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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Miriam Webber

Having a house means having a future for this Canberra dad

Luke Juratowitch is settling into community housing after three months of experiencing homelessness. Picture by Keegan Carroll

Luke Juratowitch is coming to terms with looking out over a backyard, and knowing he can plant a garden.

He is coming to terms with having a house with enough space for himself and his teenage daughter.

Occasionally, he even notices an echo.

They are used to living out of Bunnings storage tubs and washing baskets, even washing clothes in them because laundromats were too expensive.

Just four weeks ago, in his third month of homelessness, it felt like he and his daughter were "marooned" in the cramped hotel they were living out of.

"I'm also feeling a little bit of guilt for those who are still stuck in a bad predicament and in the situation that I was in a few weeks ago," he said.

"I can't help but think of them, or empathise with them, rather."

Mr Juratowitch and his daughter arrived in Canberra at the beginning of February, seeking stability.

But unable to afford to rent in Australia's most expensive city, they were plunged into couch-surfing, before specialist homelessness service OneLink placed them into hotel accommodation in June.

Why do single dads struggle to find housing?

It isn't an uncommon experience for single dads who are experiencing homelessness, Everyman chief executive Greg Aldridge said.

Weathering high cost of living and spiking rents, there is huge demand for social housing from all kinds of people in the territory right now, especially women fleeing domestic violence.

Single men with children have also become one of the vulnerable cohorts, with a lack of housing to cater to them, Mr Aldridge said.

The housing and service provider has received 40 referrals for single men with children in need of accommodation this year. Only 14 of those men with children have been housed.

There are another 26 men with children waiting, but the provider doesn't have any more houses for them yet.

"The programs that could be supporting them are the ones that support families," Mr Aldridge said.

"I think the major bottleneck for single dads is that when those programs are considering the needs of all of the people who are in their pipeline, and doing a triage process, the mums who are escaping domestic violence with their children get priority, which is really as it should be.

"The problem for single dads is that there aren't any dedicated options specifically for them."

Only Everyman provides housing specifically for single fathers - while CatholicCare Minosa and Samaritan House cater to single men - though a range of other community and public housing also support the cohort.

More consideration for the children: Everyman

"I have a teenage daughter, so a men's refuge was out of the question," Mr Juratowitch said.

"We had this particular niche where there wasn't anything specific to help us."

More consideration needed to be given to the children these fathers were caring for, Mr Aldridge said.

"A child who is sleeping in a car and facing long-term housing uncertainty, really struggles to engage in all sorts of normal things that kids do," he said.

"They can't have friends come around and stay, there are problems with security around schooling, they're often fearful and anxious because they don't know where they live," he said.

"It's really hard for a dad who is homeless to be able to support their kids in dealing with that stuff properly."

For Mr Juratowitch, having a house meant having a future.

"I want to breathe for a couple of months and just get used to my home, but I'm quite passionate about IT," he said.

"And I'd really want to get studying and try and get some sort of employment in IT."

  • For specialist homelessness services contact OneLink on 1800 176 468.
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