Public housing eviction leaves mother and son homeless in ‘heartless’ trend in the NT

In the dark of the night, on a humid March evening, Cherylene Campbell opened the rickety front door of her dream house to security guards and was handed a reminder.

She was to be in the housing court the very next morning to defend herself against numerous allegations of anti-social behavior.

In a matter of minutes, Ms Campbell and her then 14-year-old son were given two weeks to vacate and find a new home in a pocket of Australia where people remain on a waiting list for public housing for up to a decade.

“We tried to get a place in Darwin, so Taylen could stay at school. We tried all the hostels but they were all full. Then, at the last minute, we took what we could and went to Katherine,” Ms Campbell said.

“We just took clothes, my phone, and my chair. That’s all we could take.

The Northern Territory government did not respond to questions by the ABC regarding the whereabouts of Ms Campbell’s belongings.

Decade-long wait for home

Behind a tall wire fence, in a northern suburb of Darwin, the yellow walls of the rundown government-owned home were starting to peel. But to Ms Campbell, and her two teenage sons, the home was a dream come true.

They had waited 10 years for the three-bedroom house with disability access, moving between crisis accommodation centers, public houses, and hostels.

“We finally felt like we could get our life on track. We wouldn’t be homeless, but I think I jinxed myself.”

In a tumultuous couple of months – from September 2021 to March 2022 – while residing in the house, Ms Campbell said she lost both her sister and her unborn baby, which she miscarried at six months.

She said she was in the middle of a dispute with her ex-partner and she was still getting used to using a wheelchair after her leg was amputated.

To make matters worse, a neighbor was filing a string of complaints to the NT government’s Department of Territory Families and Housing and police were turning up at her door.

15 year old Taylen sits at a round table laughing, opposite his mother, in front on a home in Katherine.
Cherylene Campbell and Taylen, 15, fear they will be sleeping rough if they cannot find affordable housing soon.(ABC Katherine: Roxanne Fitzgerald)

“She complained about TV late at night, or the boys playing video games… she said I drew a lot of attention to my house, she was complaining about my visitors, my family and friends who would come to help me clean the house or fix the garden because I can’t do it, “she said.

“We couldn’t even have a BBQ without her complaining.

‘Heartless and uncompassionate’ evictions on the rise

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