new place I’ve got a job doing furniture delivery and am currently studying towards a degree through Centacare’s Clemente program.

“Although it hasn’t been easy over the past few years, I feel like I now have some good neighbours and am starting to get ahead.”

Looking to the future, I really want to start my own event hire business and build a home on a small piece of land that is my own.”

George's Story

His journey so far has seen him travel around the world with the navy, brought him within 22kms of a nuclear test site and in more recent years overcome a debilitating case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through the discovery of a hidden talent for art.
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His journey so far has seen him travel around the world with the navy, brought him within 22kms of a nuclear test site and in more recent years overcome a debilitating case of PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the discovery of a hidden talent for art.

“I applied to join the Navy in 1967 when I was fifteen years old,” George said.

“I was accepted and travelled to Fremantle W.A. for my training in seamanship and more scholastic lessons. One year later I was in HMAS Sydney. We sailed for Vietnam 12 days after my 17th birthday.”

As you would expect, George’s service in Vietnam left its mark, but he looks back fondly on much of his Navy career which included stints in exotic locales throughout South East Asia as well as trips to the United States, Africa and the South Pacific. 

George’s Navy career came to an end in 1975 and like many veterans, he found the transition back to civilian life difficult. He worked in a number of roles however since retiring he discovered a talent and a passion for visual art while he was receiving treatment for his PTSD.

In late 2012, George was having difficulty finding somewhere affordable to live when an old Navy friend suggested he contact Compass.

“I put in an application and a while later I got a call saying ‘we’ve got a place’ for you in Windale’. I checked it out with my daughter and decided on the spot I’d take it.” 

“It feels good to have come full circle. Where I live now is probably less than half a mile from where I grew up back in the 50s and 60s. I’ve still got some of the same mates from school and we get together at the local club pretty often. My kids live nearby as well so I’m on babysitting duty with the grandkids all the time."

Jason's Transitional Housing

After sleeping rough for over two years and with his health deteriorating, Compass was able to help Jason find transitional housing to get him off the streets.
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Before being housed with Compass, Jason had been sleeping rough for over two years.

“Becoming homeless for the first time at the age of 40 isn't something you see coming. Things at my previous rental weren’t working out and everything just snowballed and fell apart from there. I lost my job and my house. I had no support network and all of a sudden I was on the street. It’s not a situation I ever expected to be in.”

Jason’s health deteriorated during his time on the street and he was hospitalised multiple times.

“Over the two years I was homeless, I probably ended up in hospital three times due to chronic asthma and other health problems,” he said.

As well as suffering ill health, Jason said his biggest concerns on the street were the lack of security and electricity.

“I had a tent and a few things but you never feel completely safe and I was always worried about stuff getting stolen. Simple things like charging your phone or getting a shower start to become hard.  I was using bottles of water I’d heated up in the sun just to have a shower.”

Jason’s fortunes began to turn around after being connected with Partners in Recovery who referred him on to Compass. Compass was able to provide me with an affordable apartment in a good area and I haven’t looked back since,” he said.

“The first night in the new unit was surreal. I remember having a 45 minute shower and cooking myself a hot meal. These are things people take for granted but after two years being homeless it was absolute heaven for me.”

Matt's Direction Home

Matt reveals all about a tough and emotional upbringing and how Compass has helped to turn it all around.
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My life has honestly just been one big emotional rollercoaster, one problem after another.

I guess it stems back from my childhood. I lost my father to suicide at 2 years old, I don’t even remember what he looked like. All I have is one picture of him.  My father's suicide impacted on my mum so much that even still, to this day she has constant nightmares as well as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Growing up, my childhood was always a constant struggle. Whether I’d have to ride 8kms each night to get myself dinner, or put myself to bed after my mother had passed out from drinking too much, I had to grow up quickly.

Once I started high school and after nearly 2 years of living with my grandparents my mum had stopped drinking, got a job and I moved back with my mum up on the north coast. Everything was looking good until she started drinking every afternoon after work, from there it was a slow downward spiral. My mother started drinking more and more and I started to eat as a coping mechanism, resulting in me weighing 130kg.

After I finished high school we moved back to Newcastle to better our work opportunities, eventually moving to Cessnock. We were couch hopping between friends' houses for the next 6 months until we finally got a place we could call our own.

Over the next 4 years I slowly became trapped in an abusive relationship with my mother, being verbally, mentally and physically abused every single day. I started walking everywhere just so that I wasn’t at home while my mum was drinking. After 2 years of doing this I dropped half my body weight, down to 65kg.

Although losing weight made me happier, the relationship I had with my mother had deteriorated so much that I didn’t want to be alive anymore, driving me to try and take my own life several times. I just couldn’t see a way out of this situation; I had no money, nowhere to go and no rental references. 

