Feels Like Home to Shiara

Shiara started running a long time ago. She started running from an abusive father when she was a young woman and it has been hard to stop, and to call somewhere home. Over the years she has been homeless, one of the ‘invisible’ homeless people sleeping rough, sleeping in tents around regional and country areas, sleeping in parks and using the barbecues for cooking. Shiara and her partner moved from one temporary accommodation to another, finding it hard at times to manage independent living.

Three years ago Shiara’s partner died and her life unravelled, leaving her once more looking for secure housing. “My partner was sick in hospital and so was I. Our landlord said we had abandoned our house, but I was sick,” said Shiara, who has multiple sclerosis.

It was about this time that Shiara came to McAuley Community Services for Women. It took six or seven months, but Shiara found home – a place where she was supported to get back on her feet. “I knew I wasn’t ready to live somewhere on my own. There was a big wall of fear,” she said.

Shiara lived at McAuley House for one year before moving into independent housing. She is still closely connected with McAuley House, visiting regularly and maintaining many of the relationships she built up over the year. In the past year 93 women were supported at McAuley House – all were homeless, 30% had experienced family violence and 73% had a mental health diagnosis.

“McAuley House was really good for me because it got me into the pattern of doing things again. We have to choose activities to do during the day and the women can choose from things like knitting, photography, sewing, cooking and lots of other things. Doing things each week made me feel a lot more confident that I could live on my own,” Shiara said. At McAuley House she participated in the Me Project which takes vulnerable women on a six-week journey to learn the importance of being ‘me’ and to find their strengths and develop their self esteem.

During the year at McAuley House, Shiara, with help from her case worker, managed to find a home and the security to stop running. “I always felt like I had to keep running from my Dad, for many years. Once you start running from someone, it is very hard to stop and try to build a life.”

“Living at McAuley meant I was mixing with lots of other women and that was good because my partner and I had been so isolated for so long. I learnt to do the things you need to do to live alone. But I still like comng back to McAuley House to visit. The place is a gem.”