Homeless © Samantha Groenestyn

I was homeless last year for several months. I didn’t loll in the gutter with a brown paper bag. I lived a rather more surprising life of ‘secondary homelessness,’ in which I remained employed full time on a good salary, wore beautiful European clothes (collected on a backpacking jaunt) and drove this fabulous and somewhat sporty family-sized beast of a six-cylinder (sunshine yellow) car. In fact, this car was one of the few stable things in my life and for this reason I wanted to commemorate it in this little painting. I felt like my whole being consisted in these four wheels. I was backpacking in my own country, one bag of clothes in my boot, going to wine bars on school nights, learning French on the run and pissing off on weekends to Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Melbourne, anywhere.

I’m extremely grateful to the friends who took me in, despite our brief period of acquaintance, I having only just moved to Canberra. I cobbled together a more or less stable existence staying with an extremely hospitable couple for two months, sharing food, histories, movies, dreams and memories. It must have been a mutually beneficial symbiosis, because on parting they fed us a ‘memory dinner’—a veritable Nepali feast, all the courses, sides and sauces. The remaining weeks I zipped from one end of town to the other, sleeping on an assortment of banana lounges, inflatable mattresses and piles of doonas and towels, dutifully rising each morning and slipping off to work as the sun rose as though nothing was out of the ordinary.

I may be biased when I judge Canberra an inhospitable pothole, a blight on this sunburnt country that has the gall to badge itself the capital. My faith in some people (and in my judgement of character) might have wavered, but my faith in others multiplied. My brief interlope in Canberra taught me to throw yourself in, to ask for what you need, give all you’ve got, and high tail out when it’s not working. So long, Canberra. May we never meet again.


2 thoughts on “Homeless

  1. Hello Duchess, I was so delighted by this story. I too was homeless in Canberra for several months. Studying full-time, part-time job, running a micro business. I wasn’t entirely forced into it by dire circumstances, but quite frankly decided the rental market was overpriced and I wasn’t willing to pay the asking price. So there was a combination of sleeping in my studio, on friends couches, house sitting for absent colleagues, camping in various parts of Canberra Nature Park – Black Mountain was particularly convenient to ANU. Indeed one of the fondest memories of being homeless is waking up on a fogged in Black Mountain, an early morning walk along my favourite trail to reach the university, and a bacon and mushroom stack at The God’s Cafe – not paying rent may have meant I had no kitchen, but it also improved my cafe budget considerably – it certainly didn’t feel like desperate times. It was a very productive time too – plenty of interesting things to think about, and spending lots of time in my studio, where there was nothing else to do but work.

    • Canberra does indeed have a ridiculous rental market that leads to interesting living situations and deep thought about one’s life! It’s hard to say that I had a terrible time staying with people, because in fact it was the best thing about being in Canberra and really blossomed some friendships, and I used every last cent of would-be rent money on fabulous weekend road-trips which I couldn’t have done otherwise, but it certainly wasn’t the luxurious lifestyle I had intended upon! I feel quite zen about it now as it was what it was and helped me re-evaluate and make some serious decisions. Here’s to catalytic Canberra. x

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