Michelle Marschall was only 23 years old when she and her two-year-old son Tyler were forced to start living in their car.
"We were living in public housing out in Eaglehawk and there were places getting set on fire, cars being blown up, and people stabbing people just left, right and centre," she said.
"I had enough of it so me and Tyler lived in my car for a few months because it was safer that way."
After living in the vulnerable and insecure environment of her car, Ms Marschall, now 27, found the services of the Sidney Myer Haven program.
"They helped out a lot," she said. "When I moved, I had given up all my furniture so they gave us furniture to put in the house and everything.
"So we went from having nothing to having a house that functioned."
Sidney Myer Haven also helped fund part of her TAFE education, dental work, and assisted in getting Tyler into daycare and then kindergarten.
After two years in the program, Ms Marschall and her son are now living in their own private rental property.
"It's amazing," she said. "We don't have Haven involved anymore and we don't have public housing.
"It's just us and that's what you want in life."
The Marschalls are just one of the many families who have been given a lifeline at Sidney Myer Haven.
The Bendigo service opened in October 2015 and provides housing, education, employment and counselling services for people who have experienced family violence, homelessness, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, or financial insecurity. Adults between the ages of 17 and 40 are referred to the service, which is promoted as a 24-month program, although that can vary. They must have been alcohol and drug abuse free for more than 12 months.
A new report into Sidney Myer Haven, titled 'From survival to thriving: a model breaking negative cycles', showed 100 per cent of residents who were homeless when they entered the program moved into secure housing when they left the program.
The paper also showed for every dollar invested into the program, between $10.24 - $11.92 of social or economic value was created.
"It couples safe and secure housing with a social support program," report author and Think Impact director Suzi Young said. "But the biggest thing is that it gives people time to heal.
"They have the safety and security so they can move on from survival mode and can actually find a more positive pathway going forward."
Ms Young and fellow report author Anna Donaldson analysed the value of the program through the social return on investment method.
The method gives a monetary value to non-financial outcomes like 'increased personal safety' or 'better mental health management'. For example, an outcome like 'improved independent living skills' was given the monetary value of $6060. That figure was determined by adding up the average public transport cost for a single parent family in Victoria, which was $116.53 per week or $6060 per year. People who go through the program are supported in getting their drivers licence so they no longer need to depend on public transport and therefore would save the $6060.
With those monetary values, and through a survey of residents and their children, Ms Young was able to determine the social and economic value Sidney Myer Haven created for its residents, the residents' children, and the Victorian State Government.
The report found the 49 past and present Sidney Myer Haven residents experienced the majority of the program's value, a combined total of $11,383,329. The areas in which they experienced the most benefit were from better mental health, expanded healthy social networks, and increased personal safety for those escaping family violence.
The 56 children who have gone through the program also experienced benefits valued at $3,679,571. The majority of that value came from improved social and emotional development, and improved physical health and well being.
The Victorian State Government reaped the rewards of the program to the tune of $7,036,271. That figure related to the costs avoided as a result of residents being in the program, such as reduced demand for public housing or reduced interaction with the health system.
"It's an inter-generational issue," Ms Young said. "Fifty-five per cent of residents who have issues like drug and alcohol abuse or family violence have parents who have also experienced the same issues.
"Sidney Myer Haven not only provides the best service for the residents but also their children so they're given the best opportunities going forward."
Single mother Andrea Gibson moved into the Sidney Myer Haven service about 15 months ago when her twin sons were only four months old.
"I just wanted to change things in my life and I needed help especially with my two baby boys," she said.
Ms Gibson said she was living in Kangaroo Flat but "didn't feel safe obviously being a single parent with my newborn twins".
She also had postnatal depression and was looking for a support network.
The 25-year-old said she was now hoping to increase her independence through the program and was in the process of getting her drivers licence.
"That's a really, really big achievement for me. I'm just going for it," she said. "I just want to pass my Ps and have my own independence."
Ms Gibson was also focused on improving her family's physical and mental health so when they leave the program in November 2020 they will be in a positive place.
"I don't really have any family in Bendigo so these guys are kind of like my family," she said.
"I'm friends with all the mums here and the twins have got other kids to play with because they're all around the same age. I love it here."
Report author Suzi Young said the Sidney Myer Haven was a facility providing remarkable care to the people of Bendigo.
"A lot of the people in this program have been incredibly vulnerable and isolated," she said. "This program provides a safe place where other services can then wrap around and support them.
"That's unique. It's more than just housing, it's long-term care."
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