Moving into her new home has made a world of difference for 42-year-old Lesley Greig who now sees a whole new, and brighter, future ahead.
Before moving into her new Whangarei Accessible Housing Trust home earlier this year, Lesley’s living arrangements were far from meeting her needs.
She’s used a wheelchair for mobility for the past four years after having a stroke which has left her with an impairment. “I use my right side to do most of the work.” The plus side? “I’ve got a mean right hook!” she jokes.
After her stroke she was discharged to her mother’s home – a house which was up eight flights of stairs. Lesley had to drag herself and her wheelchair up or down the stairs to get in and out of the house an experience which created the obvious physical barriers but proved emotionally isolating for the social Whangarei local.
She then moved into the only affordable option for her at the time, a one-bedroom cabin at an accommodation park. To get in and out of her cabin, Lesley had to get out of her wheelchair and pull herself and her wheelchair up some stairs and onto the cabin deck. Not only was her cabin difficult to negotiate, getting around the grounds was very awkward for Lesley – the pathways were all gravel and to get out of the park, there was a steep hill that she would have to push herself up backwards. There was also no accessible kitchen for her to use which meant Lesley was reliant on others to help her to manage to cook meals. “That was pretty tough,” she admits.
After meeting Lesley, it’s clear that she is not one to complain and downplays any challenges she’s faced. This is a something her CCS Disability Action Community Support Coordinator Jan Curtis acknowledges. “Lesley is a really strong person. You’ll never hear her say it, she always just gets on with things, but she’s been through a lot. She’s an amazing woman.”
After finding out about the Whangarei Accessible Housing Trust through Jan, Lesley met up with Housing Manager Barry Moore to discuss what she was looking for in a home. Several months passed between that first meeting and finding a house but Lesley explains that “it was worth the wait.”
She now lives in a bright, warm, accessible home in Whangarei with her “babies” a.k.a. her two kittens.
“Independence” is a word that comes up a lot when Lesley talks about her new home. “I like having my own space. Having an accessible bathroom, my own laundry room, it all means I can be more independent.”
She is relishing the accessible features of the home. As well as the bathroom and laundry the wide open spaces make moving around easy. Kitchen benches set at the right height mean that Lesley is now able to cook for herself, something that she really enjoys doing. Lesley has also tried her hand at gardening. All in all, she is quickly building up the credentials of a top homemaker.
Perhaps even more significant is that fact that, as Lesley explains, she now feels in control of who is in her space and who visits her at home. This is in stark contrast to life at the accommodation park.
While she met lots of great people there, there were also people who often made her feel scared and vulnerable. “I didn’t want to be around those people anymore,” she says – a sure sign of her growing confidence and self-esteem now that she’s more in control of her own life.
For Lesley, moving into her new home has made a real difference in how she feels about her future. “I feel better about myself. It’s made me think that more things could happen for me, there are more opportunities.”
This is reaffirmed by Jan, who explains that Lesley has a list of goals that’s she working on. Having achieved her number one goal – moving into her own place – Lesley is now working with staff to build up her confidence with public transport so that she can get into the town centre easily and secure the independence she craves. “Once I’ve figured it out, Jan will have a hard time finding me!”