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Byron Shire
January 23, 2022

The gift of belonging and the Christmas story of short-term holiday letting

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Jesus was born in a barn. His parents couldn’t find anywhere to stay. If he was born now and the government knew his folks were rubbing shoulders with mules, lowing cattle and bleating lambs, child protection would have swooped in to remove the baby. He would be deemed ‘at risk’ because his family couldn’t provide adequate accommodation.

Yet he was ‘the son of god’ and even God couldn’t get his hands on a decent rental. What hope does that give the rest of us?

This is the Christmas story we celebrate each year. We don’t celebrate it by recognising the impact of housing stress on families. We don’t celebrate it by opening our doors to the homeless. We don’t celebrate it by having a good hard audit of our values.

Festival of consumption

No. We celebrate it with a festival of consumption. We shop. We fill the car with things no one needs. We then give it to people who don’t actually want it. We celebrate it by kicking the vulnerable out of their housing and putting what was previously their home on a short-term holiday letting platform. We celebrate by enshrining our embarrassing and ridiculous privilege in stupid Christmas indulgences.

I wasn’t going to write this. I was going to write something funny and uplifting for the Christmas issue. Something as shiny and shallow as a metallic bauble hanging from a fake tree.

Jenny’s story

Then the phone rang and I heard Jenny’s story.

I hear these stories a lot. There are so bloody many of them. When you hear these stories, when you know of someone’s suffering, you have to do something about it. I am telling this story in the hope that we, as a community, can do something about it.

So, meet Jenny…

Jenny is a domestic violence (DV) survivor. She’s in her mid-30s. She has five children. Her kids range from teenagers to pre-school. Jenny has her hands full.

On 18 January when I celebrate my 54th birthday, Jenny will be leaving her home. She’s been kicked out and has been unable to find anywhere else to go.

That’s because there is nowhere to go. It’s school holiday time and rentals are emptied out for affluent holidaymakers to have a break.

Looking for options

But that break comes at a cost. It comes at the cost of Jenny and her kids having nowhere to go. Jenny has survived violence. She is now at risk of having her kids taken off her because she can’t provide somewhere safe to live.

She’s currently looking at a tent as an option. Our greed, our lack of rental housing has made a woman and her kids unsafe. It will split a family. Those kids could lose their mum. They could lose each other. It’s hard to enjoy your new soda stream or foot spa if you dwell on the impending misery facing Jenny and her kids.

Be the change

It’s fucked. The whole system is fucked. So instead of spending money on buying shit we don’t need, why don’t we do something meaningful this Christmas and find Jenny somewhere to live? Or donate some dollars for her and the kids?

Why don’t we be the change we have been waiting to see? Why don’t we take this opportunity to be good people. To send someone in our community the most important Christmas message of all; to tell them they belong, that they are loved.

I have heard some people say that people like Jenny ‘should leave’. She’s living in Lismore, where do you think she should go exactly? Her kids go to school there. She works there. You want to tap on the window of a car where a woman lives with her kids and say ‘You should move’, or, do you want to say ‘Hey, this sucks, we are going to fix this.’

Can we be a community that says we will fix this? Can we be a community that believes in belonging? Please help me help Jenny.

Let’s give that little family something for Xmas they can only dream about:

A home.

You can email me on [email protected] Preferred housing locations in Lismore and surrounds.


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11 COMMENTS

  1. And exorbitant, over-the-top prices, plus 10 percent just to make sure you can make a killing.
    God, mayor Richardson would not put a Bed Tax on, and so we have a broke council and potholes in the roads crumbling around our ears and only one-way into the place, Ewingssdale Road that has been talked about for the past two decades. We hope a new mayor will do something and spend some money on the place.

  2. We have a run-down town and a run-down council because the people who come here are not paying their way. They come here and exploit us and then go home again.
    Just why did we have to put parking meters in? Because council did not have enough money, that’s why. But Parking Meters also take the money out of the pockets of locals. Everything the previous council did was a bad move.

    • Locals pay $55 for parking ALL YEAR! Parking at $4 per hour provides an income stream to our council directly from the visitor economy. That’s why they put it in!

  3. Great article Mandy! Sad and bad that this homelessness happens. Australia is a wealthy privileged nation, we should all think about those whose very life essentials are betrayed for the mighty dollar. And then do something to change the situation – start by supporting Mandy to be our MP in Canberra!

