Vulnerable women have a problem with how to go on living life in some meaningful way whilst being homeless or at risk of homelessness. There are two related issues here, how we keep some kind of roof over our heads, and what we do with our lives while we are trying to sort out permanent housing or while we are living too far below the bread line.
How we keep ourselves safe
The first is how to keep ourselves safe without permanent housing – how to keep that roof over our heads. Click this link for lots of information on how to keep a temporary roof over your head while you are working on sorting out something permanent.
How we keep ourselves socially engaged
A lot is written about the epidemic of loneliness that has become the scourge of the western world. And there are plenty who will place blame on those few brave souls who actually admit to their social isolation. But the statistics are with us. The reality is that it is very difficult for single women to make and sustain relationships at the best of times in the current culture, and virtually impossible for those living with one or more of the following:
- no spare money, which is everyone on any form of pension or benefit
- no family
- no permanent home, particular those who live “on the road” in their vehicles or follow house-sits, which means no friends or social networks where you are living and no local community
- permanent but undersized accommodation with no storage or hobby space, and maybe no access to outside space for gardening
- some form of compromised health, particularly an invisible and/or unpredictable malady such as one of the syndromes
Just what do we do with our time so that we go to bed each night fulfilled and get up each morning looking forward to the day? I cruised the web for articles on making new friends later in life and for articles on things to do with no money. None confronted the reality of poverty, sickness and exhaustion, and most were seriously “holier than thou”, so I decided we had better write our own. I run a group for homeless women on Facebook, and asked them how they each do it. Here are some of their ideas. No single idea is suitable for everyone, and there are too few for women who are itinerant. We need more, but anyone should be able to find a few that they can get into. I did.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So let’s make it meaningful.
Keep yourself connected – somehow
Remembering that our Facebook group is on the internet and we met on Facebook, learning to stay connected when the money runs out is critical to most of us. Some have good plans on their smart devices so they never run out, but others are dependent on pre-paid which is very expensive and which can run out between pay days. There are two ways we can access the web when the money runs out, use a local library, or use a Telstra hot spot with our pre-paid smart device. To do that we need at least one Telstra service. Some cities also have free wifi in their CBD areas, lots of cafes now have free wifi, and most MacDonalds do, although I have had difficulty connecting through some. Sometimes you can access these from outside in your car. You can find aps for your smart devices that list or detect free wifi.
Make friends with your local library
If you have a local library, join it and use it. This can be hard if you are itinerant, as most want evidence of residency in the form of a utilities bill in your name. If you don’t have this, see if they will accept a rent receipt or something else that seems to anchor you locally. A lease for your house-sit could do it. In the worst case scenario, some libraries will let you pay a deposit and limit the number of books you can take out. Once you make friends with your library, they have plenty of cheap or free classes, but also you can access the internet through their connection, download audio books for free, and many allow you to access Ancestry.com for free. They are working hard to make themselves relevant in the digital age. The advantage of having digital access is that the library you have joined need never know you have moved on. You will still be able to access eBooks and audio books through that membership.
I recently ventured into making kombucha. All you need is a few large-ish jars that you can get at an op shop, and a starter “scoby”, the fungus, that you can get for free from someone local through a local Facebook group, and then the only ongoing costs are tea, sugar and filtered water. That set of a whole series of suggestions for other types of fermenting you can do very cheaply for yourself at home. Here are some.
Take snapshots with your smart device or camera if you have one
Once you have the equipment, this is free, and it seems that a good smart device is an essential piece of equipment for homeless women. There is a wealth of sharing sites and clubs all over the web. I find it useful to have a daily challenge – something to do that encourages me out of the house to do it, and an audience. As I am no photographer, I look for groups that are amateur photographers who simply like to have fun taking snapshots. If you live in a tourist area you might find something that relates to your local environment like this 100 Beach Challenge
Start your own Facebook Group or Blog
There are lots of themes you could choose for creating your own blog, or your own Facebook Group. Some people are natural diarists and they find it easy. If you have a hobby you love, then you can talk about it on a blog, or run a group on Facebook for other people who share that love. The sky is the limit and these things are not hard to do once you get started. Most importantly, they are free, and you might even end up adding value to the lives of others.
Recycle or upcycle
This one may take tools or space, and is probably not suitable for those on the move, but great for those living with too little money, who still want to be creative and still need “stuff”.
