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Page MP vows to help terminally ill woman find accomodation

STILL SMILING: Terminally-ill Yamba woman Michelle Baker gets a hug from her 13-year-old son Liam, who has been living with her in tents as they have been unable to find accommodation.
STILL SMILING: Terminally-ill Yamba woman Michelle Baker gets a hug from her 13-year-old son Liam, who has been living with her in tents as they have been unable to find accommodation. Clair Morton

UPDATE, 1.30pm: FEDERAL MP for Page Kevin Hogan has pledged to do everything in his power to make sure Michelle Baker receives help for her situation.  

"It's a very sad situation; obviously she's very unwell and she has young children that we need to make sure are okay," he said.  

"I want to make sure we're doing the best we can to make sure she's aware of everything we can help her out with there."  

Mr Hogan said he had also spoken to other community members about the limited amount of affordable housing in Yamba currently, and was "very aware of the situation".   

"I'm doing everything I can with all three levels of government so we can get more housing stock," he said.   

"We need to work as closely as we can together to make we get as much housing on the market as quickly as we can."  

Mr Hogan said campaigning for things like better public transport would also become easier as the population of the Clarence Valley increased.   

"We have a really efficient public school transport system where we move a lot of kids around every day, so the infrastructure is there for us to use that," he said.   

"We already have these resources, and bus companies, I'm sure, will be more amenable to using them during the day as population increases. We obviously need to help that along as well and make it an attractive proposition."  

EARLIER: MICHELLE Baker is cold, wet, tired and in pain.

Wet because it rained the night before. Cold and tired because she slept on an air mattress in a tent.

In pain because her body has been ravaged by cancer and the side effects of treatment.

The terminally-ill Yamba resident, her two young children and their dog have been sleeping rough on and off for three and a half weeks now, since they were kicked out of the home they were renting based on a handshake agreement.

HEARTBREAKING: Mother of three Michelle Baker, who is terminally ill with cancer, is current living out of a tent at Yamba as she has been unable to find permanent accommodation.
HEARTBREAKING: Mother of three Michelle Baker, who is terminally ill with cancer, is current living out of a tent at Yamba as she has been unable to find permanent accommodation. Clair Morton

Friends and emergency services have been able to provide a night's accommodation here and there, but when that is not an option the family is forced to set up camp by the river, the site plagued by hordes of mosquitoes.

And despite being helped by two friends who are still in conversation with various agencies and departments, they have so far had no luck securing permanent accommodation.

The only option Ms Baker has been given by one agency, she says, is to be put in palliative care in Brooms Head and have her children put into state care.

Which is the last thing she wants to do.

"I can still look after my family and I'm not willing to give the kids up," she said.

"I get up every day at 7.30am and start the process again. It's all about perspective. If you keep doing, you'll keep doing, and the minute you stop your body will say, yeah okay, we're not doing this any more."

From her carer's pension, which she receives for looking after her autistic son, she has saved almost enough for a bond and has applied for about 14 houses without success. Low rental vacancy rates in Yamba aren't helping the situation,

"If we got into a place today I could make it happen," she said.

"I could spend that money on accommodation now, but when I have no money left I'll have nothing to pay bond."

Prior to being kicked out of her home, Ms Baker said she had never had a problem keeping a roof over her family's heads.

The mother of three moved to Yamba from Sydney about five years ago so she could live out the rest of her days by the ocean, having battled a number of different cancers since she was first diagnosed with a stage four breast cancer in 1999.

Scars across her body mark where she has undergone 34 surgeries for six different types of cancer since.

Medical records and x-rays show the effects of several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy.

"They keep trying to squash out the fires, but they've taken everything they can take out of me now," she said.

"I should have been dead years ago. The doctors don't know why I just keep going, but I won't be getting rid of it."

Her body is now in a period of 'stasis', she says, but it is clear Ms Baker is very ill.

Some days she can only eat through a nasal feeding tube, others she is given blood transfusions; every day she takes a cocktail of pills and tablets to stem the pain and help her function normally.

The situation would be difficult enough for anyone to deal with, let alone a single mother living out of a tent.

"My 12-year-old daughter just started Year 7 out of a tent," she said.

"I am the girl that gets up every day and chooses joy... because it's all about perspective. But I'm losing perspective.

"A place to live is all we need."

Topics:  accommodation, editors picks, homeless, palliative care, terminal illness, yamba



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