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Uniting Winter Appeal helps bring hope from the ashes

A fire robbed Felicity of her home, her health and her will to live. Five years on, she’s back on her feet and ‘in a really good place’ – literally and figuratively.

By David Southwell

When Felicity was jolted awake at 3am by the fire alarm, smoke was already starting to fill up her bedroom.

“I just knew I had to get out of there,” the 51-year-old single mother says. “I had no time to grab any of my things,” the 51-year-old single mother said.

Thankfully none of Felicity’s three adult children were at home on the 2013 night when a fire destroyed the east Melbourne house the family had lived in for 12 years.

“We lost all of our possessions. We were left with nothing,” Felicity says.

“I don’t even remember who called Uniting, but I know they were a Godsend. The Uniting team took care of everything for us.”

By lunchtime, a Uniting Vic.Tas worker had arranged emergency accommodation for Felicity’s family.

Over the next few weeks Uniting supported the family with food parcels, food vouchers and personal items.

After a period living with her mother, Felicity moved in with a boyfriend over a parking garage, but her mental health started to spiral as she struggled with depression and anxiety.

“I think that was my lowest point. I didn’t have my children with me and I was living in a garage with next to no belongings. It really got me down,” she says.

“There were days where I couldn’t get out of bed and I wanted it all to end.”

Persistent mental health issues resulting from the fire trauma left Felicity unable to work.

However, Felicity secured a public housing property in 2014.

Felicity also managed to find work as a house cleaner, but continued to struggle with mental health issues.

Her son was battling drug and alcohol addiction, which led to family violence and property destruction.

In 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services advised Felicity her tenancy was at risk due to extensive property damage.

Felicity was again referred to Uniting, who held discussions with officials to secure Felicity’s tenancy.

Uniting organised an industrial clean up at the property and repairs.

When Felicity was unable to work due to her mental health last year, the team from Uniting assisted her to receive NewStart allowance payments.

Uniting also linked Felicity with local GP services to develop a mental health plan, which led to her accessing the medication she needed, along with regular counselling appointments. 

Felicity admits asking for help was extremely difficult. “I was embarrassed,
I felt like a failure,” she says.

“I felt like I’d failed myself and my children. I felt like everything was getting on top of me and I just couldn’t cope.

“I wouldn’t be here without Uniting. And that’s not an exaggeration. They saved my life.”

Felicity paid special credit to her Uniting support worker, Maree.

“She has been amazing, she has never judged me and has just been so supportive,” Felicity says.

“Just having someone to sit and listen to what I was going through made such a big difference.”

Felicity said she feels in good mental health and her relationship with her son, who has undergone drug and alcohol treatment, is back on track.

She is looking at studying accountancy and re-entering the workforce.

“Thanks to the support of Uniting, I’m feeling more happy and confident in myself,” she says.

“I’m in a really good place in my life, for the first time in a long time.”

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