Woman with auburn hair and facial piercings smiling at camera

FACED WITH AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE WHEN FINDING HERSELF HOMELESS, FEROS CARE LAC JESS WILLIAMS IS NOW COMMITTED TO HELPING OTHERS SECURE SHELTER AND SUPPORT.

Lived experience frames a stark reminder of the past, but for Feros Care Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Jess Williams, it sparks the passion driving her present.

Securing her dream of landing the role with Feros Care North Adelaide in November and loving being able to assist National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants to plan and reach their goals, Jess was nearing the place she wanted to be.

However, when the opportunity to sign up and drive a project designed to assist the public and government housing system and community through a Housing and Homelessness project, Jess jumped at the chance, for it wasn’t all too long ago she found herself in the position of being homeless.

“I approached to say I was really interested in the project through my lived experience,” Jess said.

“It’s something that’s really dear to my heart, and I want to be there for people because I understand. This project is about reaching out to people who may not understand the system or the NDIS to provide supports and options.

“There’s families out there homeless and they don’t have housing or disabled support, so the intent is to help people gain supports and access to what they need. I had support, and I’m one of the lucky ones, but a lot of homeless people don’t have that, so I want to be that voice and support for them.”

From Christmas lunch at the Salvation Army to now enjoying career and security for her and her children reflects a steely will and determination that helped drive Jess out of a “hole” she couldn’t believe she was in, when her world came crashing down suddenly in 2011 after years of happiness.

Emigrating to Australia from Watford, England as a 14-year-old, Jess lived the good life in her adopted hometown, attending private school and enjoying a solid home life.

Finding her way in the world post schooling through a range of jobs, it was through a promotion’s role in the city as a 19-year-old when Jess met her future husband, paving a path towards her future.

“We got married a year later and had our first daughter, Allera,” Jess said.

“Things were good and 26 months later, we had our second daughter, Khyanna.

“Then our marriage broke down a year or so after she was born.”

THE EFFECTS OF BEING HOMELESS HIT REALLY HARD FOR JESS

After Jess’ circumstances changed, she spent the next six weeks couch surfing with her kids while applying for rentals. Without any money and her parents losing their business while her father also battled cancer, times were challenging.

Jess had to quit her job while accessing the Salvation Army; living off fuel cards, food vouchers, provided phone credit and food packages to stay afloat.

“Not knowing where the next meal was coming from is really challenging… especially when relying on others and when you have kids, you don’t want to be a burden,” Jess said.

“I felt like a burden and my mental health was really bad… I would have been completely homeless if I didn’t have friends and I would have had to leave my kids with someone.

“Thankfully, it never got to that, but that affected me so much and that never goes away.”

Losing hope and motivation while trying to find ways to help young children to understand the situation. it was a phone call which proved the catalyst for altering Jess’ future path.

Receiving that call to advise she’d received housing instantly turned things around, but traumatised and knowing many others are not as lucky, Jess wanted to help those going through the same thing.

After completing a Certificate Three in Aged Care, Jess started a diploma to become an Enrolled Nurse before transitioning into mental health work. Looking for a further challenge, Jess worked for an agency in Aged Care facilities, before becoming a community disability support worker.

HOW FEROS CARE AND THE NDIS PROVIDED A PLATFORM FOR JESS’ DETERMINATION TO ASSIST OTHERS

 After meeting her now partner, Jess took time off after having son, Logan, before a diagnosis for Allera was the final factor in Jess’ journey to Feros Care.

“Allera, now 13, was diagnosed as Level 2 Autistic and that really turned my life around further,” Jess said.

“I’d had family with disability and an empathetic nature, so, I started working in disability support.

“I then worked as a mentor support leader and when this role with Feros Care came up, I got it and I was shocked, but I was really happy.”

With her passion to help people, Jess has thrived as an LAC through assisting participants to access community and mainstream supports, and services they couldn’t previously.

Parenting a child with Autism has provided Jess with added knowledge and empathy, and a great satisfaction in helping people reach their goals.

“I’ve got a passion to help, and I get satisfaction out of knowing I’ve done a good job,” Jess said. 

“There’s challenges but knowing you can help people to build capacity and independence while reducing risks of burnout for formal supports is really satisfying.”

With an estimated 42% of national housing dwellings containing a person with a disability, and the homelessness rate in South Australia over 6,200 people on any given night, the Housing and Homelessness project is doing great things.

Through interactive workshops and coming up with ways to connect in the current climate, the Information, Linkages and Capacity (ILC) project has assisted housing and homeless providers to be better supported, so they can in-turn provide better support for their tenants and clients.

For those already on the street, a family connection led her son’s grandmother to knitting 55 beanies, which were donated to homeless support, the Adelaide Day Centre.

While having big plans for becoming an advocate for disability in the future, Jess said there’d be no slowing down for the project.

“I don’t understand living under a bridge, but I do understand what it’s like to go from having a house and car to having nothing, and the only friendly face you may see is someone serving you a meal in a shelter,” she said.

“But a lot of people don’t have that option and there’s mental health issues, drugs and alcohol, and homelessness has no gender discrimination… there’s women and children who need support, and there’s also disability, so I want to help with that inclusion while offering a friendly face.

“And for those working in the housing and homelessness sectors, knowing what supports are available can help people to get into homes or maintain them. So, through the project, I want to be that voice for them and show how the NDIS can help.”

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW SOME OF OUR OTHER LACS ARE ASSISTING OTHERS TO REACH THEIR GOALS.

FIND OUT HOW OUR PROJECTS ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE BY CLICKING HERE.

 

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