From being helped to being a helper, Michelle has chosen to walk a different pathway since she received support from Visionwest.
Michelle knew her life wasn’t going great. She was homeless, sleeping in her car or in the garages of friends until a WINZ support worker found her emergency accommodation – a hotel in Mt Eden. As she continued to look for more permanent housing where she and her three children could settle down, someone recommended she go to Visionwest.
“I’d never heard of Visionwest,” says Michelle, “but I went down and was met at the Whānau Centre by a lady who welcomed me and listened to my story. I filled out some forms and three weeks later, someone rang to say they had a suitable house. That’s the day my life changed for good.”
Michelle recognised her three immediate needs, housing, finance, and her state of mind, all of which she describes as, “not good.” She was introduced to a housing Support Navigator, a Visionwest Financial Mentor, and a Visionwest Counsellor.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for those three people. I love them and I love everyone at Visionwest. Visionwest has always been there for me. I was going through a rough patch, called my Counsellor and she helped me through it. I needed help organising the house Visionwest provided me with, and my Support Navigator was there to give advice and practical help. I went through a tough time financially and my Financial Mentor helped me work out a budget. I didn’t know about the Visionwest Pātaka Kai in those days but then, every week, food turned up at my door so I could feed my kids. Everything was different because of that. I had hope back in my life.”
When she talks about life today, Michelle tells of how, not only her life but the lives of her children have been transformed. “If I hadn’t been pushed to come to Visionwest, and receive the help I needed, I wouldn’t be the smiley person I am today. I’d be miserable. Probably still homeless.
“But it’s not just me that’s changed. As soon as we had a stable home life, I could see changes in my children. They were happier and more enthusiastic and positive about life. They stopped doing bad things. I credit Visionwest with all that.”
Michelle appreciates the support given by Visionwest, but it’s achieved more than lift her whānau out of a tough spot; it’s ignited a desire within her to help others in the same way she was helped.
Michelle is a schedule coordinator and part-time support worker for an organisation that supports people with intellectual disabilities. “I want to give back to my community in whatever way I can,” she explains.
“Longer term, I’d love to help our youth, especially young wahine, because I was once a young mum battling through life, but that changed. I’m proud of where I’m at today.
“Even when we were bouncing house to house or car to car or garage to garage, I ensured that my kids knew, if you make mistakes, there will be consequences, but those mistakes don’t need to define your life. That’s a foundation I want to pass onto others.”
Once the one needing help, today helping others is something that comes naturally to Michelle. She and her friends regularly have a soup day when they come together and make huge quantities of soup before heading out to give it to the homeless in their communities.
“I got this idea from the help I get from Visionwest,” she says. “I got where I am because of people who were willing to give back and so now I try to do the same.”
To find out more about Visionwest Community Housing – click here.