With a hand raised in policeman STOP-style, little Miss Four-year-old causes onlookers to stop in their tracks as she replies to her mother’s summons—”SHH-HH-HH! I’m ON THE PHONE, can’t you see?” Few witnesses would guess the pink ‘pretend’ cell-phone she speaks into is a rescue from a heap of unwanted clothes, goods and chattels piled outside a local charity shop.
Even fewer would realise the clothes of mother and daughter came from probing through those same piles of rejects… after they’d formed a bed for them, the previous night. If they looked more carefully, they may notice the creases and wear in the mismatched clothes, always too big or too small; the slight sloppiness of the incongruous yellow rubber boots, and the unkempt hair, nowhere near as clean at it should be.
Casual onlookers do not understand why behavioural issues are already rearing their ugly heads—seemingly patiently tolerated by the mother. How can they empathise without knowing the emotional isolation these two endure due to the constant changes in their ‘home’? Mother and daughter are unwilling and helpless members of the homeless army, adrift each night on public streets.
Elsewhere, a small boy searches his mother’s tired, beaten face and persistently asks, “Where IS our home, Mummy?” He’s never totally ‘well’—his sniffly nose and harsh, recurring cough fairly shout how tough they are doing their lives, and the tragic results of the basic health care possibilities that pass him by, constantly. For him, such things as proper and adequate nutrition, immunisations and dental care are luxuries—mostly unknown to him.
His mother knows… only too well, sadly. And agonises over her inability to care for him ‘properly’. Sometimes, as she suffers through the chill of her heart and soul that perfectly mimics her body’s discomfort, she questions whether she could have/should have stayed with the monster she’d fallen in love with, so long ago. Guilt and the toughness of life these days almost drives her back to the nightmare of regular verbal and physical abuse. Almost. She shudders. No…no…no!
In the past, in her dreams she imagined life would somehow be better once her son was at school. Wrong! His sad world had to be hidden by lies, like why his school uniform was ill-fitting, his shoes scruffy; his avoidance of friendships where the truth may come out; his inability to ever have someone back to his place to play, to have an ‘overnighter’… resulting in him having few if any friends. He’s always having to find a way to avoid those unaffordable school outings and excursions. His stress levels are high, his academic skills and concentration low, his chances of any kind of successful future exceedingly slim.
Thankfully, most of us can only imagine what the sour taste and soul-chilling feel of not having a roof over your head at night must be like, although many choose to never confront this reality. In far too many warm homes there will be those watching a TV commercial about the desperate plight of the homeless—especially through the endless hours of current winter nights—who turn away, muttering, “I can’t watch this. It’s too terrible. Why must they show this sort of thing when we’re eating our tea? It’s so thoughtless!”
What a terrible trial for an adult to endure… and then there’s that homeless child.
Thoughtless indeed to share film of the plight they live All night, every night.
OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.
To find out more about Christine and her work:
Christine Larsen, Author
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