Madalena’s Story: Part 2

HOMELESSNESS WEEK runs from August 7 – 13, and apart from giving a donation to any of the noble charities providing succour to people on the streets, there’s a few activities you can take part in. Head to http://www.shelterwa.org.au/homelessness_week to have a look at the program of events. Meanwhile, the Voice presents part 2 of Madalena’s Story to raise awareness about homelessness. 

I found myself separated from normal people by an invisible wall which I guess I erected due to people’s responses when they found out my living circumstances.

I’d decided to no longer try to form worthwhile relationships until I was settled in a more normal living circumstance.

I was an observer only and not a participator. I wanted to be invisible to others because I didn’t want to worry them or be a burden on anyone. I had no one to blame for my circumstances except my own stupidity. This statement is said because it is true, not because I don’t like myself.

I was trying to get myself out of it and this involved a lot of time where I observed life only. The world was marching by me while I was stuck, unmoving, simply watching, not unhappy, but alone. Sometimes someone would reach their hand where I sat and I loved them for it but I couldn’t afford to be a burden to them, nor did I want to be doubted or abused by anyone again – I’d experienced this from some others during this homeless time. These bad experiences were very much a rude awakening for me.

A typical day: rise at 5am so no one could see me and know I’d slept in my car. Dress, wash face, do hair. Drive to a toilet I’d located the day before. Six was too late. (I could not hold on long enough. Too much information?? –  sorry!)

Drive to Shell garage as coffee is $2 for a large cup. Find a place to sit and drink it to fully wake and plan my day.

Cans of soup

Deciding where to shower was always a big one for me and making up my mind took planning and time. I know where most of the free hot showers are. Only used one­—leisure centre. That’s rather scary, to walk into a leisure centre acting as if you belonged there. It takes bravado and I’m not a brave person.

I’d love to give my knowledge of showering to other homeless people but the one time I did tell two people about one to help them out, in no time many people were using it, so the powers that be closed it to the public.

It could only be accessed on electronic card. I can’t blame them for doing that. It only takes one rat bag to spoil it for others. And the cost of power and water is to steep for local councils to foot the bill.

So many homeless people using facilities put in place for their constituents.

It’s expensive to live in a car. Just to have one cup of coffee a day is $28 per fortnight. Fresh food does not keep longer than two days.

So, to have veggies I had to buy $2 cans of soup, preferably low in salt but still way to salty for my taste buds. I could buy pre-made salads but I couldn’t afford to eat that every day.

Fuel was a higher priority for me than food because the car was my home and I needed it to move around and where would I go to the toilet if I ran out of fuel?

There is an upside to this and it was I had no electricity bills, etc, to pay. However, I was fined $338 for a first-time ever offence due to not receiving mail (no postal address) and I had no knowledge of the matter, never knew I was going to face such a hefty fine.

I had looked at getting a post office box but felt it was too expensive. I was looking for a room to rent. I was too embarrassed to go into a post office, explain how I was living and ask for them to look after my mail. I thought they would never forget me and forevermore be seen as a homeless person.

Eventually I did do this and it wasn’t the awful experience I had envisioned; a shock to the person, yes, but I wasn’t the first. It was also five weeks before I moved into a house and that in five weeks I never received any mail.

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