As the cost of living and rental crisis continues to explode, Catholic Care Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains Case Manager, Georgie Crabb, says she and her team are busier than ever trying to assist people who are experiencing tough times and help set them up for a better future.
“It’s a really desperate time for people seeking housing, and our job is becoming more and more difficult,” Georgie says.
“When you walk alongside somebody, and they’ve applied for 30-odd properties and been knocked back for all of them, and their eviction date is looming, you just get to a point where all you can do is just walk alongside them. There are no magic wands.”
Parramatta Catholic Foundation’s Bishop’s Christmas Appeal is seeking donations to help Catholic Care support the growing number of people calling for help.
Georgie says some of Catholic Care’s clients have needs that are short-term, but others need ongoing support. This Bishop’s Christmas Appeal is an opportunity for people to donate and provide that vital support.
“The calls are coming in every day, and we don’t limit the time we work with people,” she says.
“So, some people need 10 hours of advocacy over two weeks, and then they’re set up, but some need ongoing support day after day because their journey’s just getting darker.
“You can’t just say to someone who’s 80, ‘Here you go, here’s your home, but I’m sorry, I don’t have a bed’, so they’re actually sleeping on the floor. Can you imagine being 80 years old and unable to make a cup of tea because you don’t have a kettle? It’s often those small things that make such a big difference to so many people.”
Georgie says the housing crisis is the common thread among many people who turn to Catholic Care for support.
“Each person’s story and journey are different, but there’s that common thread of the impact of the housing crisis,” she says.
“People are living in homes that are just not fit to live in, paying high rents and getting knocked back for properties left, right and centre.”
Georgie says no two days look exactly the same for her and her team at Catholic Care.
“We could have anything, from giving somebody a blanket, to having a chat and sharing a cup of tea,” she says.
“We have older people who want to stay living independently at home but don’t have anybody to advocate for them, so we help get [the Federal Government’s] My Aged Care Services happening for them and monitor that to make sure they’re being looked after, and they’re safe in their own home.
“There’s quite a range of support that we provide for people.”
For people who need help managing their money, Catholic Care can arrange financial counselling. Others might be more in need of general counselling or grief counselling if trauma or loss has been part of their story.
“That’s a very common need for people,” Georgie says.
Catholic Care also supports people in meeting the conditions of their lease on an ongoing basis, such as keeping the property tidy and cared for.
Georgie says the job is not always easy, but it’s a great feeling to help people in a desperate situation get back on their feet.
“I was supporting a 71-year-old man with the beginnings of dementia who was living in a really uninhabitable property and didn’t know what to do. The gentleman is now in his own [Department of Communities and Justice] housing property, and that’s a wonderful outcome for him,” she says.
“And then sometimes you look at a situation and think, ‘I can’t fix this. There’s nothing I can do to fix this’, so it becomes about the support you can give, to be kind.
“It’s about sharing the journey, really.”
To help Georgie and the Catholic Care team support more homeless people in crisis, please donate to the Bishop’s Christmas Appeal by calling (02) 8838 3482 or visit yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/bishops-christmas-co-appeal-22
Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist and contributor to Catholic Outlook.
*Denise’s name has been changed to protect her privacy