Pregnant Ballarat teen on verge of homelessness

Kymetah Wilson, 19, is pregnant and will have nowhere to live when her friend’s lease expires in September. PICTURE: KATE HEALY

Kymetah Wilson, 19, is pregnant and will have nowhere to live when her friend’s lease expires in September. PICTURE: KATE HEALY

A PREGNANT teenager who has been rejected from more than 20 rental properties in Ballarat says she fears she will end up homeless.

Ballarat resident Kymetah Wilson, 19, survives day by day. Barely able to make ends meet on $220 a fortnight from Centrelink, Ms Wilson has resorted to sleeping at a friend’s place. 

But her friend’s lease is up in September and Ms Wilson is afraid she will have nowhere to go. 

At the moment she and her boyfriend Zane, 20, rely on his wage of $300 a week.

After recently becoming unemployed, Ms Wilson has applied for dozens of jobs to no avail.

“Who would want to take on a pregnant woman?” Ms Wilson said. “It has been really difficult because we don’t have a rental history, so when we apply for houses we are constantly being rejected with no reason given.

“We don’t have the money in the bank. I have tried to explain my situation but it doesn’t seem to change anything. It is so upsetting.” 

Moving back into her family home is not an option for Ms Wilson. 

Her mum has severe osteoarthritis and her dad is her full-time carer.

Her dad also recently suffered a stroke, losing movement in one side of his body, so Ms Wilson’s parents now rely on a disability pension to make ends meet and pay off their mortgage. 

Ms Wilson said there was not enough room at her parents’ house with her brother already living in a caravan in the backyard.

“I don’t want to burden my parents because I know they have enough to worry about,” Ms Wilson said. 

The stress of finding a home is also adding pressure to her relationship with her boyfriend because the baby is due in February.

“The whole process is really bringing me down,” Ms Wilson said. “I feel upset and frustrated all the time and we have been constantly arguing about how we are going to get by.”

Her words come in the wake of the deaths of Shannon Knowles, 24, and Jesse Scholes, 27, who were found with their dog in a car in Cardigan on Friday night.

It is believed Mr Scholes was living in his car at the time and the young couple were using a butane heater to keep warm.

Ms Wilson said the stigma attached to people experiencing unemployment  and housing stress is demoralising and has left her feeling isolated.

“Every day I am worried about where I am going to be living or if I will have enough money to survive when this baby comes,” Ms Wilson said.

Medical appointments and groceries take most of the couple’s money, with barely enough left to purchase prenatal vitamins.

UnitingCare Ballarat executive director Cliff Barclay said Ms Wilson’s case is not unique.

He said there was a need for more affordable housing in the city to cater for soaring levels of suburban homelessness and at the moment there was a dire shortage of single bedroom dwellings. 

“We simply can’t meet the demand in housing,” Mr Barclay said.

“The fact is we need more housing stock, we need different types of housing to cater for couples and single people. Young people on lower incomes are not competitive tenants, they struggle to find accommodation.

“Rental and real estate agents are duty bound to pick the strongest tenant for a property and the community’s most vulnerable are the ones missing out.”

Mr Barclay said he wanted Ballarat’s council to consider building high density housing in the heart of the city.

“There are people sleeping in their cars and temporarily at friends’ houses,” he said.

“This is homelessness just as much as sleeping on the streets. They still face vulnerability and isolation. We need to start designing properties that match the needs at hand.”

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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