Leah* came to WAGEC earlier this year after having the courage to leave a string of domestic and family violence situations. After first experiencing severe violence from her partner in Melbourne, Leah made the decision to leave and move her life and two children back to Sydney to be with her family, where she thought she would be safe. This is her story in her words.
It had been sixteen years since I had been back with my family in Sydney. I had imagined it to be a time of safety and respite, a time to gather my things. However, within a month, things became violent again with my brother and I was forced to pack up and leave for the second time in a month.
You never imagine one argument would change your life. No one ever thinks they will become homeless.
After leaving my brother’s house, my kids and I stayed for months with old friends I had stayed in touch with. We slept on their couches and in their living rooms. We moved from house to house before finding a hotel room. But I knew it wasn’t a long-term option. After two days I reached out to services and was offered a room at one of WAGEC’s refuges.
I had nothing but two weeks of clothing for me and my children.
I was tired, angry and resistant. Despite what had happened, I was still in denial that my children and I were homeless.
Jess my Case Manager helped me work through it. I took part in the parenting program and my kids joined the supported playgroups. My kids were also childminded by volunteers so I had the time and space to work through my own needs with Jess.
Right away, I was given access to food, clothing and toiletries. It was just after lockdown so things were tight but when you’re in that position, everything counts. When you get gifted a new shirt, it is like your whole world changes and you feel so good about yourself. Everything helps when you are in that position. It was just wonderful to know that there were kind people out there donating and volunteering. It got me very overwhelmed, it is very touching to know people care.
Being around all that energy of donating and volunteering expanded my and made me want to give back. I have recently become a volunteer.
Now it’s been almost four months since she moved out of crisis accommodation to a transitional home, nine months since she left her family home and abuse from her brother; and nearly a year since she left her violent partner with her young children. We asked how she was feeling a year later.
It will soon be a whole year since I left. It was around Christmas time that I made the decision. This morning I was getting ready and I was thinking about how much better I feel. I am thankful for the lessons I look at my journey as a gift, it has taught me so much. My story is not finished.
*name has been changed for privacy.