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From homeless to home owner

Willemina working at her desk
Finding herself homeless at 19, Willemina was living a very different life to the one she had planned.

“I was in a situation where things just didn’t go the way that life should be”, she said.

But Willemina quickly decided to take control of her destiny, not only applying for public housing but also applying for a job with the very people she was trying to get a home from.

“I started out doing filing in the Caboolture Housing Service Centre, I then continued to move my way up”, she said.

Within three months, Willemina had a place to live and within three years she had purchased her own home.

“I’ve got quite a, I wouldn’t say traumatic history, but quite a difficult history and I was actually homeless myself so that’s why it was very important to me to purchase a property.

I bought my first house when I was 22, I was looking for a house that was affordable, that I could renovate”.

My saving secret: cheese on toast

Willemina saved the house deposit money by squirrelling away as much cash as she could over a two-year period soon after finding work.

“I didn’t do a lot of things at that age, I didn’t go out, I didn’t spend a lot of money on anything so I practically lived on cheese toast which is a bit of a joke up at the Caboolture office.

They all thought it was hilarious that every day I had cheese toast for lunch. But I managed to save about ten grand in two years”, she said.

“I purchased quite a cheap house that needed a little bit of tlc so over the years we’ve been doing a bit of work just trying to bring it up to the standard we want it to be”

“We’ve put a deck onto the back, we’ve also re-done our whole backyard, a nice retaining wall, we’ve got fruit trees in our garden, we have a vegetable garden now.”

A husband, a dog and a white picket fence: life’s good

Willemina has now been with the Department of Housing and Public Works for more than eight years, the last four years at the Chermside Housing Service Centre where she coordinates support for nearly 200 tenants.

“I love my job”, she said.

“Working with tenants and clients and being able to assist people, giving them the support they need is probably the most valuable thing because you walk away feeling like you’ve actually achieved something”.

But the spectre of homelessness is never far away, and its lessons remain as a constant reminder.

“In terms of a career I think it’s about having that resilience, being able to rise out of things that are really difficult”, she said.

“So even though life is extremely difficult, there are things that you deal with in the job that are really hard to take home, but I think that over time you start to develop an ability to get past them and be able to be positive about things.”

Life’s good now for 27-year-old Willemina, who spends her spare time renovating, reading novels on her kindle and “hanging out with my husband and our dog”.

The Chermside Housing Service Centre is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.


 Watch Willemina's story


Last updated 18 December 2017    Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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