Leaving behind family, Gretta moved from the Central Coast to Sydney about five years ago. Initially living in public housing, which did not work out.
Gretta has lived in two boarding houses. The first she liked very much as it included a communal living area as well as shared facilities. About two years ago the building was sold and she had to move out. With the help of staff at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, Gretta was able to find cheaper accommodation but the current boarding house doesn’t have any living room space or anywhere outdoors to go. Gretta described getting ‘cabin fever’ as the $200pw she now pays provides only a room, with shared kitchen and bathroom.
What Gretta does like about her boarding house is that it is handy to public transport, shops, doctors and support groups, all of which Gretta depends on to maintain a well-balanced life.
It is hard living in a boarding house; Gretta described it as ‘awful’. Gretta sees herself as a reasonable person living amongst other unreasonable people. She doesn’t like the drunken violence that often happens; the thoughtless behaviour that leads to a lot of noise from other residents’ rooms at any time of the day or night, or the dirty bathrooms, which she needs to clean each time she showers as the owner only organises weekly cleaning.
She would like to see the development of women’s only boarding houses, which she believes would reduce a lot of violence that women are subject to and would be particularly ideal for women leaving domestic violence.
Public transport is an important part of Gretta’s entertainment. She rides buses and trains for something to do; something that takes her out of her room and keeps her in contact with other people, however vicarious that may be. Shopping malls are used on hot days to stay cool.
The Boarding Houses Act, 2012 has not made any significant difference to Gretta’s life. Although residents know they have rights, they don’t ask questions or make demands because they don’t want to lose their room. Gretta has unfortunately noticed that there appears to be a growing number of women and children who are homeless and are sleeping rough.
The biggest event that has happened to Gretta in the last year is reconnection to her family. That won’t make her go back to the Central Coast as Sydney is home, but she has photos of her growing extended family, which gives her great joy. That, along with returning to study next year, means that Gretta has new energy; she is looking forward to the future – one that will include her ideal – a place of her own where her friends can visit and where she doesn’t have to clean the bathroom every time she wants to use it!
Gretta’s message to others in her position is to keep going. Accept help whenever it is offered, attend community meetings where support is given, act before bad things happen, like being threatened with eviction. Most importantly, don’t give up.
Gretta hopes the future will be brighter – a full time job after the completion of a diploma, most importantly leading to a place of her own.