24-year-old assistant in nursing Chloe Dowe represents new face of homelessness in Hunter region

STRANDED: Chloe Dowe is living in her car while her partner Mitchell Edwards is staying on a mate's couch. Picture: Marina Neil
STRANDED: Chloe Dowe is living in her car while her partner Mitchell Edwards is staying on a mate's couch. Picture: Marina Neil

Chloe Dowe is 24, an assistant in nursing, studying fulltime ... and living in her car.

Her partner Mitchell Edwards works full-time as a chef and is currently sleeping on a mate's couch.

The pair represent the new face of homelessness crippling the Hunter region. In a similar story to whatthe Herald has previously reported, they were handed a 90-day, no-grounds eviction notice on their Gateshead rental home a year ago as the landlord wanted to do renovations. They have not been able to find a rental property since.

"It's embarrassing," Ms Dowe said. "I'm not some hobo. I never knew at 24 with a stable job and savings I'd be homeless."

The day they received the notice in June 2020, Ms Dowe said they packed their house up and began applying for places.

When the 90 days came to an end in September, they moved into Ms Dowe's grandparents' house thinking it would be a temporary move until they found a place of their own.

But after a few months, Ms Dowe said they had to move out as her grandmother became ill and she was worried about living in the same house due to her line of work.

"Nan's had three bouts of cancer, and I was worried with flu season and me being in and out of a hospital," she said. "I had the flu recently and had to spend two weeks inside my bedroom. Plus they were just there to help, it was never meant to be permanent."

Ms Dowe then had to go away on placement in April. She also spent some time at university in Armidale and a few weeks at her parents' house in Tamworth. Mr Edwards moved in with a friend, where he has been sleeping on a couch.

She came back to Newcastle this week and spent the first night in a pub and the next two nights in her car.

I never knew at 24 with a stable job and savings I'd be homeless.

Chloe Dowe

"I'm just taking it day by day," she said. "It's been really tough. I've never felt so crap in my life.

"It's affected my studies. I'm having to eat takeaway every day. My partner is quite stressed I've been sleeping in my car."

Ms Dowe said she couldn't count the number of properties she and her partner had applied for. They are ideally looking for a place with a yard for her dog, which is currently at her parents' house, but she said they've applied for places without the dog too.

"We're applying for places we don't want to live in," she said. "I've offered additional rent, offered six months in advance. They continue to say 'nothing is wrong with your application' but obviously something is wrong if we're still failing to obtain a place.

"It makes you feel like a failure.

"The reality is now - do we both give up our jobs and have to move somewhere else? We shouldn't have to do that. I worked the entire time through COVID. I'm not on Centrelink. I have savings. I've rented since I was 17. I have a storage shed full of stuff for a house.

"We shouldn't have to rely on friends to stay on their couch or floor. We shouldn't have to live out of a suitcase."

Ms Dowe approached Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon about her predicament, who raised the matter in parliament.

"This is a couple who are both in full-time work, in hospitality and health," Ms Claydon told parliament.

"This is the changing face of the housing crisis in Australia. There are too many stories like this couple's. The private rental market in Newcastle has failed."

Fellow Hunter region MP Yasmin Catley also raised a similar point in NSW Parliament this week.

"Reports of a new cohort of middle-class couples who face homelessness is of particular concern," the Member for Swansea said.

"That is not a result of a lack of financial means but of a lack of housing supply, which is a damning indictment on the government.

"Those reports should concern every member in this place ... It is shameful that the rate of homelessness has been allowed to reach this level."

She finished the speech by calling on the government to "take urgent action to tackle the housing crisis".

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese delivers his reply to the Federal Budget in the House of Representatives, which included a $10 billion social and affordable housing package. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese delivers his reply to the Federal Budget in the House of Representatives, which included a $10 billion social and affordable housing package. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"In the short term, that means providing additional temporary accommodation and rental relief," she said.

"In the medium term, that means investment in more social and affordable housing. Facilitating more residential land releases must be a priority.

"As a parliament we must act to end the housing crisis that is engulfing communities right across NSW."

In their federal budget reply on Thursday, Labor vowed to set up a new $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund to build social and affordable housing if it wins government.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said in the first five years the fund would build 20,000 social housing properties. He said the plan would include 10,000 affordable properties for frontline workers, including nurses, police, emergency service workers and cleaners.