A family-of-four have been forced to live in a tent after their struggles of finding a house led to homelessness – as the rental market crisis across Australia escalates.
Sushannah Taylor, 20, was living in a rental home with her husband Tristan, 22, and their two daughters – Delilah, aged two, and six-month-old Luna – in Roma in the south west of Outback Queensland.
WATCH IN THE VIDEO ABOVE: Sushannah details her homeless family life
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However, the family are now finding themselves living out of a tent at campsites around Bundaberg after their landlord decided to sell the property last month.
“We had a nice little rental out in the country and we’d been there for about two years. But our landlord sold the house and we couldn’t find another rental in time, plus our area had become unaffordable to rent in,” Sushannah tells 7Life.com.au.
Their challenges reflect the reality of the country’s housing market – as the couple struggle to find a new place they can call home.
Towing their possessions in their car, the family have been moving from campsite to campsite.
“We miss out on a lot of nutrition, basic hygiene is difficult to maintain, it gets really overheated in the tent and then it gets really cold,” Sushannah says.
‘Being homeless is expensive’
“And the hardest part would be the financial challenges, being homeless is expensive.
“We do the best we can but sometimes, it’s just not enough. Now we’re just surfing around in a tent, we’re looking for safe places to sleep.”
The mum-of-two says she’s been filled with “lots of anxiety and uncertainty” since her family slipped into homelessness.
“We are applying for work, and I am on Centrelink. We’ve actually just had job interviews today,” she says.
“The plan is to get a job and stick it out in a tent until we can get a rental.”
The couple have been desperately applying for jobs in retail, hospitality, warehouse and cleaning.
“I’m applying for weekend work and my husband is applying for part-time to full-time work,” she says.
“Me however, I’ve been a stay-at-home mum for the past two years so it’s going to be a little bit more difficult for me to jump back in but I’m trying.”
Her husband has applied for more than 40 jobs – but was only called back for three interviews.
“My husband is even considering an apprenticeship,’ she tells 7Life.com.au.
‘The problem is the rental crisis’
As the situation takes its toll on the family, Sushannah has been documenting their struggles with homelessness on TikTok.
“My husband worked full-time before we went homeless,” she says.
“It’s not so much being homeless that is most scary, it’s not so much sleeping in a tent that is scary, it’s sort of like camping… it’s the not knowing.
“Obviously we can’t stay at one campsite too long because other people want to book ahead of time. It’s just the constant of having to move.
“I know where we’re going to be until Saturday but come Saturday morning, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
The mum says they have tried everything to find long-term accommodation – but to no avail.
“I’ve been calling up homeless shelters but they’re all full, no surprise there,” she says.
“We’ve got the money to move into a rental, we have that money. The problem is the rental crisis, there is no affordable housing.
“And even if there is housing that’s affordable, it’s extremely competitive. So I’m not really doing as well as I’d hoped. I’m quite nauseous right now but that’s a feeling I’m used to at this point.”
‘There are people far worse off than I am’
Generous strangers have been offering money or opening their homes to the family-of-four just to keep them off the streets.
Days ago, kind strangers donated money for essentials like food, fuel, baby nappies and wipes, and campsite costs but Sushannah has been loathe to accept help.
“Unfortunately I cannot take anyone’s money. There are people far worse off than I am and they need your money much more than I do,” she says.
“I have savings. I have always been saving for a crisis like this because I knew what state the country was in. So until I get very desperate, I can’t accept your money – but thank you so much for the offers.
“As for the offers for beds, my family and I have already uprooted ourselves and moved six to seven hours away from where we were previously living to find a more secure location.”
While, out of desperation, she has since accepted money for some small essentials, she says the only things the family really needs right now are jobs and a home.
“We have the money and the rental history but there’s just not much available,” Sushannah says.
A study by Anglicare found that, of 45,000 properties analysed, only seven were affordable for a person on the JobSeeker payment.
Less than 1 per cent were affordable for those on the disability support or age pension.
“Australia’s housing crisis has reached a fever pitch. No part of the country has been spared. Rents are shooting up in towns and regions, and our cities have never been more expensive,” Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said in April.
“We keep hearing that this election is about living costs, but housing is the biggest cost facing Australians. People on low incomes don’t stand a chance. Less than 2 per cent of rentals are affordable for a full-time worker on the minimum wage. For a person out of work, it’s 0 per cent.
“Voters are desperate for action. Instead, parties are promising more of the same. At best they are offering grants that overheat the market. At worst they ignore the problem, telling renters struggling to buy a house. That’s not good enough.”