Talkback caller finds unexpected help after telling story of living in her car

Moss* was sitting alone in her car and listening to ABC Radio Perth on Wednesday when she heard a discussion about rental affordability and decided to call in and tell her story.

“At the moment I’m living in my car,” she told presenter Nadia Mitsopoulos.

“A month ago, my landlord put the rent up $50 a week and I’m on a pension,” she said.

She had been paying $350 a week and told her landlord that she could pay $370, but not $400.

“When I told them that I couldn’t afford to pay any more rent, I got a termination notice. This is after 12 years,” she said.

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Without family to turn to and disconnected from friends after back surgery four years ago left her in chronic pain, the 70-year-old said she struggled to find a new place to rent.

“I’ve been through about 20 houses in the last two weeks and there have been at least 30 other people [going through] as well. It’s pretty hard.”

She said she had gone several days without food after running out of money a few days before her pension payment.

After putting her possessions in storage, she was able to stay at a motel for a few days before spending two and a half weeks in the car when she made the call.

Listeners offer help

Moss’s story prompted an outpouring of offers of help from ABC Radio Perth listeners and by 8.30pm that night, she was in a small studio close to her old home in Stoneville, in the Perth hills.

The next day, as the rain poured down, she spoke to Nadia again to thank listeners for their generosity and said how great it had been to spend a night under a more secure roof.

“It was so good not to be afraid and jumping at every little sound because I didn’t know who was outside the car. And it’s just so quiet and so peaceful,” she said.

Moss in Stoneville, in the Perth hills
Moss in Stoneville, in the Perth hills. She says she’s been overwhelmed with offers of help and feels optimistic about the future.(ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)

It’s been a welcome relief to be able to rest and work on finding new, long-term housing without the pressure of living in a car.

“I was starting to feel really sorry for myself, and pity myself, and I don’t like that, I didn’t like where my head was getting,” she said.

The studio isn’t a permanent home, but she can stay until she has time to get on her feet and find out what government services may be available.

“It’s enough for me to have a break, to have a breathing spot to be able to think and find out the different places that I can go for help, because I have no idea,” she said.

Adding to the difficulties she faces, is that much of the rental application process has now gone online.

“It’s all changed. You’ve got to put in pre-applications and then there’s an app and I’m not computer literate.

“I’ve been waiting a month to find out about houses because they keep adding people on all the time.”

Older homeless a growing demographic

Phuntsho Om, a PhD candidate at Edith Cowan University researching homelessness in older people, said with changing demographics, stories like Moss’s were likely to become more common.

She said older people could become homeless suddenly, through divorce or death of a spouse or, like Moss, drift more slowly into difficulty as social connections were lost.

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