John* was a resident of a boarding house in Newtown for 30 years. Photo: Diana Shypula
Kids who grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s very often developed into extremely resilient adults. Take the case of former mailman, John*. Up until recently, the 87-year-old was stoically enduring sub-standard conditions in a Newtown boarding house, despite poor mobility and rapidly declining health.
“I don’t like moving,” explains John. “I believe that if you have good friends then you can put up with anything, and I liked the people there.”
NNC Boarders and Lodgers caseworker Joel first came into contact with John in 2011 after the then 82-year-old suffered a seizure. The hospital that treated John had concerns about his ability to manage in the boarding house that had been his home for 30 years, and referred him to NNC. Without the Centre’s intervention, John was at high risk of living out his days in misery due to declining health, a lack of social interaction, and exploitation by fellow tenants.
After seeing the state of the boarding house where John was living in, Joel immediately realised he would receive better care elsewhere. He suggested to John that he consider a move to a dedicated aged care hostel with facilities for the frail elderly. But, thanks to a strong independent streak, John refused, preferring to stay on in the boarding house.
Over the next five years, NNC’s Boarders and Lodgers program assisted John in undertaking tasks he could not complete alone, including helping him to liaise with government departments. When one of John’s toes became septic, Joel helped organise medical care, which ultimately involved amputating the toe and saving his life.
Finally, when John found himself unable to walk to bathroom due to problems with his legs, he agreed to Joel’s suggestion to move to the Uniting Church’s Locke Haven Hostel in Petersham. The move has been proved a great success, with John now settled in and rapidly making friends. “They are pretty good here,” admits John. “They have really nice rooms, the food is real good, and the staff will do anything for you.”
And what does he think of Joel’s support? “Joel is mean and miserable!” he says with a wink and laugh that shows he thinks just the opposite is true.
We’re working to support residents of boarding houses and those facing homelessness. And we know that we need more affordable housing for Sydney to reduce rental stress and homelessness and to build a stronger, diverse and inclusive community.
You can help by signing our petition for more affordable housing.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
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