Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Housing NSW Negligence – An Accident Waiting to Happen

19 Mar 2010North St Mary’s resident Karen Heald, is living in an unsuitable NSW Housing property. The 45 year old was born with Spina Bifida and requires the full time use of a wheelchair to get around. She has been living in her NSW Housing dwelling for 18 months now and she is very unhappy.

When she first inspected the property, she said that she agreed to take the house as long as a ramp was installed to access the backyard. This has still not happened, despite this being a fire hazard, and her many calls to Housing NSW, where she has been told to ‘stop calling as there are no funds’.

Not only is the absence of a ramp a problem, there are also many smaller issues inside the home that need repairing or replacing which have also been ignored. Karen tells that there is an aging hot water system that has occasionally left her without hot water for up to 48 hours, the hand held shower head is broken, the shower curtain is only held up by wire, there is also a leaking ceiling in the lounge room and she says that the carpet is in a ‘terrible’ condition.

An official from the Housing NSW department has said that they are sympathetic to Karen’s needs but that they have no record of ever needing to perform maintenance to her property and there was no initial agreement to install a rear ramp. They did have an inspection last July and said that it wasn’t feasible to install a ramp to the backyard due to the type and size of the property. They have said that they will be performing another inspection shortly so that they can tend to the other problems and they will be installing new carpet next week.

While Karen waits, she has to take her washing in a basket, on her lap, out the front door, go around the side, through a gate and navigate herself down the side of the house to her backyard, all this just to hang out her washing.

Karen’s is just one of many complaints I have encountered that involve Housing NSW. One of my disabled blog readers have been told by the Department of Housing, that ‘people in wheelchairs are in the too hard basket’ when asked why they can’t find him a property. I have also personally encountered difficulty with Housing NSW.

Around two years ago, I had to move out of my rental property and couldn’t find a wheelchair accessible place to live. I was facing the date that I had to be out of my place. Still, with nowhere to go, I had no choice but to take annual leave from my job at the time and move up to my mum’s, who lives about two hours from where I was working. I figured that there were no other options for me if I wanted to live back in my hometown, in an accessible house and be close to my job, so I approached Housing NSW and applied for help. I was approved for ‘priority housing’ which is given to those who are in an emergency situation and facing lifestyle changes if they can’t find somewhere to live, such as job loss, lack of medical care, homelessness, ect.

Thankfully, I ended up finding a place to stay in Sydney with a friend, and was able to stay there for over a year, but needless to say, I am still on the ‘priority housing’ list. I can see I have been a huge ‘priority’ of theirs. Not that I am in urgent need anymore, but it is just the fact that if I still was, I would clearly be in a very bad situation.

This just goes to show that there is not enough help for people with disabilities who need assistance in finding suitable accommodation.

Not to sound like a whinger, but I think people and families with disabilities should be right at the top of the list when getting assistance from the government to find a suitable property to live in. Followed by the elderly, women in crisis situations (domestic violence), and single parents and so on, then right at the very bottom of the list, criminals and drug addicts. It shouldn’t be the other way around as it is at the moment, and something needs to change!

To view the original story of Karen Heald that was featured in the Penrith Star, go to http://www.penrithstar.com.au/news/local/news/general/woman-stuck-in-death-trap/1779331.aspx


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Previous Comments

adam alihussein from sydney posted on 9 Jun 2015
I have had similar difficulties, and still, with the Department of Housing!! I am also with registered disability. I was in priority about or over 2 years!! Eventually I was offered private subsidised rental assistant to suit my disability needs. BUT RECENTLY I FOUND OUT MISSING PAYMENTS OF THE DEPARTMENT AND I AM NOW IN DISABILITY ARREATES TO THE AGENTS. BESIDES I FOUND THE DEPARTMENT CALCUALTINGN MY RENT WRONGLY AND MAKES IT ON THE ASSUMPTION OF WHAT THE CENTERLINK MUST PAY, AND NOT OF WHAT IO REALLY RECEIVING NOW. BESIDES OTHER ISSUES. I AM IN SEVERE DISTRESS AND DON'T KNOW WHERE TO GO. >>>>> (( HOW CAN WE MEET OR INITIATE A CONTACT SO TO FIND A VENUE TO OVERCOME THESE DEPRESSIVE HURDLES?? MY ARREARS STOPPED ME FROM GOING TO NECESSARY MEDICAL PROCEDURE/S AND OR TO BY NECESSARY MEDICATIONS!! HOW CAN WE CONTACT EACH OTHERS TO UNIFY OUR EFFORTS TOWARDS FAIR AND JUST SOLLUTION TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY>>> WHERE TO GO?? CHEERSADAMMOB: 0415693942PS: sorry for any misspelling or semantic mistakes

