Couple forced out of violent neighbourhood

LAURA Scollo only has two options, and they’re both bad.

Afraid to stay at the public housing she has been offered, her only other option is to stay in her family’s cramped cottage with her three-month-old baby.

Having lived in emergency and government housing unsuitable for young families, the 21-year-old has applied for rental properties but to no avail.

Ms Scollo said it was difficult for her, her partner and their son to find suitable accommodation in Ballarat.

“No one is willing to give us a fair go,” she said.

“I’ve tried applying for rentals but no one is willing to give two 21-year-olds with a newborn baby a house.

“My partner and I are going to be split up. He will have to live in Maryborough with his family while I stay with mum.”

According to UnitingCare executive director Cliff Barclay, securing suitable housing is an ongoing issue for young mothers in Ballarat.

“It depends on your income and, if you’re a single mother and not working, you could put your name down for public housing but you could be waiting for at least a couple of years,” he said.

“Private rental is even harder to get into because you’re not the most competitive tenant. If you’re a landlord and you’ve got somebody who’s 21 with a child and somebody else who has a job, what would the real estate agent recommend?

“It’s very tough for young mums. They really need strong support from their families and if that’s broken down, it makes it very tough.”

For the last month, Ms Scollo and her family have been living in government housing in the now notorious McLennan Close, Mount Pleasant.

But the young mother feels forced to move out of her home following several incidents of antisocial behaviour.

Since moving in, Ms Scollo said she had been verbally abused by neighbours, her partner physically abused, and she had witnessed an incident involving firearms that saw the entire street in lockdown.

“We can’t walk out the front door without being called dogs and told to go back in the house,” Ms Scollo said.

“I just feel unsafe. What would happen if I had my baby in my arms and they tried attacking me? We have no idea what these people are capable of doing.”

According to the Department of Human Services, the Office of Housing was aware of reports of recent antisocial behaviour in McLennan Close and was investigating to see what action it could take under the Residential Tenancies Act.

“The Office of Housing does not tolerate antisocial behaviour from its tenants. When tenants sign up, we make it very clear to them that if they breach their tenancy agreement or affect their neighbour’s quiet enjoyment of their property, then we can and will take action against them,” a department spokesperson said.

“If a public housing tenant is concerned that a neighbouring public housing tenant is affecting their right to enjoy their property, we would urge them to contact us.”

Ms Scollo will now take up temporary residence at her mother’s Black Hill home until she is found more suitable accommodation.

Her mother Judith said the cottage was not appropriate for a young mother and baby due to its size but hoped her daughter would find a safe home in the near future.

“All we want is for Laura to have a fair go where she doesn’t have to face domestic violence and firearms going off on either side of her,” Judith said.

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