South Windsor resident Mary was part of the Wentworth Community Housing and CuriousWorks Journey to Social Housing project

AN exhibition by Wentworth Community Housing and community arts agency CuriousWorks documents the experiences of a group of older community housing residents from the Hawkesbury, the Blue Mountains and Penrith.

The community can now view photographs and films, and listen to audio stories put together by the residents who share their lives and experiences of journeying to find secure housing for themselves and their families.

The project, called Journey to Social Housing, battles the stigma and negative perceptions of how social housing tenants are seen.

Mary, a 67-year-old Hawkesbury resident has been living in a Wentworth house in South Windsor for 18 years, is among the tenants who help us understand - through the project - that having access to housing should be a universal right.

"I don't live in the street, I live in my house," said Mary.

"The Department (of housing) offered me a brand new place in a street even worse than the street I was leaving and I said no to that, then they offered me the place that I'm in now, and that was 18 years ago. And I wasn't happy, but I knew that I would have to wait much longer because then I'd be put on the bottom of the list."

Mary said she had her "ups and downs" with community housing, but she was finally happy where she was living.

"It's hard for people in public or community housing at times to get work. Sometimes they don't have a car, transport's not available. If I didn't have a car I'd find it quite difficult to do what I'm doing. Public transport in this area is shocking," she said.

Mary does volunteer work with the Wentworth Tenancy Advocacy Group.

She also does volunteering for the Women's Cottage in Richmond which she has done "for the past 25 years and they usually get me to do some sewing voluntarily because I've been a sewer since I was 12 years old, I taught myself," she said.

"For people who live in community and public housing, a bit like me, you are always walking around with a bit of a stigma," she said.

Mary said being part of the Wentworth Tenancy Advocacy Group was "helpful to find out what other people thought" about living in social housing.

She learnt she could apply for rent assistance and now she receives help to pay her rent.

"It drew my interest, because I thought I should inform myself," she said.

"Rather than being negative, it empowers me to make my life more comfortable."

She said being part of the group opened-up the opportunity to be part of the Journey to Social Housing project and attend Wentworth Community Housing's annual general meeting at the Hawkesbury Leisure and Learning Centre at Richmond this month, where the Journey exhibition was displayed.

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