katiem from Wollongong area posted on 3 Oct 2014
In 1997, a person on the DOH waiting list (following marriage breakdown) was offered a 4th floor apartment south of Wollongong. The person was desperate, homeless, an alcoholic who was dependent on outdoor gardening activities to remain sober, owned a companion animal and had a permanently disabled mother who he relied on for social support. He also was in the midst of a divorce and attempting to gain custody of one of his children, who attended school in a suburb north of Wollongong. He advised the Department of all this, however their hands were tied. If he did not take the apartment, he would be knocked back to the bottom of the list. Among the evidence submitted to The Department of Housing, the man included information which suggested he may commit suicide if he was not offered something that was suiTA-BLE for him. He was not. Two months after moving into the top floor apartment he committed suicide. Shame shame shame... DOH isn't solely to blame for this, but certainly played a part.

Helen P from Sydney posted on 3 Mar 2013
Hello my name is Helen and I have 3 children 2 of which suffer a genetic disorder which has left them in a wheelchair. To top every off 7 years ago I went through a very nasty divorse and financialy ruinded which left me without a home. so after owning all my life I was left looking in the rental sector. Let me say that for the past 7 years i have had to live in two different rental proporties both of which have NO disabled facilities which is very dangererous for the girls. Also the rent is so high and being the only person working it is all too much. Aslo I am discusted in the way all real estates look at us when we apply for a home, which let me tell you Only 1 out of 100 is slightly accessable, only to be told ( sorry you were unsuccessful) I am sick of hiding the fact that YES I have 2 disabled daughters.... So what???? So we decided to approach housing so we can be placed in a home that had all the disabled facilities and my girls could finally live and feel normal. what a joke that was..... We were told there is a 10 year waiting list????? TO ALL THAT ARE READING THIS.... i AM LOOKING FOR A HOME THAT IS WHEELCHAIR ACCESSABLE AND MODIFIED -WITH 4 BEDROOMS... ALL I WANT IS SOMEWHERE TO LIVE THAT MY GIRLS CAN LIVE NORMALY. WE ARE LOOKING FOR A HOME IN THE ST GEORGE AREA OR INNER WEST SO IF ANYONE IS READING THIS...... CONTACT ME VIA EMAIL [email protected]

ann from northern rivers posted on 25 Nov 2012
I can so relate to all these posts. Every time I send something the NSW Housing they immediately send me out something else to complete and keep changing the goal posts and I'm close to giving up (which is probably their point) but am also desperate not to be on the streets (& can't stay with family) - Housing NSW are ridiculous (I wld love to be able to do some work experience there to see how they really work (& the disrespect they show people) & expose it for what it is...

Anne from Merimbula posted on 14 Oct 2011
HiIf anyone would like to forward their story to me about Housing NSW and Disability-complaints ,discrimination,refusal to help etc or offering unsuiTA-BLE housing unsuiTA-BLE area long wait on priority if you have commented before please also send your story Carers are also most welcome to submit I will be presenting these to NSW parliament so name and contact address is required for my records Let us see if we can change the system you can email to [email protected] or post to 54 lakeview ave Merimbula 2548

Toni from Wollongong posted on 23 Sep 2011
Good news is Housing NSW got my occupational therapist report, all 10 pages. The down side to this is Housing NSW has told me I have to re-apply and be reassessed, this is not only frustrating but annoying as well, I did what they asked and now they have changed the goalposts on me. All I am waiting to happen is the fall down the steps that will break my neck and that is a mathematical fact.The other part is, not one of the State Politicians won't help.

sarah from sydney posted on 11 Aug 2011
Housing NSW is cruel to people who are suffering the most. They don't care about the people who need urgent housing. yet they house people who can afford the private rental. Even with priority people with disability have to wait long time. I believe there is corruption and also i have heard some staff taking pribes from people. there is manipulation that's taking place. it's disgusting and the minster should be ashamed of their self.

Toni from Wollongong posted on 8 Aug 2011
Dept of Housing and the minster Pru Gower are a joke, 3 weeks ago my carer was rushed to hospital after collapsing from what we now know was from diabetes, and because of DOH ignoring my plees I ended up stranded for 5 days.... no way to cook because the knobs to turn the stove on are too high, I couldn't bathe due to a high step into the shower nor able to get my wheelchair into the bathroom to use the toilet because the bathroom is too narrow to let me in with my chair plus I was literally trapped inside my house because of the steps, I ended up going without food and drink (no tap low enough for me to reach) for 5 days, it was a living hell. The complaints I made about it only resulted in a message from Pru Gowers office stating now that ontop of the occupational therapist report that I have to wait another 19 months for but I also need a report from my specialist ( that is going to cost me $450) the letter from my GP who takes care of my condition inbetween specialist visits is NOT good enough.I have now come to the conclusion and in my opinion that we the disabled are being discriminated against not only by ministers but also DOH.With what happened to me can happen and probably has happened to others, we in all rights should be placed in a house immediately with a ramp for this very reason.

