Nicolette Russell is currently couchsurfing at a friend's place with her 15-year-old son Jonty who suffers from autism spectrum disorder.
Nicolette Russell is currently couchsurfing at a friend's place with her 15-year-old son Jonty who suffers from autism spectrum disorder. Tom Huntley

High need family homeless, but an inmate has social housing

A MOTHER and her autistic son are "couch surfing" in Gladstone while a government house lies empty as the occupant sits in jail.

Nicolette Russell has been on the social housing register since April 2011.

Gladstone currently has just over 1000 social housing properties.

Ten are currently free but undergoing maintenance.

The Department of Housing said Ms Russell's application was classified as high need due to her son's condition and her anxiety and depression.

"Ms Russell is currently registered for two-bedroom accommodation," a spokesperson said.

"Ms Russell has stipulated she must have a house or a duplex to allow for her pets, which substantially reduces her chances of being housed due to the extremely limited supply of this type of housing in Gladstone."

Ms Russell said her son needed his two therapy dogs.

"He would be lost without them," she said.

"They calm him down."

Meanwhile New Auckland resident Kym Akers lives in a two-bedroom social housing duplex with backyard - and the property next door to her is sitting empty.

"The guy (who lives there)went to jail in September sometime last year," she said.

"And his place has been empty since. My real problem is they're not mowing it.

"There's an outdoor setting in the back and the chairs are almost overgrown."

A Department of Housing spokesperson said a criminal record does not affect the ability to receive a social housing property.

"Departmental policy provides that a person who is incarcerated may return to the property they occupied prior to being incarcerated as long as the period they are temporarily absent for is no longer than 12 months."

There is evidence of disrepair of this apartment with holes in the wall.

"The tenant is responsible for any damage done to the property," the spokesperson said.

"The tenant is also responsible for having the property maintained."

Overgrown grass at the empty housing commission home in New Auckland.
Overgrown grass at the empty housing commission home in New Auckland. Contributed

Mum and son homeless

SLEEPING on a makeshift bed and the floor, this is also the living space for Nicolette Russell and her 15-year-old autistic son Jonty.

They've been here since last December, living at the front of a friend's house adjacent to the kitchen.

They're on the social housing waiting list and Ms Russell said she is dreaming of having life get back to normal.

"My own place it would be wonderful," she said.

"So he can run around and be himself again. He suffers all the stress at school and he comes home and it's still stressful."

Ms Russell said Jonty is bullied at Tannum High and struggles with socialising.

"He looks like a normal ordinary kid but he's not," Nicolette said.

"He does things impulsively. He thinks nothing to jump off roofs or lie on roofs in the middle of thunderstorm. He got hit by a car the other day."

Waiting since early 2011, Ms Russell said she's fed-up.

"It's ridiculous some people are getting houses like this, others are still on the list."

Nicolette Russell is currently couchsurfing at a friend's place with her 15-year-old son Jonty who suffers from autism spectrum disorder.
Nicolette Russell is currently couchsurfing at a friend's place with her 15-year-old son Jonty who suffers from autism spectrum disorder. Tom Huntley


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