Forced to live in the boot

Hidden crisis

WHILE Fremantle’s ‘tent city’ attracts headlines, politicians’ attention and hopefully a solution for its 100 residents, a suburb away Marie sleeps virtually unnoticed in the boot of her car.

It’s been parked in her daughter’s carport for the last four months, symbolic of the broader homelessness crisis facing WA; the thousands of people who surf couches or take up a space in somebody else’s home, but have little hope of finding somewhere to call their own.

“I am at my wit’s end,” Marie tells the Herald.

The 43-year-old has been through 50 potential rentals, but says that as a single woman without employment or a current permanent address, she’s way down the queue.

“Yesterday I looked at 12 O’Connell Street [in Hamilton Hill] and no lie, there were about 40 people looking at it,” she said.

It’s a bleak Catch-22; without a permanent address it’s almost impossible to secure a job, without employment landlords aren’t willing to take a risk.

“I am getting in a depression; I just sit here and cry,” says Marie, her belongings stacked around the walls of the carport.

“I considered being a tent person, but it is easier being here a while; I can have a shower every day, things like that.”

But she says her daughter needs her own space for her family, while grandma sleeping in the carport wasn’t the enduring image she hoped to leave her granddaughter.

Like many in her situation, Marie acknowledges she made mistakes. She struggled with drinking, lost a Homeswest tenancy and did a small stint in prison, but says they were a distant past she’s desperate to leave behind.

“Every house I have had I have always had my bond back. My rental history is not bad,” she says.

“I’ve got a Homeswest bond, so I’m ready to go.

“I am single and not working, but I am trying to make that next leap in my life.”

She’s hoping that will help reunite her with her younger son; when she first started couch surfing his father took custody and she can only get holiday visits until she finds something more permanent.

Marie says she hasn’t drawn on homeless services as they cater mainly for single people and men. It’s an issue the services have acknowledged themselves, as they’ve struggled to keep up with the changing demographic of homelessness which has seen spikes in families and older women.

The McGowan government acknowledges there’s a problem, but says as part of its long-term housing strategy, the key focus is currently on rough sleepers.

Marie’s keen to hear from anyone who can help her find a place in the $250 – $290 bracket or has a job going. Send her a message at smileyrogers77@gmail.com

by STEVE GRANT

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