Let them age in place

The Relocation of public housing tenants – removing them from Millers Point and destroying the only community many of them know – is described as brutal in a new university study.

The experiences of residents who have experienced the Relocation are documented in a paper by Professor Alan Morris, Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology  Sydney. See A contemporary forced urban removal: The displacement of public housing residents from Millers Point, Dawes Point and the Sirius Building by the New South Wales Government.

What is so powerful about Professor Morris’s documentation is that he allows the residents to tell the story of the Relocation in their own words. His paper concludes:

“What is evident is that the actual and intended removal of public housing residents from Millers Point unleashed a great deal of hardship and distress… In sum, the way the New South Wales government has gone about the move was viewed by most interviewees as brutal… The announcement that all residents were to be moved was catastrophic for some residents and precipitated extreme anxiety and depression.”

The above stories contrast with what appears on the FACS NSW website. See here for the FACS report about residents’ gratitude towards their Relocation Officers who seemed to know what was best for them all along.  Since the FACS presentation appears to conflict with a university study by an eminent professor, it is likely to disappear soon, so the text is reproduced at the bottom of this article.

This story will by updated regulary, with  details of residents relocated from Millers Point. Thank you to Robert Mowbray for updating us on this study and for his report about it, upon which this story is based.

Below is Mary Vo being forced to climb stairs to view unsuitable alternative housing. Mary Vo was forced out of Millers Point.  See the exchange between Kelli and FACS over this Relocation. Read the update on Kevin’s story after he was Relocated.  Shame on Mike Baird.

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Family and Community Services want to move Myra from Sirius. In September 2016 she has been offered a flat in Sussex Street but the maximum lease available on the flat is three years. Since she is blind and has lived in the area around her home in The Rocks for 57 years, it is too much to expect her to relocate to unfamiliar places twice in three years. Myra declined this offer. The next offer from FACS was a flat in Kent Street, and the flat might have suited except that Myra was unable to climb the stairs to the front entrance. A Relocation Officer thought she should accept it anyway, without seeing it. Myra is only half joking when she says, “they want me dead.” She will continue to cooperate with the Relocation Team, but hopes to age in place in her beloved Sirius.

Family and Community Services Department misinformation

After reading of the sadness and isolation of those forced to move in a properly conducted university study by a prominent professor working in the area, it is interesting to read the how FACS writes about the people it is relocating from Millers Point. The following is from the FACS website (http://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/reforms/social-housing/millers-point/supporting-tenants-in-millers-point – retrieved 22 September 2016)…

Tenant stories – according to FACS

Former Millers Point tenants share their stories of finding their new homes.

Fran’s story – according to FACS

Looking out onto her leafy view, Fran is beaming when she says, ‘I’m happier here’.

Relaxing on her terrace Fran tells us she often sits here and enjoys the chorus of birds that come flying through the neighbourhood. The view behind her is a wall of iconic Sydney jacarandas in full bloom.

Fran was surprised how quickly things moved when she decided on her new home. Originally she came along with a friend as moral support to view this unit. It didn’t suit her friend, but Fran really liked it so she asked if she could move in instead.

Rebecca, her relocation officer, was worried about the stairs at first, so they spoke with Fran’s doctor. Her doctor fully endorsed the move saying the stairs would actually be good for her – they would keep her mobile. And so it was set.

It had taken Fran 12 months to decide to move and now that she has, she regrets not going sooner.

‘It was a fraught process, but moving always is,’ Fran tells us, ‘Rebecca was very patient with me and listened to what I wanted’.

Fran says it was the little things that made her feel better about moving to a new area, ‘Before I moved in, Rebecca drove me around the area to get familiar with it.’ She pointed out the doctors’ surgery, the shops, chemist, those kinds of things.’ ‘Housing transferred my power and water bills to the new address and offered to organise my transfer on the electoral roll. They really took care of everything.’

Fran’s unit shows off her flair for interior design and eye for detail. It’s thoughtfully decorated and she says she’s enjoyed putting it all together over this past year. She even refurbished a second-hand coffee table, using the space on her terrace.

‘I love being able to come up here and enjoy the haven I have created for myself,’ she adds.

If this is a true story, FACS should pass on details of “Fran” so she can be included in the continuing investigation by Professor Morris on the effects of the Millers Point relocation.

