This week, the government began the eviction process for 90-year-old Myra, the face of Sirius and custodian of the SOS lights. Myra and the Sirius Foundation still hope to meet someone from the NSW Government to present and discuss alternatives that would save the Sirius building, keep a portion of it for social housing, and provide the full financial return the government is seeking from the sale of the Sirius site. Meanwhile, Myra’s SOS lights continue to shine over the city every night.
On Thursday Myra was called before the Housing Appeals Committee. She brought with her the government’s Housing Relocation Statement, one of dozens of letters sent to her over recent months. She keeps this important statement in its envelope, with its title written in letters almost large enough for her to see. It records that she is entitled to a two-bedroom unit now that her eyesight is almost gone completely. (She has no sight in one eye and less than five per cent in the other.) She needs the second bedroom for a live-in carer to stay with her from time to time.
The role of caring for Myra is taken on by friends, family and neighbours, without cost to the government, and no-one disputes Myra’s need for a carer. The need for a second bedroom was endorsed this year by both her Relocation Statement and the person in charge of the entire relocation process. This did not stop Housing updating Myra’s Relocation Statement on 30 September and downgrading her entitlement to a one-bedroom unit.
There was an immediate objection lodged against Myra’s downgraded entitlement. Nonetheless, soon after receiving the revised statement she was allocated a unit without two bedrooms. The block of units in question has an entrance with a step that Myra cannot negotiate (she climbed the step three times to demonstrate how difficult it was for her and was in pain for days afterwards), and it is in a location where she would be extremely isolated.
The Housing Appeals Committee is writing to Myra, and she has been told to expect a letter tomorrow. Meanwhile she returns to her unit to continue baking Christmas cakes for friends, family and neighbours with the 48kg of dried fruit and nuts she bought. The SOS lights continue to shine out from her top-floor unit every night and her spirit is not yet broken.
It is time for the government to let Myra age in place, and to meet with her and the Sirius Foundation to discuss solutions for Sirius that do not include bulldozing and replacing it with 250 luxury apartments. Read about one of the alternatives here.
Grace Karskens, a recent recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Non-Fiction, has written a fabulous story on Sirius this week.
The letter that was to come the next day from the Housing Appeals Committee did not arrive, and Myra worried that it had gone astray. Two days before Christmas Myra received a phone call from Housing.
The entrance to the Pyrmont flat it had allocated Myra already had a ramp, but Housing had proposed making it steeper so the step at the entrance that she could not climb could be eliminated. We suggested that the proposed ramp was much too steep for Myra, but it was only after Housing investigated further and discovered their proposed ramp did not meet mandatory building codes that they withdrew this offer.
19 January update…
Housing has proposed another flat it wants Myra to move to. It is a good flat, but it is also a long way from everything and everyone Myra knows. Myra must think about what her future holds, but at the same time she wonders whether anyone in the government will talk to her and other members of the Sirius Foundation while there is still something to talk about. Soon it will be two years since the government offered to meet Myra, but it has not yet responded to requests for such a meeting.