At the beginning of 2020, Painter was living on the streets, struggling with addiction and the physical and mental scars from an abusive relationship, The Age reports.
Fast forward a year and on Sunday she is holding an art exhibition – From Adversity to Creativity – hosted by the owner of serviced apartments in East Melbourne whom Painter credits with saving her life.
Painter was one of more than 2000 homeless Victorians put up by the government in hotels during the pandemic to combat the spread of COVID-19.
She was placed in Birches Serviced Apartments in East Melbourne, which usually hosts affluent guests attending sporting events or concerts at the Rod Laver Arena.
“I never intended to take the homeless on or change anyone’s life,” says Birches owner Jennie Kerr. “But without them, I wouldn’t have survived. I was getting paid by the government, so I could still run my business.”
Ms Kerr recalls being contacted by homelessness organisation Launch Housing and asked to house a client of theirs who insisted on only being called Painter.
The pair struck up a friendship during the long months of lockdown. ’I could just see a diamond in the rough here,” Ms Kerr says.
Painter says Ms Kerr saved her life. “There’s not enough superlatives in the world to express it. It’s the first time I felt safe since I was 16. I am 46 now. That’s enabled me to get off drugs. She changed my life in every way that I’ve been wishing and wanting to be able to do. I’ve always said I just need one person to treat me with a little bit of respect and watch me flourish.”
Painter with some of the artworks from her exhibition From Adversity to Creativity. CREDIT: WAYNE TAYLOR