Homelessness has many faces. Following the publication of my blog, ‘Thin line between poverty and homelessness‘, I was contacted by a woman who asked me to maintain her confidentiality. When you read what follows, you will understand why!
She didn’t want to comment online on my post because she couldn’t do that anonymously. But she offered to write an account of her quite recent experience of homelessness.
Guest bloggers don’t often come my way. I am delighted to post what she wrote.
GUEST BLOG ON HOMELESSNESS
Thank you for your candid account of poverty and near homelessness.
I live in constant fear of not being able to pay my rent (nearly $1600 per month) due to the loss of my permanent job. Now I rely on relief work that is not available year-round. Added to this are my ongoing battles with mental health issues, family stresses and a personal loan I took out when I earned decent money.
Recently I suffered homelessness and needed to stay first with friends, and then with my adult daughters. It is hard to lose your home as a mature woman with the accumulated “stuff” of a lifetime that needs to be stored so that life can be resumed at a later date.
I was incredibly lucky that I had modeled for my children a charitable and considerate way to deal with people down on their luck.
Last night I was telling one of my daughter’s friends that my daughters would to go into the city when they were teenagers and bring homeless-teenagers home with them. We regularly gave these new friends somewhere to sleep for a few nights, the opportunity to wash their clothes, shower and eat.
My bottom line did not allow for drugs, so this was usually the reason they drifted back to the city and sleeping rough. The same friends returned occasionally until we left the area a few years later.
Often these homeless kids would take clothing from my daughters, which I regularly replaced (my own mother’s advice is, if there is a problem – throw money at it!). During winter I usually sent the teenagers off with cheap pullovers from Kmart and pants from second-hand shops.
Telling this story to my daughters’ friends was amusing – initially they were disbelieving, but with my daughters’ recounting of various incidents they soon came to believe us.
I am glad that we had to opportunity to befriend and support all these kids. I get a kick out of hearing how most of them are doing so well these days. Of course, we lost a few along the way. I have had to support my girls in their mourning of lives lost so young, usually to suicide.
My Lotto dream is to build more accommodation like The Foyer in Leederville for homeless youth. That’s after a buy a place of my own so that I don’t have to stress about paying the rent! I fear growing old because I chose education over home ownership when my marriage broke down over 20 years ago. I know I will never own my own home and that I will always live with the fear of not being able to pay the rent.
But what I have going for me is my upbringing (where I learnt if you just hang in there long enough it gets better!), my intelligence and my family.
Some meanings of homelessness
Homelessness is not just about not having a roof over your head. It is also about not having access to all the amenities of a home – nowhere to wash, cook or store those things you can’t carry on your person. To alleviate some of these deficits homeless people need food, clean clothing and personal hygiene products.
These can be given directly to homeless people or to a charity that will distribute them. If you have the courage and time, it is incredibly rewarding to personally give a care package, a coffee, a cushion or rug to a homeless person.
You can find people in need by simply going to the parks where food is distributed to the homeless in Perth. (Find soup kitchens and Perth map here.)
It is important to have the time to listen: some people will want to talk and tell their story, but others may be more private and embarrassed.
Some of the things that we regularly gave to the homeless kids who ended up at our house were toothbrush and toothpaste, baby wipes, tissues, sanitary products, deodorant, nail clippers, band aids, a comb or brush, sunscreen, water bottles and hats.
We sometimes added food items like those you pack in a school lunch such as muesli bars, fruit cups, cheese and biscuit dip packs and small amounts of fresh, in season fruit such as apples, oranges or pears.
What we can do
A charity close to my heart, probably because of my daughters, is “Share the Dignity”. It aims to provide sanitary pads and tampons for women in need.
From the 16th November until 2nd December a program called #itsinthebag will collect care packages for women in need this Christmas. They ask us to donate a bag we no longer use, and include the basic personal hygiene products such as toothbrush/toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo and conditioner.
Add luxury items such as a lipstick or sunscreen if you like, and a note or card to show the recipient that someone cares. Donations will bring the woman who receives it a little comfort and perhaps a moment of joy.
These bags can be dropped off at any Bunnings store during the above dates. They will also accept items not in bags. You can find your nearest store here.
Together we can support each other!