How Caring For Her Disabled Daughter Left Christine Homeless
Christine Cassar spent three months homeless, sleeping in her car and on park benches while struggling to access support services to care full-time for her disabled daughter.
Brooke was blinded in one eye and impaired on the left side of her body after being hit by a car when she was four years old. Growing up, she was in and out of hospitals and suffered seizures on a regular basis.
Now 28, she needs supervision at all times and is unable to work, drive or cook for herself.
The trauma of the incident has had an impact on Cassar's entire family.
"Us carers, we’re so focused on who we’re caring for. I had no time to grieve or process what happened and then I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 17 years later," she said.
Cassar was forced onto the street 18 months ago after refusing to sign a second lease on the property she was living in with her daughter.
She told 10 daily the Gold Coast unit was not disability-friendly and her daughter had been falling down the stairs, eventually ending up in hospital after sustaining a fractured ankle.
Cassar was given two choices: re-sign the lease, or find a rental property with disability modifications.
With time running out and unable to secure alternative accommodation, Cassar was locked out of the unit.
"I lost my income, my home, all I had left was my car. Then the police impounded my car and I had to sleep in the park," Cassar said.
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"As the mum, I’m the one that has to be the strong one. I fell in a hole because we’re not robots, we’re not built to sustain trauma after trauma," she said.
When she ended up on the streets, the 56-year-old single mother ensured her daughter was looked after and sent her to live with a relative.
It's been months since she's seen her daughter, as she attempts to get back on her feet and provide an environment to care for her.
"There's so many things I miss about her. She's so selfless and has so much empathy for other people. If she sees someone with a disability she just wants to help them. Animals just love her, she's all about love," Cassar said.
"Even going out and picking a flower for me when I'm feeling down. She's such a special soul that girl."
Australia has more than 2.7 million carers, equating to about 12 percent of the population.
Australian carers contribute $60.3 billion to the economy of unpaid work each year, often at the determent to their own employment and education opportunities.
According to the Medical Journal of Australia, carers are more likely to experience mental health problems and financial hardship.
Carers Australia CEO Ara Cresswell said carers confront a host of difficulties.
"It is important to note that we only have information on those seeking services, and there are likely to be much larger numbers of homeless people with mental health issues," she said.
Carers Australia is currently supporting Cassar in a bid to help her get in a position to care for her daughter again.
"Many carers face a huge range of challenges, including high levels of stress, chronic sleep deprivation, social isolation and just the wear and tear which can be associated with caring on a daily basis often over many years," Cresswell said.
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Cassar told 10 daily she's had minimal psychological support in more than two decades of being a carer.
"[As a single mother ] nobody was there to support me. I had to maintain the property, do the lawn, the pool, whatever needed doing around the house," she said.
"I had to transport her, I had to cook, I had to clean, I had to do the whole lot with no support."
Contact Eden on Twitter @edengillespie.