A hardworking single mother has been asked to make a choice nobody should have to make – put her special needs son in a care home or have a roof over her family’s head.
Mother-of-three Bec Darby, 33, has been struggling to find a rental property suitable for her disabled son Hunter, 14, who is wheelchair-bound.
Ms Darby was told by a government agency that she should consider putting Darby into a care facility to increase her chance of finding a home.
‘It’s very stressful right now and it just isn’t right,’ she told A Current Affair.
Bec Darby, 33, is pictured operating a hoist to help her son Hunter, 14, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Hunter was born with a muscle wasting disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
‘It is a terminal illness, there is no cure. So he needs to be hoisted. He needs (a) wheelchair, he’s completely wheelchair bound,’ Mrs Darby said.
‘He needs self help with self care.
As well as caring for Hunter and his two younger sisters, Ms Darby also works full time in aged care.
She recently found out that after seven years, their landlord wanted the house they are renting back.
But with rental vacancies at less than 1 per cent in regional areas – the family lives south of Sydney – finding a replacement home suitable for a disabled child in a wheelchair is no easy matter.
There are matters to consider that most people never have to think of, such as wide doors to accomodate a wheelchair, no stairs and being able to get Hunter into a bath with a hoist.
Ms Darby has already looked at more than 100 properties, but has not been able to find anything suitable.
She sought help from a government agency, but was shocked by their response.
‘I’ve been told … there is a chance that … Hunter may need to go to a home to be able to get housing for us, which is really, really scary.
Bec Darby (pictured) has two months to find a new home for her and her three children, one of whom is in a wheelchair
‘That’s the life that we’re living at the moment.’
But there is no way she is leaving Hunter, from whom she has never been separated.
‘Definitely not. That is not what I’m about. We stick together, my family.’
Ms Darby said she is ‘mentally struggling a little bit just because I’m really worried that the kids are going to be separated’.
‘I rang the public housing system thinking surely I would be entitled to come on some priority list,’ Ms Darby said.
Hunter Darby (right) is pictured with his two sisters. Hunter has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the family needs a house suitable for his wheelchair
‘You know, a single mum with kids, one with additional needs. But unfortunately I earn too much money …
‘So I do not qualify to be eligible for anything, which is sickening.’
It was suggested to her that a way around the system was to get public housing by quitting her job.
But that is not the kind of person she is.
‘For me to quit my job to then have no money and live off the government to live in government housing… You want to work, You don’t want to rely on the state.
‘It’s just obscene. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s not what I want to do,’ said Ms Darby.
‘It’s not what I want to show my kids, you know, I want to show them that you can work and you can, you know, you can do all those things.’
She said she is publicising her housing difficulties ‘not only to help me, but it’s to help other people because it’s not fair on anybody that has to go through (this).
‘I know people that have been living in their cars because they’ve got nowhere to go and they’re a single person on their own with no responsibilities.’
Ms Darby said the family needs ‘Something so that (Hunter) can get throughout the house like everybody else would be (able to).
‘So he feels part of the family, and a suitable bathroom is essential.’
The family has just over two months left to find a suitable house between Shellharbour and Gerringong in NSW – the location is needed due to Ms Darby’s work and the children’s before and after school care.
What is Duchenne muscular dystrophy?
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic disorder characterised by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness due to the alterations of a protein called dystrophin that helps keep muscle cells intact.
DMD symptom onset is in early childhood, usually between ages two and three.
The disease primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls.
Source: Muscular Dystrophy Association
‘Trying to figure that out is really really scary because I don’t know what I’m going to do once the 10 weeks is up and if I will be able to find something that’s suitable for myself and my family,’ she said.
Ms Darby doesn’t want to think about what will happen if she can’t find a house.
‘As a mother you have to provide, you have to do everything you can to keep the family together and when you’re pushed back time and time again, it’s hard. It’s tiring,’ she said.
If anyone knows of an appropriate rental property for the Darby family that is wheelchair accessible for Hunter and between Shellharbour and Gerringong, they are asked to get in touch through Channel 9’s A Current Affair.