I’m a single mum – skyrocketing rents and cost of living have prompted me to ask for help looking after my family | Bo Anne Kolkman

I manage a very tight budget. There are no take-out meals; there are no lavish expenses.

But the cost of food has skyrocketed, we are in the midst of a rental crisis and it took me six months to benefit from any government assistance.

The cost of living crisis is a personal issue for me. I am in constant burnout mode.

I am a single mother of three and my youngest, Harrison, had a kidney transplant when he was just 20 months old. For a few years things were going really well, but the last two years have been really tough. He is now nine years old and his health is such that he cannot be at school with his friends as much, as he spends a lot of time in the hospital for plasma treatments or for surgery.

The hospital is an hour away and the constant driving also has a financial impact. I just had my car serviced; it will have to be serviced again and it will cost me an absolute fortune.

Gasoline went from $1.59 to sometimes as high as $2.12 per litre. Food prices gradually increased: first by 20 cents, then by 50 cents, then sometimes by more than a dollar. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you add it up, it’s absolutely huge.

Taking care of my son limits my work time as he needs me to take him to the hospital for his treatments at least two days a week. I am always ready to take care of him because he is my first priority. I work 25 hours a week as a disability support worker, and being on Centrelink also limits the number of hours I can work. People tell me to “just work harder”, but I can’t.

Our local church provides meat. We couldn’t afford meat at all if we shopped at Coles. We are really lucky to have a local food bank which means we have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Prior to the food bank and church food boxes, my children mainly received potatoes, rice and a piece of meat, always purchased from the reduced section as closing time approached. It was always the best time to shop because most things we couldn’t afford, like meat and dairy, were heavily discounted.

I wish I could buy my own house. In fact, the payments would be so much less than what I’m currently paying in rent, but I don’t fit into the boxes the bank wants, like having the same job for 12 months. I run a small business from home, but the bank considers it seasonal income. I could pay a lot less and own the place – instead I lose money and pay for someone else’s pension plan.

I don’t live in a mansion or a wealthy neighborhood, but we pay $550 a week, which is astronomical. We have been renting here for 18 months and have never had a bad inventory.

I already know that our time is limited in this house, because the landlords want to raise the rent next March to $620.

Our rent is already eating away at so much of our weekly family income, and with Harrison being hospitalized so often, we struggle to survive. Even with the support of Centrelink, I split the last $200 a week on gas to get to work, utilities and then any food we might need from the food bank.

If I had to move farther for cheaper rent, my travel costs would only increase and I would have to pull my children out of school. I don’t want to do that – and the budget still wouldn’t add up.

I never thought I would ask for help in such a public way. But being completely and utterly exhausted, sad, confused, and on the verge of a mental breakdown most of the time made me seek help.

I have traveled this road for nine years now. I am a mother of three, my son’s main caregiver, work, study and run a business from home. I did my best without asking for help, but I can’t do it myself anymore.

Between the monumental increase in the cost of living and my son’s more frequent hospital visits, I decided to start a GoFundMe to seek financial assistance. It was a very difficult decision for me, but I had nowhere to go.

Safe housing would mean a world of difference for my family.

I’m so grateful to friends, family, and even strangers who didn’t judge me for reaching out, but instead asked how they could help.

Asking for help seems desperate and intimidating, and comes with great vulnerability. But I’m honored to have people reach out to us — even if they can’t donate — just to see how we’re doing. Even offering to make something for dinner and drop it off, or just checking in on how I’m coping means so much to know that people really care about us.

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