Homeless at 60: ‘Only things keeping me alive are my dogs’

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Occasional ‘CityNews’ pets columnist HEIKE HAHNER finds herself suddenly homeless, alone and despairing for her future. 

IT’S a sad day when after nearly 60 years on this planet you have to say that you do not want to see the sun come up ever again. 

Heike Hahner.

After two and a half years of homelessness, I have now been asked to vacate the temporary stay I had been able to use, so that yet another local building can stand empty. 

This simple heartless decision by one person turns my already difficult life into abject misery and hopelessness. 

Poverty in our modern world of affluence is a curse you don’t wish on your worst enemy, yet an increasing number of us are facing my very situation, especially women of my age group. 

Women like me, who have worked hard all their lives, being told by those “in the know” that what gets you ahead in life is hard work and making it on your own. 

But that is a nasty and misleading myth. Hugh Mackay, our prominent social commentator, predicted my fate and that of many women of my age group nearly 20 years ago. Bernard Salt, another prominent social commentator, repeated the warning in 2011. 

Mackay also outlined three components that make people successful and wealthy in life: luck, astuteness (which also translates to shrewdness) and hard work.

The problem is that if you happen to lack in one of the three, or God forbid in two, and all you have done is hard work, for example, you are doomed to a life of hardship, despair and barely managing to skirt poverty, never getting ahead. 

This is especially the case when people like me find themselves without family or a partner/husband. Family and/or husband equal an increase in your social status, and you are therefore less likely to be ignored if things go wrong. This applies particularly if you have children up to the age of teenagers.

For the rest of us who find ourselves in poverty through sheer bad luck or lack of shrewdness, or both, there is no hope and no future of a better life. The so-called support structures that are in place to help people like us are also designed to keep us in a vicious maze of bureaucratic  supremacy, from where there is no escape and certainly no return to an even halfway normal life. 

So, thanks to yet another turn of bad luck dished out by someone who certainly does not lack in shrewdness, the only things keeping me alive now are my dogs; loyal, compassionate and co-operative to the death.


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