Mum makes desperate plea for a secure home
MURWILLUMBAH mum Sita Durnell has been desperately seeking a home in Murwillumbah for herself and children Owen, 5, and Charlotte, 12.
Ms Durnell recently took to social media in a last-ditch plea to find more secure housing for her family.
While she was based in Toowoomba with her husband and two children for some time, she said they returned to the Tweed to be close to family after the death of her father, who had been battling cancer.
"We were both working full-time,” she said.
"But my father passed away from cancer. I was only able to come down and visit him from time to time and I was up there when he passed away.
"It was really hard for me to get back here when my father was sick.
"When (he) passed away, we decided to move closer to family.”
After her marriage broke down, Ms Durnell said she and son Owen, 5, and daughter Charlotte, 12, spent some time couch-surfing with family. But amid the anguish of a separation and the need for their own space, she said this could not be a permanent arrangement.
"It was really emotionally draining,” she said.
"I was looking for my own home but I've found it really difficult.”
Ms Durnell said she approached a caravan park and looked at a host of rentals but being on a pension, she said there was nothing affordable to get the family back into a stable environment.
"I was so ready to just start camping,” she said.
"I was ready to live in a tent with my kids.”
Early last year, a Murwillumbah resident with a granny flat on their property offered to rent that space.
This was only meant to be a short-term fix while MsDurnell continued her house search.
"We had a choice between the motel in town or this little granny flat,” she said.
"Because I was so desperate, (the owner) wanted to help me out.”
When they moved in, MsDurnell was told the site flooded regularly, but she was so desperate for their own space she accepted this risk.
"We were just getting settled when the (March 2017) flood happened,” she said.
"I packed things away as much as I could, but the water came up to the ceiling.
"I lost everything that I had in there.”
Faced with lengthy waiting times for public housing on the Tweed, MsDurnell said this wasn't viable for them.
And with their entire family network in the Murwillumbah area, she said relocating was not an option.
But after taking to social media in a desperate search for a home, she may have struck some better luck.
Carmen Stewart from non-profit group It Takes a Town said she had referred Ms Durnell to a "head-leased” program through Connecting Homes, which supports residents to get back into a home.
Ms Stewart said after last year's flood wiped out a large portion of housing stock, competition for rentals had increased immensely.
"It was bad and now it's horrendous. There are families all over the place at the moment in exactly the same situation,” Ms Stewart said.
Thankfully, she said families with children were prioritised by the program.
She said help had been recently granted to an employed mother-of-three who faced homelessness over Christmas, and a couple who owned a business and both worked full-time.