Paula wouldn’t have been able to maintain her job without a home. Paula had been doing it tough. Though she had been in steady work, "everything went pear-shaped" when she was widowed. She had been renting from a friend in Waterloo. The friend had financial problems and Paula was suddenly homeless.
Through one of those wonderful, unexpected connections, her daughter's husband's brother had recently acquired a CWH unit in Pyrmont and suggested Paula put in an application. She made the call and was invited in for coffee and a chat to discuss her future.
Paula made light of her situation by calling it 'couch-surfing'. She was most impressed, however, when the first person she met at City West Housing corrected her by calling it what it is: a tragedy. She was thrilled to have found people who cared for her plight. Then an opening arose for her to have a new home at Zetland. Or, as she prefers to call it because she wants her address to sound a bit 'posh', Victoria Park. There were a few surprises in store as well. "It's a large apartment. I had expected something like a shoebox size but it's not."
And, although Paula had lived in lots of places, she had never really managed to create relationships with her neighbours. In Zetland – sorry, Victoria Park - it took no time at all. Just the minor inconvenience of a broken lift. She was standing at the doors which refused to open, thinking it was going to be "me, the fireman and a cherrypicker. But these lovely ladies came along and said 'if we ring up, they will come and fix it.'"
With Paula's natural outgoingness, that quickly led to a regular coffee club at the café downstairs. From there to friendship took no time at all. Paula still has her job. She has been cooking for 110 kids at a childcare centre in Coogee for the past 20 years. "It's a hard job. People say – 'what do you cook for yourself at night?' I say nothing. Lean cuisine or toast." And there's her irresistible laugh again.
The security of a place to call home has made a huge difference for Paula. Not the least because Paula wouldn’t have been able to maintain her job without a home and the stress of moving all the time was wearing her down. Now she has her confidence back. "I'm not a youngster. And now that I have affordable housing, I can think about retiring. I used to think I'd have to keep working until I was a hundred, then drop dead in the kitchen at work. The childcare centre is on Catholic land, so I always used to think they could take me straight to the church next door for burial.
"But I don't have to do that now. I'm not paying over half my wages in rent. I might actually be able to retire. "I didn't see a future back then. Now I can."