Last week, City of Rockingham councillor Katherine Summers was one of only two councillors to vote in favour of a proposed homeless facility in Shoalwater. She told the Sound Telegraph why the matter was one close to her heart…
Finding herself sleeping in a car for two weeks with her two young children after leaving a domestic violence situation, City of Rockingham councillor Katherine Summers is hoping to break down misconceptions about people who are homeless, and says more needs to be done to support the vulnerable in the community.
Speaking to the Sound Telegraph about her experiences, Cr Summers said she had twice beenhomeless – as a child when she was taken into care, then as an adult.
Cr Summers was eight years old when she and her three sisters were taken into care after a domestic violence incident between her parents, and then
as an adult, and with two young children, Cr Summers was forced to flee a domestic violence situation.
“I had to take off in our beaten-up car and all I took was a cot and clothes I had shoved into bin bags,” she said.
“I didn’t have anywhere to go but told my children we were going on a holiday. We drove up to Fremantle and I parked the car by the beach and had to pretend we were just camping.”
The comments and looks she received while sleeping in her car with her children brought out feelings of “deep shame” for Cr Summers, who said she was made to feel embarrassed for not being able to provide for her children.
“I vividly recall that experience of being so tired because I would stay awake all night, making sure I could protect them,” she said.
After two weeks sleeping in her car, and having no idea where to turn for help, Cr Summers walked into a real estate agent, where a chance encounter with a woman helped get her off the streets.
“I had no references but knew I was getting a payment from work later that week. The woman said that a small cottage had just become available for rent, and that I could have it. We moved in that day,” she said.
Services such as Centrelink and the tax office also helped Cr Summers.
“I didn’t know how to access a shelter or support services, and I probably didn’t have the state of mind to be able to ask for that help,” she said.
“Those people helped me in my darkest hour; I am so deeply grateful,” she said.
Cr Summers said homeless people come from all walks of life and circumstances, but communities and society were moving away from compassion and caring for others.
“I think I was lucky and it came down to good people doing the right thing at the right time, however we need more money to be put into accommodation and services,” she said.