Leah looked into her four year old daughter's eyes and knew she had to make a change.
Leaving her home was the hardest decision Leah ever made. She had no employment prospects or extended family to turn to and her four year old daughter Charlotte was completely dependent on her.
Leah lived under the same roof as her abuser, her stepfather.
When Leah's stepfather moved into the home she shared with her mother, it felt as though the missing part of the family was filled. Laughter filled Leah's home as the three adults played with young Charlotte. Within months that mood changed. Leah's stepfather started coming home drunk. He would lash out at Leah if Charlotte's toys were in sight. He gradually started using violence every day to control the household, throwing items at the family, shoving Leah against walls and cornering her while he hurled abuse.
One afternoon in 2014, he attacked Leah with more violence than ever before. He beat Leah black and blue and inflicted severe injuries.
Leah knew she wouldn't survive much longer. She had to get Charlotte and herself out from under this tyrant. She turned to her friends for help. They provided the best they could, a mattress here, a couch there, a space where she and her daughter could rest, safe from her stepfather's violent hands...
Leah's friends were encountering difficulties of their own. Addictions to ICE and alcohol lead to unpredictable, violent behaviour. Leah and Charlotte moved from broken home to broken home before turning to life on the streets. It was in this time that Leah was referred to our street outreach team.
The first priority was helping Leah and Charlotte enter stable housing. Reviewing Leah's family situation, it was quickly apparent that living with immediate or extended family was not an option. With no previous experience in securing private accommodation, Leah needed help to view houses and complete tenancy applications, obtain grants for bond and initial rent payments. We also helped with donations of furniture, kitchen items and whitegoods.
Leah and Charlotte finally have a home of their own. At 23 years old, this would be the first home where Leah could feel truly safe. Charlotte will begin kindergarten this year, knowing she has a home to return to after school.
Leah and Charlotte represent the thousands of vulnerable young people in Australia who are classed as 'secondary homeless' – young people who are sleeping on friends couches, in emergency accommodation, shifting from place to place and only one step away from sleeping on the street. With no consistency in housing, not knowing where they will sleep the next night, the spiral continues downward until young people feel they have no future. With your help, they will find the courage to choose a better a future.
*In the interests of safety, some names may have been changed.
Open Family Australia
155 Roden Street
West Melbourne VIC 3003
T. 1300 669 600