Moss* was sitting alone in her car listening to ABC Radio Perth on Wednesday when she heard a discussion about affordability for rent and decided to call her and tell her story.
“At the moment I live in my car,” she told broadcaster Nadia Mitsopoulos.
“A month ago my landlord paid the rent for $50 a week and I’m on a pension,” she said.
She was paying $350 a week and told the owner she could pay $370, but not $400.
“When I told them I couldn’t pay any more rent, I got a notice of termination. This is after 12 years,” she said.
The 70-year-old said she was struggling to find a new place to rent, with no family to turn to and a break up with friends after back surgery four years ago that left her in chronic pain.
“I’ve passed about 20 homes in the last two weeks and there were at least 30 other people there [going through] like that. it is very difficult “.
She said she went several days without food after she ran out of money a few days before her pension was paid.
After stocking up on her belongings, she was able to stay in a hotel for a few days before spending two and a half weeks in the car when she made the call.
Listeners offer help
Moss’ story prompted an influx of offers of help from ABC Radio Perth listeners, and by 8:30 p.m. that night, she was in a small studio near her old home in Stoneville, in the Perth Hills.
The next day, as it rained, she spoke to Nadia again to thank the listeners for their generosity and said how nice it was to spend a night under a safer roof.
“It was nice not to get scared and jump at every little sound because I didn’t know who was outside the car,” she said. “It’s very quiet and peaceful.”
It’s a relief to be able to rest and work on finding a new, long-term home without the stress of living in a car.
“I’m starting to feel really sorry for myself, and pity myself, and I don’t like it, I don’t like where my head is,” she said.
The studio is not a permanent home, but she can stay until she has time to get back on her feet and see what government services may be available.
“It’s enough for me to get some rest, to have a place to breathe so I can think and figure out the different places I can go to ask for help, because I have no idea,” she said.
Adding to your difficulties is that much of the rental application process is now done online.
“Everything has changed. You have to put in pre-applications, and then there is an app and I am not familiar with the computer.
“I’ve been waiting a month to learn more about homes because they keep adding people all the time.”
Homeless elderly a growing demographic
As demographics change, stories like Moose’s are likely to become more common, said Funcho Ohm, an Edith Cowan University doctoral student who researches homelessness in older adults.
She said that older adults can become suddenly homeless, through divorce or the death of a spouse or, like Moss, drift more slowly into difficulties with the loss of social ties.
“It’s poverty, an increase in the cost of living, and then a lack of social programmes,” she said.
“Times are changing and everyone is so busy with their work and family, these people lack social interaction.
Part of the solution, she said, involves dealing with the elderly so they are not isolated with few people to turn to when faced with potential homelessness.
Narrow rental market in Perth
After declining 25-30 per cent over recent years, rent cost is now back to 2014 levels, at the end of the mining boom, said Michelle Rigg, general manager of Perth-based property management firm RentWest.
There were fewer homes available for rent, she said, and a low vacancy rate of 1.2 percent is also putting pressure on rents.
“We have about 15 to 20 per cent of investors leaving the market overall in Australia,” Reg told ABC Radio Perth.
“The normal vacancy rate – with a balance for both owners and tenants – is about 3 percent,” she said.
She said that while many low-income people depend on the private rental market, governments need to take a greater role in housing people who have been priced outside the market.
“Unfortunately, the government may have been lacking that space and cutting back on public housing rather than investing in it, which is also affecting,” she said.
Reg said it was likely another 18 months before the rental market in Perth stabilized.
Moss said that while she was not looking for help when she called, just someone to talk to, she was overwhelmed by the generosity offered to her and hopes that the goodwill in the community will help more people in her situation.
“There are so many people out there like me, if we could make a network, that would be great,” she said.
“I don’t know how, but it will be fine. A lot of people will get help.”
* Moss requested that her full name not be used in this article
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