It would have been a sorry sight. A 71-year old homeless woman, parked up in Bethlehem as the setting sun crashed into the Kaimai Range – chatter on the radio, having a cup of tea and waiting for the traffic to subside.
Earlier in the day she and her tiny caravan had to leave temporary accommodation at one holiday park.
“I just couldn’t afford it”, says Lynnette. Now she was headed to another – waiting to crawl north on SH2 in her wee Mitsi to another park, somewhere safe for a woman, somewhere with the basics – power, water and toilet.
To fill time while waiting in Bethlehem, Lynette checked out the rental market with a local realtor. There were options, but unaffordable ones. “Welcome Bay at $650, $640 in Devonport Road, $430 for two bedrooms in the Avenues. That would drain my weekly income, plus some, leave me with nothing to live off. Depressing, how can anyone afford to rent?
“No woman of my age should have to endure this,” says Lynette. “It’s outrageous.” And sad, because Lynette’s life has been one of uncertainty and stopgaps for two years. From place to place to place. She says authorities call her “transitional”.
“Well I am sick of being transitional. I need to stop. I need somewhere permanent to live.”
Then by nightfall, Lynette has secured a site – but only through the kindness and compassion of others, and heaps of good luck. So another cup of tea, a small prayer of gratitude and sound, safe sleep.
Last week when Lynette’s story appeared on the cover of The Weekend Sun there was an outpouring of concern. More than a dozen readers, touched by her predicament, messaged in with their solutions. “My brother has a plot of land in Whakamarama”, “I have a spare room with its own bathroom in Papamoa”, “I have one and a half acres in Katikati, she can park there for as long as she likes.”
“Ooh,” says Lynette, a little overcome by all the caring. “It’s lovely, it’s amazing, such kindness. I shall gratefully talk to them all.” So a plot of land here or there for her caravan, a spare bed here and a room with an attached bathroom there. One couple even offered her a house-sitting deal between renovations. “Everyone is so kind,” says Lynette.
But by the time The Weekend Sun went to print, none of those offers had been taken up.
“I have to stick to what I need to do,” explains Lynette who’s been subsisting now for more than two years. “And although some people might call me fussy, I am not. I know what I need to do for the rest of my life. I am a solutions person.” And her solution is permanency. “I don’t need another stopover, I need somewhere to live.” She is tired of her ‘transitional’ tag.
Then in a text to The Weekend Sun this week, Lynette explained she could afford to rent. “But it’s a huge mission on a pension where nothing much is affordable. So please bear with me if I haven’t talked with you yet about your offer.” She signs off as “the van lady from The Weekend Sun”.
She is waiting, watching and looking.
“I just need a safe environment where I can get power for my caravan, fresh water and a shower and a toilet. A bloke could live on a caravan on a farm and come and go to work every day and not care.
She has her support systems and friends in Tauranga, her little job and choir. “My interests are in Tauranga and I am sure people will understand that I don’t want to be living in some remote place without all that contact.” In the meantime, she’s dreaming of a little garden, some herbs, some flowers and vegies, and somewhere to sit and have coffee and a chat. Perhaps one day soon.