Vicky Vacondios was relieved when she secured a place for she and her children to call home three years ago, but today she continues to wage a crushing battle with homelessness.
Only this time, the 38-year-old’s focus is on ending the cycle of homelessness that grips far too many Australian families — both with her own three children and beyond.
Vicky had two young sons and was pregnant with her daughter when she worked up the courage to escape her abusive husband.
She said she fell into a relationship with the volatile man as she grappled with her first divorce.
The sickening violence at the hands of her second husband grew so bad that on one occasion he suffocated her, turning her lips blue as he threatened to kill her.
“It was a miracle I didn’t die,” she said.
She left him in 2005 and moved into a refuge with her sons, but would return to him twice before finally leaving for good in 2007. It was then that she was thrust into the horror of homelessness, simply for protecting herself and her children.
She has been a hard worker all her life, but finding a job to be able to finance sky-high rental homes as a single mother with three young children was eminently difficult.
She said she would drop off her kids at school before spending her entire day navigating the housing services system, but the waiting lists counted tens of thousands of people.
Her children always asked where they'd be sleeping that night, and she'd assure them they wouldn't be sleeping on the streets.
For five years, they lived in emergency accommodation. She and her children shuffled between nights spent in motels, in refuges, on the couches of friends and relatives, and were on the brink of sleeping in their car.
At last, in early 2013, they secured a three-bedroom home through public housing. Things were looking up.
Mamamia first reported Vicky's story in 2014. But since then, the stress and trauma of homelessness caught up with Vicky, leaving her with serious health issues.
She became sick with bowel disease and in January had surgery to remove 30cm of her bowels.
Worse, she now fears how the instability of the last decade has impacted her children -- especially her firstborn son, aged 17.
She says he grew unhappy in the cramped three-bedroom home, and he recently chose to move out.
His decision was in part driven by wanting to free a room for his 10-year-old sister, who has anxiety after spending her early years in homelessness and having to share a bed with her mother all her life.
Heartbreakingly, he is now homeless, spending his nights crashing with friends. But Vicky is determined to get him back on his feet and enrolled in a construction course like he always wanted.
"I can see the cycle is continuing, which is sad but I'm at the point where I won't give up. I will be very loud in stopping my son from being homeless and falling through the gaps, no matter what it takes," she said.