August 5, 2019

Sandi’s Story

Sandi was 10 when her parents welcomed their fifth child, a daughter who was born with Cerebral Palsy and chronic lung disease.

She describes the birth of her sister as a sudden coming of age. Her sister required full-time care, and as the eldest of the children, Sandi took on more responsibilities as her parents juggled her sister’s condition. She describes the family environment as being incredibly stressful and says she was often left to figure things out on her own.

“I was thrust into adulthood pretty quickly,” Sandi said. “It wasn’t the easiest adjustment.”

Sandi describes her younger self as a chronic runaway kid. When things became too much at home, or she became frustrated with her family’s situation, Sandi would leave. She would hang out in parks for hours, or sleep at friends’ houses overnight. At 12 years old she enjoyed the idea of independence, being able to make her own decisions and not being responsible for anyone else. At the time, Sandi wouldn’t have classified herself as homeless or at-risk. In hindsight, Sandi feels that she was definitely at-risk of becoming homeless.

“Sometimes, leaving just seemed easier,” she said. “I was so ready to grow up.”

Her situation was assessed by a community service organisation, and she was deemed at-risk of homelessness. A single bedroom studio with bathroom was installed in the family’s backyard to give Sandi much-needed space away from the chaos.

Sandi says having her own space in the studio was an improvement on her frame of mind and living situation. She had her own space to study, and best of all, she had her own bathroom, which she says was the highlight of having her own studio.

“The studio did keep me at home longer than I would have stayed without it,” Sandi says. The space gave Sandi a taste of independence while enabling her to continue her education and build on the foundations of her family life.

Sandi doesn’t like to dwell on what her life would be like today if she hadn’t had the Kids Under Cover studio. “As a teenager I was stubborn, but I recognise that I had a tough period. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had the studio.”

At 16 years old, Sandi went MIA, leaving home for a month. She returned to her family and the independence of her studio. Sandi ultimately moved into an apartment, juggling her studies, working part-time and paying rent.

Sandi says her experience with Kids Under Cover has been a big part of where she is now. More than 10 years on, Sandi is living in Melbourne and is very close to her family. She takes any opportunity to give back to the organisation that helped her at such a critical time.

She is a regular volunteer for the Kids Under Cover, and donated a vehicle via the Donate Your Car program in 2013.

“I’ve got a new outlook on life. I count my blessings that I was able to live in a Kids Under Cover Studio.”