Friday, September 26, 2014

Boarding House Residents Stories: Nina

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.

For the past 3 years Nina, aged 64, has been living in a large boarding house in Marrickville. The property has about 100 rooms (single and shared) filled with men and women of all ages and walks of life seeking affordable accommodation ($150-$180/week) in Sydney’s Inner West. There is only one manager for the complex and they don’t live on site.

Prior to living here she had been staying at an inner-city crisis accommodation for women and families. When Nina needed to move out, her options were extremely limited as her low income and lack of rental history made it very difficult to find affordable and accessible accommodation. Getting on the waiting list for Housing NSW was possible, but the wait would be more than 3 years. Even if she had the required bond money, the necessary paperwork and references required for private rental were non-existent.

So she moved, with her daughter, into a single room at the boarding house. It was convenient as she didn’t need to pay bond, and they could share the rent. One slept in the bed and the other on the floor until eventually her daughter found alternative lodgings.

The condition of the premises is poor, quite unhygienic and the manager only calls in to collect rent from the residents. Nina cooks in her room to avoid using the communal areas; which in itself is a safety hazard. She says that ‘keeping busy is her saviour’ and spends her days out and about, volunteering and taking part in community activities, such as those on offer at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

It is evident that her current living situation puts her safety at risk. Police are called to the boarding house so often to solve disputes between residents or to address antisocial behaviour, often fuelled by drugs and alcohol, that locals refer to it as ‘the other Marrickville Police Station’. Nina has learned to avoid areas where difficult residents gather, and to not engage with them, as it only leads to confrontations.

When asked about her future accommodation options, she says that it’s too much hassle and too expensive to move. Nina feels that having a roof over her head is a blessing, and she feels bad for rough sleepers. She knows she is in a better position than many people so is happy with her lot.

Nina'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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