paul from northern rivers nsw posted on 22 Jun 2011
Housing NSW is the very worst department I have ever dealt with in my entire life.From June2010,the Sussex Street City of Sydney Office,(INNER CITY)has obstructed,ignored,lost,refused to process,claimed I owed debts to them(when I have never had or been in nsw before),They feedback unit staff claimed it is normal for HNSW to write to people and say they have debts when they dont,refused to give me information about me,claimed I was a woman,so therefore they could not risk giving me my own information.Refused two politicians request for information.Refused to answer about 12 complaints in writing over a year.Made me wait 5 hours for tempory housing in the Sussex Street Office claiming No one was in leadership that day,and could not make a descision.(12 stories high and no staff)This is while I had concusion and stiches in my face for an unwanted assult.Refused to put in writing my high priorty housing acknowledgement.refused to put in writing my prs (SAS) approval.Claiming they offered me public housing when they didnt.Offering me 60 days of tempory housing which they disguised with state government checks.(POLICY SAYS 28 days max)After a letter to the ceo of NSW housing from an abuse agency(NGO) the ceo flicked it to the general manager for investigation who flicked to a low ranking person in lismore who is incapable of dealing with it.Still no housing and still no written resposes from the EX-ECutive or anyone from Hnsw.I say terminate the positions of the senior exexcutive and manager in the local offices.NSW Housing is anti housing anti people,vindictive in behaviour,and is no more than a shakey HOUSE OF CARDS

Toni from Wollongong posted on 21 Jun 2011
I think it is now about time we made our voices heard!I think we need to all speak up and let the government/s know we are fed up with being neglected by beaurocracy.We need the governments and the Dept. of Housing know we are fed up with not being taken seriously, many of us are battling against injuries ect. because we are not being housed appropriately!I'm now trying to work on some ways of our situation being heard, would love input because I think the only way to get our message across is to either get a petition going, possibly organise a rally... the list goes on.We now need to make a stand before we are forgotten and neglected further.

lee from sydney posted on 12 May 2011
i have been on priority housing list for 19 months now.i have given them numerous forms and support letters,medical reports,and UP-DATE these every few weeks...i have 2 disabled children one of which is at risk living in our current dwelling as he has severe autism, yet they've still done nothing...i ring atleast twice a week and i get a different story each time... one of which was "its because of the modifications you have asked for??? I NOTE i only asked for a screen door and a fence which i presume most houses generally have,.. yes? i didnt ask for a swimming pool , not even ramps for my daughter who has cerebral palsy... i just asked for a home near her hospital as she has regular appointments and needs to access it in case of emergency as she also has epilepsy.... tell me now, what will it take?are people in gaol being housed after they conducted illegal activity in the house they had prior to being arrested?,.yes they are ...and what about the people who desperately need it...?who arent working full time and clearly can afford to pay private rent yet still occupy houses that they clearly arent eligable for?i know of many cases where these people are living in 4 bedroom houses when only one person is living there? how do they sleep at night knowing people are homeless with children while they reep the benefits of a four bedroom home that they clearly do not need.... it makes me sick.its a joke alright...

