Friday, October 3, 2014

Boarding House Residents Stories: Ronald

Welcome to our series of Boarding House Residents Stories exploring a range of residents experiences in boarding houses. The stories have been collected and written by Sally Chalmers, Resources & Development, Boarding House Services, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

When he was a young man, Ronald Bell moved with family to Sydney where they lived in a boarding house in Pyrmont for five years. The place had eight rooms, board was $2 per week and included a furnished room with a laundry service.

It was close to the railways where Ronald and the boys worked doing mail runs across NSW. He laughs as he tells a story about catching (and occasionally missing) the mail bag with a giant hook!
At that time, boarding houses were for men only and mostly housed people from country areas, who needed somewhere affordable to stay while they visited or worked in the city.

When his father passed away, Ronald moved to another boarding house in Glebe where he lived for 10 years. Again this place had eight rooms, all the residents worked, and there were never any problems living there. You got good cheap accommodation for a good price.

Visitors were allowed, and sometimes stayed over. Ronald talks about sleeping on the floor in his room or another resident’s room when someone came to stay with him. There was no curfew or visiting hours, but all residents tended to respect one another’s privacy. There were furnished communal areas inside and out where residents got together and socialised. As there were a number of bathrooms and a good-sized kitchen with working appliances, there were seldom issues with sharing facilities. The house was well kept by the owner.

Ronald has been living in a Newtown boarding house since 1983. His only remaining family connection lives outside of Sydney.

The boarding house has 10 rooms and he says that he loves living there. He knows all of the residents – even the 18 year old! He feels as though there is a sense of community in the house.

Sometimes the other guys check in on him and see if he wants help with washing or chores. Although the house is old and could do with some repairs, it doesn’t bother him.

Ronald’s room is small but homely and hundreds of his drawings and DVDs cover every available space, with a big TV in the middle. He loves his Meals on Wheels, which he heats up in his microwave. He is very content with his private space in a communal house. He doesn’t have to be social all the time but can join other residents when he feels like it. Ronald is spending a lot more time in his room of late. He used to get out regularly for shopping and social outings but he is due for a hip replacement in coming months.

Although he lives on the ground floor, the steep steps up to the front door are more and more difficult as time goes by. He’s hoping the boarding house manager will invest in a rail soon.

Ronald's story originally appeared in the Tenant News #107. For more information on boarding houses, why not subscribe to Onboard, our new e-bulletin all about Boarding Houses? For individual advice about issues in a boarding house, or any tenancy issues, contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service.

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