Fay’s story – according to FACS

‘It was love at first sight,’ gushes Fay, a bright, active 77-year-old who moved from Millers Point in June this year with her son, Craig. She said she wanted to get in quick and the place she moved into was the first and only one she looked at – she fell in love instantly and didn’t need to see anything else. Fay says moving here was ‘the best thing ever’.

‘I haven’t had a backyard for 30 years – we didn’t have an outdoor area like this in Millers Point. The birds are a bit too noisy, but it’s great I can hang my clothes on the line out in the sunlight,’ she adds. ‘We used to come shopping here for the groceries anyway. The area is quiet and we’re still getting to know our neighbours, but we’ve already made one very good friend across the road. The neighbours look after each other here.’

Fay tells us that a lot of things are easier living where she is now that she’s out of the city. She gets parking more easily and her local shops, where she does the groceries, also includes a medical centre.

Having been a resident in Millers Point for over 30 years, Fay admits she and her son were nervous about moving. But they wanted to get into their new place quickly. Their relocation officer, Lorraine, took care of all the details such as arranging the removalists. Judit, relocation specialist, organised for a doctor to assess the new home to make sure it was appropriate for Fay and that her medical needs would be taken care of. Fay says she couldn’t fault Lorraine and Judit who took care of so much.

Fay, nicknamed Yoyo by her late husband, is energetic and positive despite health concerns. When they first moved in, she and Craig, developed and adventurous spirit and would walk the streets during the day to get to know the area. ‘I love it here. I look around and think to myself, “thank God we’re here,”’ Fay says.

If this is a true story, FACS should pass on details of “Fay” so she can be included in the continuing investigation by Professor Morris on the effects of the Millers Point relocation.

Cedric’s story – according to FACS

Cedric didn’t hesitate when his relocation coordinator let him know about a two-bedroom unit in a street back from the beach. After viewing it, he jumped at the offer to move. Having lived in The Rocks for 11 years, he was tired of being in the noisy city.

Cedric hasn’t looked back and says he couldn’t be happier. He was surprised by how welcoming and friendly the locals are, ‘I know everyone in the building – they’re all just beautiful.’

‘When I first moved in, the neighbour already knew my name and asked if there was anything I needed’. Cedric’s block of units has been recently renovated and his neighbour takes care of the garden out the front which has inspired him to think about creating a communal vegetable patch.

He also thinks the sea air has improved his health and says, ‘I can hear the waves at night. It’s so quiet here.’

Photos of his family adorn the living room as well his son’s paintings. He says his family are really happy for him and like to visit for barbecues at the beach. ‘It’s a lovely area – I have everything I need here,’ he says.

If this is a true story, FACS should pass on details of “Cedric” so he can be included in the continuing investigation by Professor Morris on the effects of the Millers Point relocation.

Akanisi’s story – according to FACS

When Akanisi thought about leaving her Millers Point family home of over 20 years she vowed to be open to the move, ‘I decided to get rid of the negative thoughts and face reality,’ she said. Her four children had grown up, moved on and living in a four-bedroom home no longer made sense, ‘My children were worried about me at first but I wanted to move.’ She saw this as her chance to be near her daughter, church and friends. It was a chance to start a new chapter of her life.

Akanisi spoke with her relocation coordinator, Theresa, about wanting to live close to her daughter and she also wanted to make sure she could bring her pet cat. Theresa promised to do her best. Her daughter viewed her new unit in Homebush as Akanisi was visiting her son in Queensland. ‘She said to me, ‘Mum you will love it. You’re close to the market!.’ Every day I love it more and more here,’ Akanisi explained.

Akanisi cherishes the weekend visits from her grandson, ‘He loves it here. We go shopping at the markets together – fruit and vegetables are cheaper and fresher than in the city’.

The happiness Akanisi feels being close to her family is written all over her face. She sees them more now and knows they are close by if she gets lonely.

She encourages other people who haven’t moved yet to, ‘Give housing as much information as you can. Explain what you need. Everything they promised me, they delivered,’ she added.

If this is a true story, FACS should pass on details of “Akanisi” so he can be included in the continuing investigation by Professor Morris on the effects of the Millers Point relocation.

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