So what will you do when family or friends come calling?
by Harriet from Australia
It is so easy to say that you’ll turn away someone when they come calling – until it happens. My daughter’s friend has issues. She is a walking disaster in many ways. She was a teacher until persuaded by her husband to go into business together in a restaurant. He had both restaurant experience and business experience so it wasn’t an unreasonable thing to do. But it didn’t work and they lost all the capital they had built up over the years. Under the stress her bipolar disorder flared. He couldn’t cope and started to beat her up. They separated and each took a rented place and shared custody of the children. He got adequate work and is able to support his lifestyle. She, with her mental health issues has had ongoing problems with employment.
Now the friend has been away from teaching for so long she cannot get back into it for various reasons relating to registration and the local teaching culture. While the economy was good she was able to get work. Now it is tightening the work she used to get is no longer there. The government support only pays $10 a week more than the cost of her rent in one of the lowest cost suburbs so she is not paying her utility bills. It is only a matter of time before she has the power and water turned off and then is thrown out of her place for not paying rent (she is still paying it at the moment, but only just).
The stress is making her mental health condition much worse than it need be. She is difficult to tolerate for more than one day at a time, given her personality issues that she has been working hard on for years. There is no way my daughter wants to have her friend living with her but the friend’s father refuses to have her also and there is no other accommodation for low income families.
Now when the inevitable happens and this friend and her two young children are turned out of the house what is going to happen? She will turn up next door at my daughters place as her father is so unpleasant towards her.
We have already had a conversation about it and my daughter is prepared to put her up on a one day a week basis for a limited time. Then she will be hard hearted and send her around to her father’s place to sleep in the car outside his place if he won’t let them in. She has turned this friend away before when the demand was too great so I think this will be possible.
This is just the first step to things being difficult for so many. Apparently we have around thirty families in our immediate community who are living like this and who have to seek public assistance to eat. Part of me wants to be angry and blame them for getting into this mess in the first place through making bad decisions. Part of me is very aware that when jobs are difficult to get, and “appropriate care” for children costs what this mother could get for working. As a society we no longer support such parents though we find money to remove the children and put them into foster care often in circumstances worse than they would be with a mother with mental health issues who is working. The court awarded custody to the father at weekends as he was “working”. So was she and she had to pay for child care so she could bring in enough to feed them and provide a bed, a shower and toilet during her days of care.
This is not yet a SHTF scenario, but it will be shortly as it already is for the 30 odd local families in this situation.
And as a society we have to live with the consequences of having children poorly fed and without housing. I don’t know where they go and I don’t want to know (yes, I know being ostrich-like with my head in the sand is not a good idea). I just know that as the economy worsens and as people with poor health no longer have social support that things will get more and more dire for so many.
I have made a decision that with so many poor people the best I can do is not to be one of them, using up the limited resources that are there. My husband and I have to pay off our mortgage and support our daughter and her two children who live next door. I’m here to make it easy for her to work at a reasonably well paid job by being the “slack in the system” providing child care when it is needed, looking after them when they are sick and helping out when things get difficult so she is able to continue to work. My husband was only five minutes away when someone smashed into our daughter’s car and he was able to support her to do all the things that needed to be done. We could also help to get her to the train station and back again while the insurance people took their time about paying out so she could get another car. Her work and hence her income was unaffected. Family resources made life much more manageable in a difficult week.
Frankly we don’t have the time, energy or resources to help every family in dire need in the community. By having strong bonds we can, however support our own family and make sure we are prepared for what is coming.
This is a rather rambling post. I feel torn that we cannot help this woman more. But we have to realistic and I think the friend will appreciate boundaries early on in the situation so she can have ongoing support. She is not unaware, having done a lot of personal work and she knows that the most that people can manage to have her around is about three days. I think she would appreciate having one day a week in a house with toilet and shower rather than four days and then be chucked out forever. But what when this is not an isolated incident, albeit number 31 in our district? What when the numbers and suffering become so great that something has to give and these people stop being reasonably polite?