Out of jail, out of home: Mothers plead for ex-inmate housing support

The issue of housing affordability hits close to home for many, but for ex-prisoners, getting a roof over their head is a rollercoaster of homelessness, rental knock-backs and public housing waiting lists.

Eurobodalla mothers Michelle Preston and Donna Falconer say the system is failing their sons, leaving them out on the street or in the company of drug dealers.

“They’re just treading water from the moment they get out because there’s no affordable housing for them,” Ms Preston said of her 26-year-old son, Tysyn.

“In the city there’s a number of halfway houses, but when they’re in a rural area, there’s nothing available.”

Ms Preston said her son was released into homelessness after a previous prison term and left to live in a tent in Narooma for 18 months.

“For a landlord, if they’ve got 10 people going for the one property and one has a criminal record, the landlord doesn’t want to know them,” she said.

“There’s a few organisations that try to help them out … but they can’t help if there’s no rentals available.”

A 2015 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found one in four people reported being homeless prior to imprisonment and one in three were released into homelessness, entrenching a vicious cycle of re-offending.

Tysyn is due for release in September. His mother fears the cycle will continue.

“Once their parole’s over, they’re free to walk. The last time he was released, he ended up on a bus down here with no support set up whatsoever,” she said.

Ms Falconer, whose 33-year-old son Corey will walk free in February, said it was often not possible for offenders to be released back into the family home.

“People don’t understand, they can’t come back into a nice, quiet family environment with Mum,” Ms Falconer said.

“Because of custody rights, he can’t live with us. When he gets out, he will be paroled to my son in Sydney who lives in a bedsit.”

Ms Preston said it was “not natural” for a mother to see their son on the street.

“There’s just sometimes I wish he would fly away because it’s too much,” she said.

Through their group, Ice: Turning pain into powerthe women hope to shine a light on the lack of support services beyond the prison walls.

“We’d like to see massive amounts of money being pumped into public housing and massive amounts of money pumped into mental health. I’d like to see community organisations funded so they can get out there and help,” Ms Preston said.