Public home shelters mum from life on the edge
Claire Webb's struggle with the private rental market started four years ago when she was severely injured in a motor accident.
Having lost the ability to walk, Ms Webb was unable to continue working as a cafe manager and later found herself facing increased rental costs after her relationship broke down.
For the mother-of-one in the private rental market, the disability pension wasn't enough.
''Once I paid the entire rent, I'd have $20 left over,'' she said.
''I got into debt and I'm still paying it off.''
Once the private rental market exhausted her savings and debt limit, Ms Webb was left reliant on friends, family and local charities until the ACT government found her accommodation in the public housing system several months ago.
While she is grateful to finally have a home, Ms Webb said the experience was harrowing.
''It put me into debt, it pushed my body to the stage where I was hospitalised,'' she said.
Ms Webb said some Canberrans found it easy to gloss over the rental crisis, thinking that people in situations such as her own had wound up there due to bad choices instead of misfortune.
''A lot of us are victims of circumstance,'' she said.
Stefania is another Canberran struggling in the private rental market and despite working full-time as a youth support worker for Anglicare, the 25-year-old is effectively homeless.
She has been trying to break into the private rental market for 18 months, during which time she has been staying at friends' houses or renting a motel room to get one night of decent sleep.
''I'll find myself on occasions sleeping in my car,'' she said.
''I have a stressful job already and not having my own space, it makes it hard to unwind.''
Stefania said the competition to secure accommodation was overwhelming, particularly within a tight budget that no longer includes government benefits.
''I'm proud of everything I've accomplished, but sometimes I think it would have been easier to stay on Centrelink,'' she said.
''But if you work hard and try to make something of your life, there's not much on your side.''
This reporter is on Twitter: @stephanieando