Join a local educational group or study something on-line
For the more mature, the University of the Third Age is a great resource, although mostly for those who live in a stable location, as their membership fees are significant for those on pensions and they are not transferable from group to group for those on the road. However they do have an online group which costs $30.00 to join and seems to be for people of all ages. For those who want to study something at university level without paying for it, there are now MOOC courses – short for Massive Online Course. There really is no limit to what you can study on-line. If you cruise around you will find lots of freebies – even if they are just the introductory course designed to entice you to pay for further courses.
Take up a music instrument or join a choir
Musical instruments can be expensive but they come up from time to time in local op shops, so keep an eye open for the op shops near you most likely to carry them. You will need something small if you are itinerant, which is what the harmonica is all about. If you are housed, then you can take your time to find an instrument, then learn how to play it from on-line instruction. This is my new challenge. I will keep an eye on all the op shops I frequent from now on, and when I find an instrument, that is what I will learn to play. Again, if you have a stable address, there is usually a local choir and many of them are for fun so, as long as you are not tone deaf, they will welcome you. Most do have a small membership fee. Or what about a drumming circle?
Join a local spiritual or mystical group
This is a tricky one, for obvious reasons. Depending upon where you live there might be lots of these, or none, so if you have arrived in a place where there are no spiritual or religious organisations that suit your needs, you might be able to join an on-line group. Search the web to find a group that might suit you. Some of these might sound scary to those who do not know and understand them, but there is always one simple test of a group. If they demand blind obedience, give them a miss.
Do something for the environment
There are just so many environmental groups, that you should be able to find something near you, although staying engaged when you are moving around might be difficult. However, if you join something like a Transition Town group in one town (usually free) you might find that you have value to add to a Transition Town group in another town. Joining environmental groups might be one of the quickest ways to meet new people as you move around.
Each area has a wealth of landcare, bushcare and parkcare groups for you to select from.
Get out in nature
This can be a challenge for women alone who feel they have nowhere safe to walk, and it can be a challenge for those who are health compromised. If you are fit and healthy, almost every town has a walking group and a cycling group that you can join. If you cannot join a group, you can probably find a park to go sit in for some time each day. Lots of Australian towns, including country towns, have some of the most wonderful botanical gardens, set up in Victorian times. that offer peace and shade on a hot summer’s day. The great advantage of these gardens, for women, is that they are normally well frequented so you have less chance of finding yourself too alone for comfort. If you need a way to do this, look up the various eco-something modalities, eco-sociology, eco-philosophy, eco psychology, deep ecology and similar. You can also join a local community garden – even if you are moving on, your work can benefit others. Run a search for a community garden in your area.
The world already has too many people working in op shops, but there are lots of other ways of volunteering that give the volunteer as much back as they put in. I ran a search to see what was possible, as I did not want to give links to my local opportunities and was stunned at how many sites there are out there, with great ideas for rewarding volunteering that is as much fun for you as it is useful for someone or something else. If you are young and fit but struggling to keep a roof over your head, volunteering for WWOOFers or HelpX can solve your housing problem in the short term.
You can even volunteer to help those at risk of homelessness before they find themselves out on the streets, although you do need to be “a local” to be able to do that.
Meditation like activities
Let’s get real. When your world is collapsing around you and you are exposed to every imaginable danger (or feel like you are), meditation is not a happening thing. But there are ways of getting into a more mentally restful state of mind or body somewhere south of total panic, with a bit of help from high tech meditation tracks. We can listen to meditation tracks that entrain our brain into certain states, whether we want to go there or not, and they can be very very helpful during bad times. Explore some of these options. I will not recommend any particular products as there are many thousands of them. You can read up on the science so you know what they are, then run a search to find specific examples. You can usually find free sound tracks on YouTube.
You could join LETs, a community trading scheme that works on credits rather than money, so your money goes further and maybe meet good people in the process. If you are moving around you can find the LETS in the next place.
You can join a MeetUp group specifically to meet new people locally. Sometimes they are simple “friendship” groups and sometimes they are specific to an interest or activity.
These are only in their infancy, but there is a growing number of them that can do with support to get going. These are a great way to network with other women, build up local friendships, and learn all those gender neutral survival skills that empower us to make good in a hostile world.