I am struggling. I am struggling physically because I am a 67 year old homeless woman with fibromyalgia.
I am struggling emotionally because I am a 67 year old homeless woman with fibromyalgia, who, by virtue of having lived an itinerant lifestyle to stay in work, belongs nowhere, and has no sense of a home to return to.
I am struggling intellectually because, despite my Mensan IQ, I cannot think my way out of this one. I am used to trusting intellect to solve problems, but my intellect cannot solve this one.
I am not alone in this. In Australia, 40% of single women and 25% of single men over 40 are living on the minimum wage or less. The minimum wage can no longer pay for housing. Simple as that. 40% of single women and 25% of single men over 40 have to find creative ways of keeping roofs over their heads because they can no longer afford either rent or mortgages. They can no longer afford a safe place to call home. This is a huge number of people in housing stress.
And nobody has an end to end strategy to fix the problem. There’s lots of media attention, lots of talk, lots piecemeal actions to house 4 people at a time, here or there, lots of new government perks for their rich buddies to get even richer by housing us in substandard and temporary accommodation. But, there is no end to end housing strategy.
Everything they do to patch things up just creates a new problem downstream of their action. Create more places in emergency refuges? Good idea, but where do those people go to once they are thrown out of the refuge? There is nowhere else to go. The affordable housing is full. How many years do we wait for someone to die, because that is the only way someone leaves an affordable home once they have one? And no more are being built. No-one is responsible.
I am trying to wrap my head around all of this. What strategies are there? What works? What doesn’t work? So far, an awful lot doesn’t work. Older people who have always been in charge of their own lives, are suddenly required to share living spaces with total strangers. This is hard enough for fit, healthy youngsters looking forward to an optimistic future. It is impossible for world weary, embittered or despairing old people, living in abject poverty, feeling let down and betrayed by a world that no longer wants them, and whose only future is a miserable and protracted decline into death.
And seriously – yes – this is what we are facing. We put a brave face on it, and avoid thinking about it when we can, but we know we can do less and less with a very limited or low income, and we are very very afraid. Hobbies, entertainment, socialising? How do we choose between food and fun?
The problem people like me are facing is new. We have no precedent to learn from. There is no model to follow. Not only is the problem new, but the world in which it is manifesting is changing so fast, and has become so complicated, that there is no way to see the outcome from an attempted solution until you have done it. Only when you find yourself drowning can you see the outcome of your action, and from there you are in reactive mode, trying to stay afloat, trying to swim to shore or find a branch to hang onto, calling out for help only to find there is no-one there – or those who are there simply watch you drown because they have no idea how to help you. It is all new to them too.
This is where I find myself. I have no idea what I am doing. I have no precedent to learn from. What can we do on-line, what has to be done locally, how do we navigate council, state and national government roadblocks, all designed to prevent us from helping ourselves?
Frankly, I have no idea. I keep coming up with new bright ideas, I keep trying to inspire others to help me implement them because I cannot do it alone. Ideas and design are my skill, not implementation. I keep hitting that brick wall of human passivity. No-one willing to put themselves out on a limb to do what has to be done to get anything to change. They fear more abuse, they fear retribution, from their employers, their families, their friends, their landlords – pretty much everyone they know – so they stay silent.
Should I join them?