  4. Being a mum who was in a similar situation to Jenny and her kids except my hubby was dying at the time of our homelessness .My heart bleeds for families like Jenny’s , I totally feel and understand her fear and worry . What Christmas for families like this? Trivial presents fix nothing gor more than a day . Our government needs to pull their finger out of their bums and fix the housing crisis ASAP . What happens when winter come this year ? Will Jenny along many other families still be homeless … more than likely. Shame on our society when we can’t home a parent and children because the almighty $ rules . I’m in a very small house but If I had a room or a liveable garage I’d certainly help out a family. I feel helpless not being able to help another family find shelter .
    Who’s going to stand up and help fix this disgrace? Words are cheap, Love is words in action …. Where’s the action ???

  5. I see a 4 bedroom home in Lismore for $600. 24 properties to rent there and they see reasonable. Jenny’s story is not a good one. It also is not a complete story as you’ve not indicated why she has been kicked out. Short term holiday rental in Lismore?

    The stampede from cities is (like the pandemic) not something anyone foresaw and yes – it brings problems for some of us. No government anywhere is responsible for the problem and housing in regional areas is now in demand. Not so in the cities – as there are many places available – especially in Melbourne. We need to adapt to our individual situations – or even foresee them.

    That said, Christmas is a time for kindness. Not everyone gives gifts that are of no use. Most of us are pretty careful on buying gifts that will be used.
    Your article is hard hitting but a little sensational in my opinion.

  6. Who’s kidding who? Mary and Joseph would have been having Jesus in an offshore detention centre Mandy, unable to access medical attention on the mainland because the LNP/Hanson voted against it, along with 4 LNP coalition medical doctors! Morrison the “Supply side scamvangelical fundamentalist Christian” would have had no time for any “Foreign” brown skin refugees from Galilee. “Morrison’s Jesus is white”. Look at what this bastard has done to those little girls from Biloela these last 4 years. And he has children around the same age, go figure?
    And these ugly Australian’s that support this disgrace, will que up to vote for more of this next election. No matter how much Morrison corrupts our society, with the rock solid support from Hanson and the “Independents” bankrolled by Palmers coal money and perhaps one of the most corrupted corporate medias the world has seen.
    Morrison lies, even about his own lies, he rorts everything, abuses everything, turning policy failure into catastrophe, again and again, he will attempt to wedge the opposition on anything and everything, ignoring any policy, governing in a vacuum bubble like world, delivered 24/7 by a corrupted corporate media. And according to polling about 29%, the greedy, selfish, uncaring, “the ugly Australia”, some of whom actually think they can call themselves Christians, what ever that means today, will vote with this disgrace to our Commonwealth. I would rather be surrounded by atheists than these Morrison Scamvangelicals, at least the atheist have morals and honesty and know a liar when they see and hear Morrison?

  7. Thank you for writing this!. On Christmas day I was told of a homeless man who lives on the streets in a caravan that he has made into a comfortable home for himself, had this caravan, his home, all the contents, christmas food and presents, clothing….STOLEN Christmas Eve, while he was delivering a couch to a homeless woman with a one month old child who has finally been granted a unit and needed furniture to move into by Christmas. UNBELIEVABLE! I don’t know why any of us can hold our heads up while this desecration of humanity and humanitarian values continues to be held up as the best way to exist in this “christian!” society we live in.

  8. “Jesus was born in a barn. His parents couldn’t find anywhere to stay.”
    So Jesus was born before Mary and Joseph could not find anywhere to stay but they had somewhere to say because the baby was born first in a barn. The baby was born then they did not have anywhere to stay. Why is that when they had a barn to stay in? Were they turfed out of the barn after the baby was born? Was the abc the wrong faith, and they were turfed out of the barn? If it was today they would have been turfed out because it was any baby and not a girl baby and the #Me Too control the world now,
    Just to get things straight, Jesus was female, right? All females are superior to males. Read the gospell according to #Me Too. Then they would have had somewhere to stay.

  9. Me too are full of it as is most feminists
    300.000 marched worldwide to protest against Trump..where are they now to protect
    Those innocent Women in Afghanistan?
    Only when it suits ..!! Incidentally homelessness is a global problem and has spiralled out of control during the past 2 years due to the pandemic..rest assured
    If you want to be in any country you would choose Australia our social system and medical systems are amongst the most generous in the world ..

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