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

Moss* was alone in her car on Wednesday, listening to ABC Radio Perth, when she heard a discussion about rent affordability and decided to stop by to tell her story.

“Right now I live in my car,” she told presenter Nadia Mitsopoulos.

“A month ago my landlord raised the rent by $50 a week and I have a pension,” she said.

She had paid $350 a week and told her landlord she could afford $370, but not $400.

“When I told them I couldn’t pay rent anymore, I got a notice period. This is after 12 years,” she said.

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With no family to turn to and no contact with friends after back surgery that left her with chronic pain four years ago, the 70-year-old said she was struggling to find a new rental home.

“I’ve been through about 20 houses in the past two weeks and at least 30 other people have been there [going through] also. It is quite difficult.”

She said she went without food for a few days after running out of money a few days before her retirement payment.

After putting away her belongings, she was able to stay in a motel for a few days before spending two and a half weeks in the car when she called.

Listeners offer help

Moss’s story sparked a deluge of help from ABC Radio Perth listeners, and by 8:30 p.m. that evening she was in a small studio close to her old home in Stoneville, in the Perth Hills.

The next day, when it started to rain, she spoke to Nadia again to thank the listeners for their generosity and say how wonderful it had been to spend a night under a safer roof.

“It was so good not to be scared and jump at every little noise 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 is overwhelmed with offers of help and optimistic about the future.ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne

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

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

The studio is not a permanent home, but she can stay until she has time to get up and find out what government services are available.

“It’s enough for me to have a break, to have a breather to think and discover the different places I can go for help because I have no idea,” she said.

In addition to the difficulties she faces, much of the rent application process has now gone online.

“It’s all changed. You have to apply in advance and then there’s an app and I’m not computer savvy.

“I’ve waited a month to learn more about houses because they’re constantly adding people.”

Older homeless people a growing demographic

Phuntsho Om, a doctoral student at Edith Cowan University who studies homelessness in the elderly, said that with demographics changing, stories like Moss’s would likely become more common.

She said older people can suddenly become homeless, through divorce or the death of a spouse, or like Moss, can get into trouble more slowly if social connections are lost.