Mother and son homeless

Mother and son homeless

Bannister Creek Primary School
Stitch Casey and her six-year-old son are desperate for help after living in a tent in Chittering for two months. Photograph - Aaron Van Rongen.

After a marriage break-up, Stitch Casey’s world went sideways, and she now finds herself as one of WA’s thousands of homeless, spending $50 on fuel every day to get her six-year-old son from their makeshift home – a tent in a field in Chittering – to Bannister Creek Primary School.

Despite her desperate situation, she refuses to let her son miss a day of school, making the 80km trip from Chittering to the school twice a day, staying in the city while she waits for her son to finish school.

Stitch was a crane operator, working in the mines, staying with family and friends before she was married.

The marriage ended when her husband walked out, and Stitch stayed with family and friends for as long as she could, before those relationships deteriorated under the stress.

She was stranded in the peak of WA’s rental crisis.

“I stayed with family and friends again but two months ago they said I couldn’t stay anymore, and I’ve been in this situation ever since,” she said.

“I couldn’t find a safe location for me and my son to stay.

“The rental crisis is so bad, a house that’s advertised for $350, people are bidding $550 to $600 a week for, and they’re only taking couples where they both work, so what chance do I have?”

At her wit’s end, Stitch called almost every caravan park and camp site in Perth, but was knocked back every time until she made a deal with Chittering Acres, a camping farm in the Perth hills.

“I was calling every caravan park, every place that said they were dog friendly, everywhere is fully booked out, some places were charging $160 a night, and I couldn’t find anywhere that would let me pitch a tent with the dog in the tent.

“Chittering Acres was one of my last calls, I thought I’d give it a go, it’s pretty far out but we needed somewhere safe, we’d had a couple of close calls before.

“We reached an agreement with the owner, we could camp out for $50 a week, but we couldn’t stay weekends, that’s how they make their money and I can respect that.”

Adding to her stress, Stitch’s six-year-old son is classified as high needs, a situation that takes its toll on her.

“When you’ve got a sick child and you’ve already taken your next pay just to get fuel in the car…it’s too much.

“My son has a panic disorder and anxiety. He’s a high-needs child, we go to paediatricians, a psychologist, he goes to speech therapy and occupational therapy, it’s too important for him, I can’t miss an appointment.

It was Stitch’s desperate pleas for help that got through to Bannister Creek Primary P and C president Linda Ross.

“What happened for me, we’re on a community group with all the P and C associations, and the president of the Coogee P and C reached out to me and told me about this post that mentioned Bannister Creek Primary, and asked If we could look after her or thrown some support services around her,” Ms Ross said.

“We’ve managed to give this woman a bit of a hug and welcome her into the community, invite her to people, and we’re providing food and lunches to her little boy, and make sure she has everything she needs.

“We’re going through the process of finding her somewhere to live, we’ve given her somewhere to stay for the moment which is safe – I was concerned for her safety – and we’re trying to raise awareness for her, because she’s in a terrible situation.”

Even with this support Stitch is not confident things will get better.

“Bill Johnston and the school have arranged food hampers, which has helped us get by, and Coles vouchers to get fuel in the car,” Stitch said.

“All the government agencies, Anglicare, Entrypoint, they’re all inundated with people calling them, Anglicare has a wait list of 14 or 18 months for help.

“I’m not classed as domestic violence so we fall through the gap, we’re left on our own.

“We’re on the priority housing list which is eight months to two years for housing

“I’m advertising on Gumtree and Facebook just to get support. I’ve been using social media for help.

“I’m just hoping…so many people don’t know what’s going on, there’s so many people in a similar situation, something needs to be done about it.”

A Department of Education spokesperson said Bannister Creek Primary School were aware of the situation but could not comment on the circumstances of a student.