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Canberra Today 13°/15° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Jenni faces the cold, hard facts of being homeless

Jenni Tarrant readies for her week sleeping in her car. Photo: Holly Treadaway

No thermals, no heater, no showers; personality hairdresser Jenni Tarrant is spending a week sleeping in her little car and living on $20 a day. She tells DANIELLE NOHRA why…

KINGSTON hairdresser Jenni Tarrant has chosen one of the coldest months of the year to spend a week sleeping in her small Holden Barina to raise awareness of the hidden side of homelessness.

From July 1, Jenni, owner of Bond Hair Religion, says throughout the week she’ll be parked in an alleyway and won’t be using the car heater, nor wearing thermals – just her pyjamas – and will be living off only $20 a day.

“I won’t be showering for the week, either,” says Jenni, 50, of Curtin.

Jenni’s already raised more than $5000 for the charity Toora Women, which is a not-for-profit that delivers homelessness, domestic violence and drug and alcohol services to women in the ACT, but is hoping to hit the $7000 mark.

She was initially alerted to the not-for-profit when one of Toora’s staff members came in to get her hair done.

“She was talking to me a bit about what Toora does and I was completely unaware that it even existed,” she says.

After learning more about Toora Women, Jenni decided to start collecting blankets and sheets so she could donate them but this year she wanted to do more.

Raising money for charity isn’t a new venture for Jenni, who chooses to donate to an overseas charity every second year and a local community one every other year.

“Two years ago I did a week of silence to raise money for Lifeline and show the silence around mental health,” she says.

“This year, I wanted to do something for Toora Women. I know they’re running constantly at capacity. It really helps the women and also takes pressure off the Toora staff financially.

“If I can take some strain off, not only the women and children themselves but the people that support them, I’ll feel like I’ve made a big difference.”

Toora Women has already seen about 353 women and 143 children come through its system in the 2018-19 financial year.

According to Toora Women’s executive director Susan Clarke-Lindfield, the main reason for homelessness amongst women is domestic violence but she says there are other reasons around that too such as housing affordability.

She’s also seen an increase in women who are homeless over the age of 55 because of reasons such as being unable to afford their rent anymore on their pensions.

Toora Women’s executive director Susan Clarke-Lindfield, left, and hairdresser Jenni Tarrant… “Sleeping in my car will give me some sort of empathy and awareness of what people go through every day,” says Jenni. Photo: Holly Treadaway

Which is why, Susan says, it’s so important for people like Jenni to raise money for Toora Women.

“It’s important because our funding just doesn’t cover all the costs,” Susan says.

“It’s important because it could be you. So many women, through no fault of their own, find themselves homeless. It could be your mother, it could be your sister.”

Often, Susan says there’s no exit point, which means women are in their services for longer. It also means other women are on the streets or sleeping in their cars.

“Our beds are full all the time. The whole homelessness sector works at capacity all the time,” she says.

When Jenni initially heard about this, she hatched the idea of sleeping in her car and says not everyone can find a place to stay.

“Many homeless women lived in their cars with their children before receiving the much-needed support from Toora,” Jenni says.

“Some of our most vulnerable people fall through the cracks and I want to raise awareness of this.  

“Sleeping in my car will give me some sort of empathy and awareness of what people go through every day.”

The money raised by Jenni will go towards buying groceries for women who leave the Toora system, but she says she will also be accepting donations such as unopened packets of toothpaste and tampons at Bond Hair Religion, Kingston.

“I’ve had a couple of my brands come on board and donate shampoo and conditioner, too,” she says.

This charity venture adds to the $130,000 Jenni has raised for numerous charities over the past six years, and with so many invisible issues within the community Jenni says she’s going to keep getting up and shouting about them to raise awareness.

Donations can be made via “The Make a Change Project” on Facebook


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Danielle Nohra

Danielle Nohra

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