Brenton has faced many challenges in his 25 years. Diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 2, he lost his ability to walk when he was 10 and lost the use of his arms at 16 following surgery to support his spine.
Growing up in Housing Commission often meant his accommodation was not suited to his high needs. So when he was 19, he sought independence, and with his mum’s blessing, moved out with his girlfriend and her brother. “Our new place was good at first because I was independent, with a partner and a brother-in-law. But it’s hard to live on Centrelink, and sort rent, shopping and electricity,” Brenton said. “I got involved with the wrong people and in trouble with the police. There were a lot of people on drugs, scary people. We got robbed several times while I was in the house.” Fearing for their lives, Brenton and his girlfriend applied for alternative accommodation, but sadly she passed away, not long after Brenton’s father had also died.
“It was even harder to live there, just me, her brother and memories.” It wasn’t long before the brother moved out. “At the time I couldn’t get funding for carers but I had a friend in a wheelchair who could move his arms and became my carer.” The access to get into the building was also difficult, the buzzer out of reach to wheelchair users. “I had to wait for someone to come to the door and let me in,” said Brenton. It would be several more years before Brenton gained approval to live somewhere else. During that time, the constant fear of intruders and violent assaults triggered extreme anxiety and depression.
“My mental state was not good, I would sleep with one eye open. I wasn’t going to hurt myself, but I didn’t want to be around anymore.” Not wanting to alarm his family, Brenton kept many of his problems to himself. A close friend who was also in a wheelchair had been investigating Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) and told Brenton to apply. “When she told me about this place, I didn’t believe her until she showed me photos.” With the assistance of his support coordinator and Ability SDA directors Paul and Angie Simmons, Brenton was approved to move into his Ability Apartment in mid-July 2019. “I’ve been living here for 4 months, the best 4 months of my life. I have peace and quiet, and security. With 24 hour care I don’t have to worry about who’s going to roll me at night, or help me to the bathroom. And the shower! I can finally enjoy a nice long, hot shower.” Assistive technology allows Brenton to activate the blinds, lights, TV, doors and air conditioning himself, and structural features such as ceiling hoists give him new freedom.
“In my previous accommodation I would have to rely on people to lift me off the toilet into bed, and into my wheelchair. Here I have a ceiling hoist that moves all around. Living here I have everything I need, everything I could wish for.” The move also has financial benefits costing Brenton only $116 per week plus Commonwealth Rent Assistance. Brenton’s family is thrilled with his new home and regularly visit. “I’m excited because we’re having Christmas and my niece and nephew’s birthday party here on the rooftop. It’s going to be awesome.”
In the past, a big part of Brenton’s life was finding somewhere safe to live. “Now I’m safe, I can start thinking about what I want to do in life, where I want to go and what I want to do. One day I hope to get married and have kids. I now have something to look forward to.”
UPDATE: Since we last interviewed Brenton, he became engaged and has moved out of his apartment to live with his fiancé and her children. We wish him much happiness in this exciting new chapter of his life and are extremely thankful to have been a part of his journey.