Written by an Anglicare staff member at Eurobodalla Homelessness Support Service.
Sue* is a sixty-year-old homeless woman. She attended the Eurobodalla Homelessness Support Service in Moruya for hygiene supplies and food assistance. Her face is sun-burnt and the lines on her face reveal a story of hardship.
Sue vaguely mentioned that a critical event in her life had led to her becoming homeless. “Ten years ago, life threw me a curve ball and here I am,” said Sue, holding a large plastic bag full of her possessions.
“A bloke said to go to Anglicare, they’ll see you right,” continued Sue. “Don’t know him, but seems he knows you lot well enough.”
The question was asked if she needed assistance to access emergency accommodation. Sue shook her head from side to side raising her hand.
“No, just want to be left alone. All I need is some food and toothpaste. Its bloody embarrassing asking for help, still got some dignity. I’m no scrounger.”
Sue was handed a food hamper and dignity bag.
“Might grab that woolies trolley round the corner before someone else nabs it!”
First impression of Sue was that of a fiercely independent woman and even though experiencing the indignities of homelessness, gave little away to assist her further. It came as a surprise when she expressed a particular concern.
“Always dreaded I would become a bag lady.” Sue shrugged her shoulders looked up and thinly smiled. “Fate can be very cruel.”
It was the opening to reiterate the assistance to access emergency accommodation. Sue did not respond only to say. “This world is full of homeless souls, I’m one of them. I often look at my reflection and think, is that woman really me?”
Sue picked up the food hamper and dignity bag and in some inexplicable way, had described her life in a few words without disclosing details. There was nothing more to say.
While Sue had described herself as a ‘homeless soul,’ I sensed she was walking her own path, escaping the chaos of life. A fracture in her life ten years ago had never healed, and while living on the edge of survival had left its indelible mark, she had not lost her dignity.
There is a fine line between being housed and being homeless. Rough sleeping with no access to shower and toilet facilities – no place to call home.
Sue’s fleeting presence is a timely message to us all that here is much to be thankful for and equally, what life would be like without the joys and necessities of life – home, job, friends and family.
Life at times if fraught with uncertainty, the reality is, there are multiple paths into homelessness. It is for that reason that gratitude for what we have should be expressed and loving nurtured.
*Not real name.