Housing Needs Assessment, by Lynette Washington

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Housing Needs Assessment: Application
Date: 10/2/2013
Housing Officer: Jenny Dunbar
Client: Faraj Mohammed
Health/Disability Issues: N
Financial Issues: Y
Social/Cultural Issues: Y
Current Tenancy Issues: Y
Exceptional Circumstances: N
Suggested Category: 2

Please provide reasons for Category 2 recommendation.

Client is a 17 y.o. unaccompanied minor and refugee from Afghanistan. He has limited English language skills and is attending high school. He has inadequate financial resources (his income comes from Centrelink) and is unable to secure work.

Client has no security of tenure and faces imminent homelessness. He is currently living with another refugee whose wife is due to arrive soon. When she arrives, the Client will be asked to leave the premises.

Client advised that last month he was kicked out of the house due to deteriorating relationship with the other tenant and was forced to sleep in a park for several nights.

Client has requested individual housing, but the Housing Officer does not see any circumstances which would prevent him from sharing with appropriate persons.

Please explain why Client cannot secure housing in private market.

Client faces discrimination in the private rental market due to his lack of English literacy and lack of rental references.

If there are any other issues, please describe.

The original Housing Assessment Support Letter was provided by City West College, where Client is attending high school, and stated that issues included “extreme sadness, anxiety and depression.”

The Housing Officer therefore concludes that without appropriate safe/secure long-term housing the Client’s ability to study and work in Australia will be severely impaired.


Housing Needs Assessment: Response
Date: 15/02/2013
Housing Officer: Jenny Dunbar
Client: Faraj Mohammed

The request for housing has been denied.


Housing Needs Assessment: Addendum to Original Assessment
Date: 28/2/2013
Housing Officer: Jenny Dunbar
Client: Faraj Mohammed
Health/Disability Issues: Y
Financial Issues: Y
Social/Cultural Issues: Y
Current Tenancy Issues: Y
Exceptional Circumstances: N
Suggested Category: 1

Please provide reasons for Category 1 recommendation.

Further to my previous report, new information has been made available to the Housing Officer through an interpreter and a psychologist report. This additional information has caused the Officer to change the Client from Category 2 to Category 1.

Through the interpreter, the Client has advised that he endured significant trauma and loss and is experiencing chronic mental health issues as a result. It is imperative for his mental health that he has safe, secure and independent housing. The amended psychology report (attached) attests to this and states that the Client’s mental health will continue to decline if his housing needs are not met.

The psychology report also shows that the Client’s ongoing mental health issues are exacerbated by living in a shared house. He is currently incapable of developing relationships due to severe emotional trauma. With continued treatment he may regain his mental health, but under present conditions he finds cohabitation distressing and is not able to develop functional relationships with the people with whom he lives.

Psychology Report

Client’s psychologist has provided a further letter of support. An excerpt is below:

“It is my professional opinion that Mr Mohammed’s present medical condition precludes him from living with others and that it will be beneficial to his ongoing health if he is housed independently. I have diagnosed Mr Mohammed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder associated with an event in which he witnessed the deaths of his parents, brother and best friend when a bomb exploded in his native country Afghanistan. All four were burned beyond recognition. Mr Mohammed is currently distressed by intrusive memories and nightmares, avoidance/numbing behaviours used to cope with re-experiencing the trauma, sleep disturbance, anger/irritability, impaired concentration, hyper-vigilance, anxiety and depression. His condition is long-term and affects his day-to-day activities and ability to cope. His long-term prognosis is unknown and contingent upon his responsiveness to treatment.”


Housing Needs Assessment: Response
Date: 12/03/2013
Housing Officer: Jenny Dunbar
Client: Faraj Mohammed

The request for housing has been denied.


Housing Needs Assessment: Application
Date: 26/03/2013
Housing Officer: Jenny Dunbar
Client: Faraj Mohammed
Health/Disability Issues: Y
Financial Issues: Y
Social/Cultural Issues: Y
Current Tenancy Issues: Y
Exceptional Circumstances: Y
Suggested Category: 1

Please provide reasons for Category 1 recommendation.

Faraj is a beautiful boy. Smooth, brown skin. Tall, strong. He might have been an athlete. He has black wavy hair and he wears it long. It flips over his left eye and he doesn’t push it away. He’s using it to hide from the world and I’m sure he doesn’t know it makes him look like James Dean.

He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak Dari so it’s difficult to communicate, but we have developed a series of hand signals that he seems comfortable with. Maybe it’s easier than speaking. Words can hold so much pain.

Please explain why Client cannot secure housing in private market.

I want to take him home with me. Perhaps my husband and I can cure him of his fear of loss. My husband, who teaches Middle Eastern cultures at the university, will give him our most comfortable chair, and they will speak (although my husband only knows basic Dari and Faraj only basic English). The conversation will be notable for its mutual concentration, fascination and respect. My husband will make Faraj warm Milo at night-time like he used to do when our children were young.

My husband knows that Faraj means ‘relief from bad times’ and Faraj will be a relief for us both, a chance to focus our energy on someone who needs us, just like the old days, before we started to look at each other blankly after the evening meal. Even though he’s not capable of friendship, he will help us.

But Faraj can’t stand to be around people.

If there are any other issues, please describe.

One night I will knock on Faraj’s door and open it before he has a chance to respond. I will find him with his sleeve pulled up and a compass in his hand. He will be scratching a crisscross pattern in the soft skin on the inside of his bicep. There will be splashes of blood drying on his jeans and I will realise why he always insists on washing his own clothes. I will wonder where this starts and if it will ever end.


Housing Needs Assessment: File Management
Date: 26/03/2013
Housing Officer: Jenny Dunbar
Client: Faraj Mohammed

File closed and archived.


Lynette Washington is a short story writer who is currently completing her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide. Her stories have been published by Spineless Wonders and SWAMP. Her story “Promise” was runner-up in the Peter Cowan 600 Flash Fiction Competition, and this story, “Housing Needs Assessment” was recently awarded a High Commendation in the Footpath Library Short Story Competition. Lynette blogs regularly and can be followed on Twitter at @LynneTashi or on Facebook at Lynette Washington – Author.

2 thoughts on “Housing Needs Assessment, by Lynette Washington

  1. I love this story. From th moment I first read it it has made me wish I had done it myself. It says everything that I wanted to say before I knew a way of saying it. And it contains much of the frustration that face to face public servants feel when they want to include their feelings in a form.

    Great story.

    • This is a story worth reading! And a scenario that is all too real. Wake up, Australia, and see what is happening in your own back yard. Well done, Lynette, and all the best with your future writing.

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