Cold, sore and hungry, Jenni counts her blessings

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Jenni Tarrant… “I was sore, I was cold and hungry.” Photo: Holly Treadaway

AFTER seven nights sleeping in her small Holden Barina to raise awareness of homelessness, Kingston hairdresser Jenni Tarrant was sore, tired and frustrated.

The latter because she realised that many women (and men) live that life every day. 

“I can go on with my life but for many this is their daily reality without an end in sight,” says Jenni, 50, of Curtin.

Jenni who was featured on the “CityNews” cover on June 27 is the owner of Bond Hair Religion. She decided to sleep in her car for a week, from July 1, to raise money for Canberra charity Toora Women, which helps the homeless, domestic-violence victims and drug/alcohol addicts.

Throughout the seven days she parked in an alleyway and didn’t use her car heater, didn’t shower, didn’t wear thermals – just her pyjamas – and lived off only $20 a day.

The cold took its toll on Jenni days before her budget did, with her first night dipping to -2C.

“[After the first night] I was sore, I was cold and hungry. I woke up with a pounding headache and [felt] numb,” she says. 

Her second night was much the same.

“I felt like I had been on a long-haul flight for days,” she says.

“My eyes were stinging, I was dehydrated, not from lack of fluid just the cold air. 

“[I had] bad leg cramps, my hips were aching, my chest was sore and my asthma was making [it hard to breathe] the cold air.”

On day four Jenni hit a financial bump. Three days earlier she had run out of medication, which she takes for chronic reflux, and says it left her feeling raw on the inside. 

“The script needs to be filled every two weeks and it is $40,” she says.

“I decided to just live off whatever food I had left [so I could buy the medication].

“For a lot of our homeless, medication, for all sorts of conditions, is vital and yet costly, so for many the question is: ‘Eat or medication?’

“Which would you choose?”

When the week ended, Jenni’s body was aching, the skin on her face was stinging, she had splits in the corners of her mouth and mentally, she felt disconnected and frustrated. 

“In Australia, the highest and fastest-growing demographic of homeless is women over the age of 50, [which is often due to] marriage breakdown, family violence and financial hardship,” she says.

“These women may turn up to work each day without ever sharing how they have to live to survive. 

“Not every homeless person is what you perceive them to be. You may be working beside someone every day.” 

The money Jenni has raised, more than $12,000, will go towards buying groceries for these women, as well as more than $3000 worth of toiletries. 

And now the week’s up, Jenni says she feels “bloody lucky” and urges others to be more compassionate towards homeless people. 

She was also excited to have a shower!

Jenni faces the cold, hard facts of being homeless

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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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