Mary, 76, sleeping in her car

Homeless Tweed Heads woman, Mary, despairs for her future.
Homeless Tweed Heads woman, Mary, despairs for her future. Sue Gardiner

AT 76 years of age, Mary has spent many nights in the past three months perched in the front seat of her car parked in a Tweed Heads residential street.

The pensioner sleeps, as best she can, in the passenger seat so she can make a quick escape if there's any trouble.

That's on the nights her budget doesn't stretch to a $100 motel room where she can shower and sleep.

"If it wasn't for my psychologist and my GP, I would have committed suicide by now," she says, cradling a cup of coffee.

"I've had the pills in my hand. I just feel totally de-humanised. What's the use of living?"

Mary has struggled to find affordable accommodation since earlier this year when she was "unjustly" evicted from the rent-assisted Tweed Heads home she had lived in for several years.

She does not want to reveal her identity as her circumstances mean it could sabotage her efforts to secure a permanent roof over her head.

However, she wants people to know how easy it is to fall between the cracks in the Tweed Shire, despite the government agencies that are supposed to support people in tough times.

"They're canyons not cracks," she quips.

Mary used to work for the Federal Government so she knows how to navigate the system.

But she says one of the few assistances she's been able to receive since becoming homeless is three nights accommodation in a motel.

Mary had a secure job for three decades, owned her own home and travelled overseas.

But her troubles started when she lost her home after leaving a toxic relationship that ended in a prolonged court battle that has so far cost her $100,000.

She blames herself for getting into a bad relationship, "but I was lonely".

"I was the last person in the world I thought that would happen to. I was too smart for that."

All her family are dead and she struggles to let anyone get close.

"I don't have friends, I have acquaintances. I don't trust anymore (because) everyone's out for what they can get."

Her psychologist, Zane Danesi, who bulk-bills under Medicare, said her homelessness had exacerbated Mary's poor mental and physical health.

He said the public would be "outraged" if they knew the circumstances surrounding her unfair eviction.

Community service workers say a lack of affordable accommodation is the biggest issue in our region.

There is at least a 10-year waiting list for public housing.

Mary says the rentals she's looked at cost $300 to $350 a week and were well beyond her means, despite being "hovels".

She hopes by sharing her story it might help people understand the homelessness issue and also prompt authorities to work to make available affordable accommodation for all income levels.

"For God's sake, get off their bums and do something about it," she says.

Topics:  editors picks elderly homelessness pension poverty line tweed

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