Margaret, aged 62, lost everything in the Lismore floods in March 2017, but with the support of Open Minds and her ‘Recovery Blanket of Hope’, she’s back on her feet and thriving better than ever in her new home.
Before Margaret came to Open Minds, she was homeless and lived in her van, which was sadly destroyed in the Lismore floods in March 2017.
“I remember watching the water run through my van and doing irreparable damage. I remember thinking to myself, where am I going to go next?
“All the disaster around me gave me some perspective though. It wasn’t just me going through this hard time, there were people far worse off than I was. I realised I’m not the only one struggling and the community really came together and supported each other.”
Several months after the floods, Margaret came to Open Minds.
Open Minds began working with Margaret towards her goals, these were sometimes small like shopping for groceries, but even these small tasks were big and overwhelming for Margaret at the time.
Most importantly, Open Minds assisted Margaret to find a new home.
Firstly, through the partnership Open Minds has with HASI (Housing and Support Initiative) in New South Wales, Open Minds found Margaret suitable temporary accommodation.
This gave the team and Margaret time to progress her housing application.
When the application was approved, Georgia Cole, Open Minds Case Worker, delivered the news to Margaret. Georgia said: “I shared the good news with her and watched her eyes fill up with tears, the then smiled and expressed how relieved she felt.”
Knowing that Margaret used to be very creative, Georgia began to encourage Margaret to express her creativity again.
At first, Margaret was very hesitant to try these activities again after her mental health break down and being diagnosed with Bipolar.
However, with gentle encouragement from Georgia, Margaret began to write poetry, stories, sew, knit and crochet.
Georgia said: “During some support sessions when there was no housing, medical or daily tasks to work on together, we would sit in her lounge room or kitchen and talk while Margaret taught me how to knit.”
This is when Margaret knitted her recovery blanket of hope, with each colour representing a significant part of her life.
The green parts represent the lawn – at the time, finding a service to mow her lawns was overwhelming and caused some anxiety for Margaret to budget for.
Through her support and Margaret’s will to overcome those feelings, she now manages to organise a service to mow her lawns, and works the costs into her budget.
The blue in her blanket represented a time when Margaret and Georgia were in Ballina next to the river mouth and ocean.
Georgia said: “Margaret described the blue to represent the water next to us as she was feeling calm and motivated at the time.”
Margaret wanted to offer support to those in Townsville who also have lost their homes: “Don’t give up, things will get better with time. Sharing my story now makes me reflect on my own experience and how far I have come in the past year. I am okay and you will be too. It has been a long, hard journey but I am finally getting there, and I am absolutely ecstatic to have a place to call home.”