Living in a rooming house can have its ups and downs, and it can feel like a lottery as you never know who you will end up living with. But this past year, Aggie, resident of “The Grove” for the past ten years, feels like she’s won this lottery.
“Natalie moved in last year, and she’s just like a sister to me now. Good friends really do become your family,” Aggie explains. “She’s spent Christmas with my mum and I. It might take me a while to warm up and trust people, but I feel now like I’ve found a true friendship.”
Building a close friendship has been of great benefit to both women. Natalie has been teaching Aggie how to cook, and they are sharing meals with the other residents.
“I’ve invited my mum over for dinner, for the first time in ten years,” says Aggie. “I feel embarrassed about it actually, that I haven’t invited my mum over sooner! We’ve planned a menu of Jamie Oliver’s lemon and herb chicken and a Greek salad.”
“I feel like my confidence has just grown, and I’m getting out a lot more. I used to be a hermit in my room eating microwave meals, but Natalie has brought me out of my shell.”
“I’ve even lost 20 kilos in the past year!” Aggie exclaims, as she shows off a photo of herself holding up a pair of her old jeans.
“It’s because of all the healthy cooking and eating I’m now doing, and because we’re going out walks together as well.”
Both Aggie and Natalie agree that The Grove is something special and unique with its community approach.
“We all get along,” explains Natalie.
“I’d never lived in a rooming house before, and I thought it would be terrible. But it’s lovely and quiet, we all share meals, and whenever anyone has a birthday, we’ll all have dinner together and share a birthday cake. I know that if I ever need something, I can knock on someone’s door and they’ll help.”
This sense of community isn’t easily created and maintained. Making it feel like a home is important as well, and Aggie and Natalie have made a big effort to personalise their rooms with framed photos and other decorations. That sense of home and community at The Grove also has a lot to do with Aggie and her approach to living with others.
“I didn’t get much of a welcome or orientation when I first moved in,” she says. “So now I try to be that welcoming person for everyone else when they move in, to make them feel at home.”
Thinking of others is what Aggie has always done. Even at her first job with a paper round, she still took the time to write Christmas cards for all her regular customers. Even now, Aggie is still a big fan of personalised cards, and will take the time to write greeting cards for the people in her life.
“No one gets letters and cards in the mail anymore,” she explains. “I like knowing that people will get something in the mail from me and that they don’t have to open up yet another bill!”
As much as she likes doing nice things for other people, Aggie likes being treated to new things and experiences too.
“I loved going to the Two Good dinner at Rockpool, and I even got my makeup done!” she says. “I love it when we get the meals from Two Good as well – the portions are perfect, and the food is delicious. It feels good to be eating heathily.”
Both Aggie and Natalie had positive things to say about YWCA and YWCA staff.
“Our housing officer is wonderful. She’s just so prompt, and actually cares about us. We’re people, not just a name and a number to her.”
“We really have to remind people that there is good affordable housing out there. You just have to find the right service for you – and maybe going to one service will open the door to another service.”