The hidden face of homelessness

THE FACE OF HOMELESSNESS: Lynette has found herself homeless for the first time in her life. Pictured with her best friend Benji.
THE FACE OF HOMELESSNESS: Lynette has found herself homeless for the first time in her life. Pictured with her best friend Benji. Rowan Schindler

CURLED up in the back seat of her car, Lyn had no other option but to sit tight and hope as she cuddled close to her best friend Benji, a nine-year-old maltese cross shih tzu.

Lynette Lowe is 71-years-old and this is the first time she has been homeless.

Her husband William died five years ago and it has been a rough road ever since.

Lyn was turned out of her home by a family member on Christmas Day and hid at a friend's house for almost a week. With no other family, Lyn left everything at the home she is too afraid to go back to, and all she has is her little Benji.

Since then, Lyn has been searching for a place to stay but has been knocked back at each turn.

She's been told Gympie's community housing is full, and to try Rockhampton and the Gold Coast, with nowhere on the Sunshine Coast available.

Lyn said she cannot afford any private rental, and lives off the meagre pension she receives each fortnight.

"I don't have any other family to help me and my doctors are all in this area.

"All I need is a one bedroom unit or something with a little yard for my dog.

"I've contacted everyone I can think of - I just don't understand why people don't have a place for us," Lyn said.

Lyn said one organisation told her they could not help but suggest she book a motel room and sneak Benji in.

"They told me to break the rules," she said.

"I've tried to do all the right things but it's like they don't care."

One organisation told Lyn she will have more luck if she gives up her companion.

"My Benji is my world - if I lost him it would destroy me.

"He's such a beautiful dog.

"I've always been strong but this time I can't."

Colin Betts, known locally as "Chief", found Lyn, and said more needs to be done to help people in her situation.

"They want her to get rid of her dog, that's like getting rid of her family.

"You don't turn someone in need away like that, you give them help, a shower, some food.

"There are vultures out there and we need to do what we can to protect the vulnerable.

"I'm disgusted there's nothing in the area for people in this situation," he said.

Mr Betts has been helping Lyn find somewhere to live and pointed blame at the government for not allocating enough resources to Australians in need.

"There's people who know how to work the system and this woman can't get anything.

"A lady says she is sleeping in her car at the park and people don't do anything. It's criminal," Mr Betts said.

Community Action Gympie Chief Executive Officer Judy Brauer said Gympie does not have the facilities to house the homeless.

"We don't have a permanent solution for homeless people in Gympie - we don't have a crisis centre or anything like that.

"As the nights get cooler we do see more people come our way."

University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer of Social Work Dr Jane Thomson said Lyn's situation is not uncommon.

"You can have this stereotypical view of homelessness as this alcohol in a paper bag thing, but people like her are the hidden face of homelessness."

Those who are, or who feel they are at risk of being homeless can use the following local services:

Community Action Gympie:

22 Nash Street

Gympie QLD 4570

Ph: (07) 5482 8959

The Salvation Army:

42 Stumm Road

Southside GYMPIE QLD 4570

Ph. (07) 5482 1710

Topics:  australia gympie homeless homelessness queensland

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