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Byron Shire
January 30, 2023

Is homelessness the next challenge for Sandra?

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Ben, Sandra and Sam and their husband and father Phil need a home. Photo Tree Faerie.

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For some people life is just that little bit more challenging than for others. Sandra Leadbeatter is one of those people.

Sandra became a single mother of two boys when her ex-husband died of cancer. Though they were separated, she still cared for him when he was dying.

Sandra is about to undergo literally the same fate with her much loved husband Phil, the father of her third and fourth boys. Phil is terminally ill with Adenocarcinoma and living between home and hospital. ‘Phillip was taken by ambulance to hospital at 3am Saturday – I’ll go and drop a few things into him as today as we had no time to pack a bag on the weekend.’

Both of Sandra and Phil’s sons live with a level of autism. Ben is 14 with autism, level 2 ADHD and other comorbities. Sam is 12-years-old with non-verbal autism. Sam has a Smart Pup called Elsa, who stops Sam from wandering off. ‘We haven’t “lost” Sam since Elsa arrived,’ says Sandra. ‘She’s turned out to also detect epileptic fits coming on, to our delight.’

Unable to drive

So much love in this little family. All they ask is for a safe, quiet roof over their head. Photo Tree Faerie.

Sandra herself is not well as she suffers from a degenerative condition Transverse Myelitis (TM), a spinal cord degenerative disease which she says thankfully has been stable over the last few years. Sandra has lived with pain for 24 years – her prognosis is complete loss of movement. She is unable to drive due to her medication.

If Sandra didn’t have enough on her plate, she and her family are about to become homeless. November 27 is her date to find a new home.

The house she is currently renting has been sold and Sandra hasn’t been unable to find a new place for her family.

With Sam’s condition, a quieter rural life has been what the family has needed – often people with autism are distressed by a lot of noise and activity, but now they need to move into town.

Sandra needs to find housing in Lismore as all the family’s medical and therapist appointments are based there and Sam will go to a special high school nearby next year.

Applied for over 35 houses

Sandra has applied for over 35 houses to no avail. She has had assistance from Social Futures who are trying to help but she has been told there is a waitlist.

The family has years of impeccable rental history and their last two landlords will happily give them glowing references.

What they need is a fenced house in a quiet street not too far from the medical area of town – and they need the rent to be affordable.

The family are very lucky to have two furry friends – as well as Elsa the Smart Pup, they have have a 12-year-old desexed foxie. ‘We’ve had him since he was four moths old. He is very well behaved and a much loved part of our family. Transitional emergency housing do not allow pets at all and he would have to be rehomed.

It made me upset at a lost opportunity, and angry people could do this to a house, especially when housing is at a crisis level in the Northern Rivers

The family were offered a house on Ballina Road but the location did not work and the house was a wreck. ‘Every window in the place had been smashed and there was graffiti all over the inside – the yard was full of old furniture and rubbish including used syringes. It would cost a small fortune to repair the windows alone. It made me upset at a lost opportunity, and angry people could do this to a house, especially when housing is at a crisis level in the Northern Rivers.’

Sandra is hoping a house will come up soon – she wants to devote her time to Phil and the boys. ‘Most of the houses I have looked at are not suitable or too expensive. I just want to spend what time we have left making memories for our boys and not stressing about housing and viewing a heap of houses with no positive outcomes.’

If you feel you could help Sandra and her family, email: [email protected]

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  1. Crisis level is correct. Local, State & Federal take note. This is supposed to be
    the ‘great southern land’ that is no longer. It’s time our well paid people in charge
    got off their plush sit-in & argumentative space & did what we pay them for…
    that is working ‘for’ the country’s betterment as opposed to their own pocket-books
    plus shares in questionably rortings – [see Robodebt $1.2 billion & many others.]
    Any home is a castle if & when it’s cared for. I am told there are many caring locals
    who are in need of an affordable place to live. Time to fix the problems starting
    with ScoMo’s happy-chap cabinet.

  2. I am always saddened when I pass vacant housing waiting for the big $s, it’s unforgivable. Too many need housing, time to stop the Airbnb in our Shire for the out of town profiteers!

  3. This is sad.
    I’m grateful we live in a community where people want to help each other – I don’t have a house to offer this family and am hopeful others do.
    I don’t see any reason to blame and throw stones at faceless bureaucrats. They are so removed from the reality of this family that it’s hardly any one person’s fault – if any person at all. Can’t we just have sadness in the world sometimes and not try and blame others for it?
    The most useful answer in my experience is to do what each of us feel we can to connect with and help our neighbours.

    BTW – can the Echo please use a spell checker? It’s simple decency for publications to be error free.


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