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