It wasn’t until I decided I’d had enough, and was about to pack a bag of clothes and hitch-hike to wherever, when I asked a friend if they knew of anyone who could help.  They called a caseworker from Reaching Home who told me about Hunter Homeless Connect Day which just happened to be on the next day.

After arriving at the Homeless Connect Day I couldn’t believe how many different services were available to me. I was introduced to a worker form Mission Australia who immediately began trying to find me a safe home, coordinating with Compass Housing and within 3 weeks after that day I was all moved into my spacious 1 bedroom unit in East Maitland."


When Matt told us his story, he'd been living in the unit for 9 months and said “without a doubt it’s been the happiest 9 months of my life and I’ve got Mission Australia, Compass Housing and Hunter Homeless Connect to thank for that.”

Matt has continued to live in a Compass property for almost 2 years. 

Rhonda Ross

Rhonda isn't one to let adversity stand in her way.
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At quite a young age, Rhonda experienced a stroke, which affected her speech and mobility, and also battled breast cancer. Rhonda could be excused for shrinking back and giving up, but has instead done the opposite. With a positive outlook on life, and genuine gratitude toward Compass and all they’ve done for her, Rhonda still lives a fulfilling life. The care and pride poured into Rhonda’s home is an inspiration and Compass is very proud to have her as a tenant.

Young Achiever: Cheryl-Leigh

Compass was delighted to see one of our inspirational tenants, Cheryl-Leigh Smith, achieve a stunning victory at the inaugural NSW/ACT Young Achiever Awards.
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Cheryl-Leigh (Shellee) was recognised as a leader and innovator through her work with the Shine Intervention Program and as a mentor and role model for young women. Shellee was proud that her achievements had been recognised and was looking forward to the future.

“A few years ago, I didn’t want to get up and face the world - but now I wake up and think about how great my day is going to be.”

“My focus is on the personal growth that comes from the things that shake us and shape us in life, and I can now say I have a positive outlook for the future.”

“I wanted to thank Compass for their support – particularly Shane for drafting my application, as well as James Cameron who has always believed in me.”

Compass Managing Director Greg Budworth said Shellee’s victory was evidence of the transformative role appropriate housing can play in young people’s lives.

“It wasn’t that long ago that Shellee had hit rock bottom following a tumultuous past dotted with a trail of volatile relationships, substance abuse and teen homelessness,” Mr Budworth said.

“Fortunately Compass Housing Services was able to provide Shellee and her family with a safe and stable place to live and a chance to get her life back on track. 

“With a little help along the way and a motivated can-do attitude - Shellee has turned her life around, is working, studying and giving back to the community.”

Through tireless volunteering with the Shine Intervention Program, she is providing much needed support for the community. Shellee helps empower young women to overcome personal battles and provides guidance that will set them on the path of success.

With plans to continue working alongside the program, Shellee is furthering her experience in mentoring and volunteering with the help of Compass Housing.

Mr Budworth said Shellee’s transformation has been nothing short of inspirational.

“Compass is incredibly proud of everything Shellee has achieved to date and we wish her every success in her journey.”

Employment Related Accommodation

The Employment Related Accommodation program is made up of a number of unique individuals who believe in striving for the best and making a difference - we're so proud of their achievements.
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Amanda

At the end of 2013 Amanda’s relationship with her partner broke down and the mother-of-four suddenly found herself and her children homeless. She was forced to couch-surfed with her children for about a month with four bags of clothing between them. 

She was relieved to move into her new home under the ERA program, where she was able to commence studying and send her children to school. She ultimately plans to work with women who suffer from domestic violence. 

Amanda says if it wasn’t for Compass Housing and the ERA program she doubts she would have her children living with her in a home to call their own. 

 

Codi

Codi is an apprentice mechanic who struggled to find housing due to his low wage and unstable income. 

With the help of the ERA program, Codi can finish his apprenticeship without the fear and anxiety of homelessness. He was pleased to move into a three-bedroom home in a safe area where he values his privacy. Codi also became engaged to his partner and is looking forward to a stable future. 

He says without Compass Housing and the ERA program he would still be applying for flats with no success and living in fear of the future.


Tina

Tina was living in a one-bedroom flat with her three young children, trying to manage the responsibility of motherhood in a confined living space. 

She became aware of the ERA program and decided to enrol in nursing to provide her children with a home and herself with the means to provide for them. 

Now Tina has finished studying and is working in the pediatric ward at her local hospital. She says if it wasn’t for Compass and the ERA program she would be still living on government benefits and unable to provide her children with an equal opportunity in life.