Family worker tells Helen’s story

Helen came to us because she was in crisis. Her adult son had been violent against her youngest boy, Shane, who was only 13 at the time. He had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance and the police charged his brother and put an AVO out against him. Helen couldn’t return safely to her house.

She is a mature lady with 5 kids and 2 grandkids but when she came into our refuge she was very, very scared. She didn’t know what to expect. School attendance was an ongoing problem for Shane and she worried about how he would get to school from the refuge and how he would get home. FACS was involved too and Helen was scared of FACS. She had depression and very low self-esteem. We started working on small goals: what needed to be done? Where would she go from here?

Helen knew she needed to have something to do each day. She told me ‘I don’t want to just sit around thinking.’ So we encouraged her to continue her volunteering and go along to the workshops at Bonnies and other activities we could set up for her. Helen loved the painting workshops: she’d come along, meet the other women and form friendships. She would stay afterwards and help and clean. She was excited and threw herself into them.

Over time she’s achieved so much and has worked with us through whole phases of her life. She went from the crisis accommodation to one of our transitional properties and now she’s in a private rental with subsidised rent.

She wanted to continue our support through our outreach programme so I still visit her at home. Sometimes she’s eager to see me and she’s very happy. Other times, I can see she is anxious and stressed. If she cancels a home visit and we re-schedule and she cancels again, that rings an alarm bell for me. It usually means something’s not going right. Or if she tells me that she’s been home all week and not going out, I know that’s not like her and I try to see how we can help. I do a bit of digging, ‘Is something wrong? Why haven’t you been at your appointments?’ And we go from there…

She’s usually very busy these days: she does her volunteering, she’s applying for jobs and we’re looking into her studying for a Business Diploma so she can get some retail experience. We are supporting her application for priority housing and also working on her budgeting and living skills, so she can sustain that tenancy.

When she was in the refuge, she couldn’t wait to get her own place again. She loves her independence. Her new place is closer to Shane’s school and these days he’s doing well, seeing a youth worker and wanting to spend more time with his mum. Everything has fallen into place. I think Helen is just amazing.