August 22, 2009
I was talking to a longtime personal friend (30+ yrs) tonight. She asked if I am not conspicuous just by who I am, a clean, sober fifty something woman. She was surprised when I told her that I have met 4 just like me in this shelter alone. My generation was not raised to think of careers or retirement savings plans. Women worked to add little luxuries to the family budget, but first and foremost you were a wife and mother. Many women find themselves in this position, being divorced late or widowed young. Too young for CPP and often considered too old to be employable.
Coming into the labour force in midlife is very challenging. First is the matter of training, personally I love to learn, but not everyone shares my enthusiasm. Also there are considerations of health and stamina which didn't impact us in our youth.
Many middle-aged women end up in retail or food services which generate an income around $1300 monthly take home for full-time. Unfortunately most of these jobs are kept to part-time hours which max out at just under $1000 per month, without benefits.
Being suddenly single carries with it a set of emotional, physical, psychological and even spiritual stresses. These make it hard to re-orient oneself and take the steps necessary to move forward into a new life. The natural state of depression that goes with a life loss can be exacerbated by the homeless environment. I have been fortunate to have raised caring, loving, supportive children. Some of these ladies have no children, or are estranged from their families. I'm sure for every middle-aged woman in a homeless shelter there are a hundred living with family (I lived with my oldest daughter) or friends. But fifty something is awfully young to have to give up your privacy and independence. Again we are looking at a segment of the population that falls into the category of working poor.