lee from sydney posted on 12 May 2011
i have been on priority housing list for 19 months now.i have given them numerous forms and support letters,medical reports,and UP-DATE these every few weeks...i have 2 disabled children one of which is at risk living in our current dwelling as he has severe autism, yet they've still done nothing...i ring atleast twice a week and i get a different story each time... one of which was "its because of the modifications you have asked for??? I NOTE i only asked for a screen door and a fence which i presume most houses generally have,.. yes? i didnt ask for a swimming pool , not even ramps for my daughter who has cerebral palsy... i just asked for a home near her hospital as she has regular appointments and needs to access it in case of emergency as she also has epilepsy.... tell me now, what will it take?Are people in gaol being housed after they conducted illegal activity in the house they had prior to being arrested?,.yes they are ...and what about the people who desperately need it...?who are working full time and clearly can afford to pay private rent yet still occupy houses that they clearly arent eligable for? why not stay? the government wont mind!we are paying billions of dollars to house people in hotels that are homeless due to lack of housing according to a recent special on the news, yet there are many houses that are empty? and for how long? I'll give you one example, there is a wheelchair accessible house around the corner from me that has been empty for 4 months!!! why? what on earth would be the reason for that? and how many of those need it? I'm currently on hold with the complaints service of housing nsw, 12 minutes and all i get is "we're sorry for the delay,please hold" ha! ive been delayed for 19months whats another ten years really...i mean wow!i know of many cases where these people are living in 4 bedroom houses when only one person is living there? how do they sleep at night knowing people are homeless with children while they reep the benefits of a four bedroom home that they clearly do not need.... it makes me sick.or current tennants that have torn the place apart living like animals and dont pay thier rent, 25% of a centrelink income, how hard is that to pay? i assume they think why bother caring,they got the house,housing cant kick them out... cant or wont is my question? so two disabled children, a diagnosis of depression, a son with autism that will run off any time he has the chance, a daughter with cerebral palsy who cant climb stairs and needs god forbid a hand rail or two? id happily buy those if thats the issue, i think not...i have been told yesterday the "priority" waitlist is 2-3 years... HA! WTH??? I have also been told that im right up there, tho tennants that dont meet the criterea of these homes wont leave? should they even be telling me that??? thats basically saying yes we know you need it but we have no power over the tennants we have....rubbish!!!i have been also told my situation needs to be escalated , is that right... i have 12 medical reports, 5 letters of support, 3 medical diagnoses, letters of comnplaint, occupational needs assessment reports, and i ask you, how more escalated can it be?and DID YOU KNOW, there is now a question on the forms "do you live in your car"??? OMG... is that escalated enough? do you tick yes and wait 19 months for that aswell?my home has been broken into 4 times, it has holes in fences you can fit a truck thru, i have no screen door, i have windows my little autistic boy likes to jump out of.... when he jumps out and runs thru those fences "god forbid" will they listen then? do they realise how escalated that is??ha! still on hold 22 minutes and counting, and this is the complaints department, how ironic...., 46 minutes later and im told to go in an fill out a change of situation form??? what may i ask you has changed, besides me loosing my mind of repeating myself to these people over and over again... yes the kids are still disabled , yes im still in the same situation, no i have not won lotto and millions in my account, yes im still in need of housing...apparently filling this form out escalates me? to what?i was also told the manager would talk to me at the housing office... funny tho when i got there she was not available, after i said id wait for her i was told she wouldnt be available at all? why?the complaints people told me to specifically ask for her, and funnily enough missing in action and never to return was she when i arrived there....so i filled the forms out,i wrote statements to say how my situation is affecting me and my children... i even asked for extra paper cause i had a novel of reasons why i was there...customer service man was not only rude but asked why i was complaining??? um?(banging my head against a wall came to mind) calmly i stated the obvious again that i was on a waiting list,in an emergency situation and everything they have already on paperwork i repeated, just incase he and they, for somehow missed the 100 odd pages of the situation and my needs for assistance...so i sighed and wrote my novel signing it and handing it over....dejavu.... i was told she would call me... smiling again thanku for your help, have a lovely day he says,yeah, thanku sir you too!!!no call... im not exactly sure if they communicate with eachother or read the letters of support or medical reports, because they seem to ask me the same questiions every time...i get a different excuse as to why im waiting everytime...im hoping the complaints department are aware ill be calling back.... again and again...groundhog day much?...i figure being nice, smiling and polite will eventually get somewhere though ive seen some actions of housing tennants outrageous but for some reason they get what they want when they yell and scream ive seen it happen first hand... and me. ha while i sit here quietly smile and slowly going insane,they say, we are doing all we can HA HA HA.... yes as am i living like this.,... but all good... tomorrow is a new day.... and yet another letter... maybe if i type something in CAPS LOCK, they will see the urgency.... hmmm....

Toni from Wollongong posted on 10 Feb 2011
DOH is a joke, I am living in private rental, they have told me I am not eligible for priority housing, I am in a wheelchair myself, and they have ignored my plees because the only way out of my house is down the front stairs, I have no balance and I fall down them everytime I have to go out, DOH have said between my husband who is my carer and my pension we can afford to pay $490 a week in rent, currently my whole pension pays the rent but they won't take into account electricity nor the cost of my medications costing $114 a week, but to add insult to injury DOH have said my husband can go look for a wheelchair accessible house they did not want to listen that I can not be left alone. so I am facing an increase in my rent which is now going to cause me to have to DR-OP one of my medications or DR-OP the money from our groceries, DOH is a joke, because just to get a DOH place with a ramp I have to pay for a occupational therapist report, how am I supposed to come up with $650 for that?

anne from merimbula posted on 1 Jul 2010
did you know housing nsw will assess your carers pension and the person with a disability pension as combined income when applying for priority housing so they can then say you can afford 50% a whole pension in the private rental market plus rent relief means you can afford $350-400 per week in rent they do not consider you need food or heating as long as this department has excuses people with disabilities and their carers have no rights anne

lilly from windsor posted on 21 Apr 2010
this is disgusting

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