Rima fell pregnant at 29 and her parents were not happy. They kicked her out. She lived with friends. A baby was growing inside of her and she had no where to go.
“I had a cesarean and was in hospital,” Rima told Mamamia. “My mum came in and said ‘I hope you have somewhere to live’. I told her I did, but I didn’t really. The hospital tried to find somewhere for me to go. I lived with a friend for a few weeks. Then a counsellor I knew found me a refuge to live in.”
Rima moved into a refuge with her baby boy, who was a few weeks old. She was lucky to be secured a spot. “Every time someone left, another person moved in straight away, there was never a spare bed,” Rima said. As soon as she heard they had a bed, she didn’t hesitate. She moved that day.
“I cried myself to sleep every night because, growing up the way I did – no where near a refuge – I didn’t know what was happening,” Rima said. Before falling pregnant she worked as an area manager for a fast food company. She had a company car, company phone, company petrol. Everything was paid for and organised on her behalf.
“The only space that wasn’t shared in the refuge was the bedroom,” Rima said. “If you wanted to watch TV, you had to watch it with other people. And they could be disgusting. Some people didn’t pick up after themselves, they’d leave kids in bed in nappies the whole day. I would scrub the toilets every time I wanted to have a shower. People would steal food from the fridge.”
Rima spent her 30th birthday in the refuge with her son. She lived there for nine months before moving into a half-way house because the refuge was shutting down.
"My son spent the first nine months of his life living in a refuge with 30-40 other kids who don't have anything."
During this time, Rima was receiving income from Centerlink. She couldn't work because of mental health issues (Rima has since been diagnosed with bipolar and split personality disorder), and the fact she couldn't afford childcare for her son.
"You’re trying to survive," Rima said. "You have a little baby you’re trying to buy things for and everything is new. My mental health was deteriorating because I was sexually assaulted in my childhood. I also had no support from anywhere. I felt like a failure and nothing was working out. I couldn't go to work to find money to pay the rent. The father of my son had disappeared. I had to look after him. If I could afford to put him in childcare for a few hours, it was to go to the doctors to try and manage my own mental health problems."
As well as this, Rima found finding a place to live - through the government's affordable housing scheme - was a full-time effort.