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The reality of women experiencing homelessness

9 July 2019
Women's House client *Nat

Nat is a strong, intelligent and resilient young woman with a smile that lights up a room. She is thankful for the safe and welcoming space and for the support the Women’s House provides.

She loves living and studying in Melbourne and her personal goal is to become a Social Worker, like Robbi at the Women’s House, who Nat considers a mentor.

When Nat had a chance to relocate to Australia from Indonesia with her new husband, she and her family saw it as an opportunity to advance her life. But after moving to Melbourne, her husband became increasingly controlling and violent.

After summoning the courage to flee the marriage, Nat found herself homeless because she could not afford private housing.

Without speaking much English and with her family overseas, Nat spent the next two years couch-surfing at a family friend’s house. She worked casually, because she was unable to secure permanent work, earning just $100 a week.

Thankfully, Sacred Heart Mission secured short-term, ‘crisis’ accommodation for Nat, where her spirits and hopes were nurtured. During this time, she was referred to the Women’s House, which she says was a pivotal moment in her life.

“This is what help looks like,” Nat says.

“The great women here at the Women’s House… they told me whatever support I needed I would find it here. I went, felt comfortable and met a lot of great people.

The Women’s House secured funding for Nat to study English and Community Services. She is now fluent in English and passed her Certificate IV in Community Services, which Nat wants to use to help other women with a similar experience to hers.

Nat is in transitional housing and looks forward to living with friends in a shared flat in the near future. She has made many friends from the Women’s House. It has given her a new lease on life; she likes to socialise, relax and take part in the weekly pottery classes.

“I can love myself more now. I feel the sun on my skin and it feels so beautiful! I come to the Women’s House and I can now enjoy my surroundings like never before,” she says.

Family violence is the number one cause of homelessness for women in Australia. Nat’s story is just one example of how women in our community need the safety of the Women’s House. With a home, and the right support, people can achieve their goals and break the cycle of homelessness.

The Women’s House offers various services for women with housing, physical and mental health concerns, substance use issues, family violence, financial and legal matters, and social and life skills, to meet the growing demand.

Thank you to those who have supported our mid-year appeal to keep the doors of the Women’s House open. Together, we raised funds that will make positive changes in people’s lives.

View video transcript

Help women in our community

An interview with *Nat, a client at Sacred Heart Mission’s Women’s House, former Support Worker Robbie Chaplin and former Program Coordinator Maria Coelho.

Nat: When I came to the Women’s House, I looked like a lost woman. I was confused. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just came here to interact with people. It’s make me feel like I’m not alone. A lot of people have a similar experience.

Robbie Chaplin: The women that we work with have had decades of abuse and disadvantage and trauma. To hear their stories, to have them trust you with information that is often really hard to hear. So goodness knows what it’s like to actually live those lives.

Maria Coelho: A lot of women don’t feel safe in mainstream services. So having a place where they can come and sit down and have a cuppa, they know they’re safe. We have an average of 35 women coming through the door every day.

Robbie Chaplin: One of the primary ways of engaging is through the Women’s Engagement Hub. We have showers, washing machines and dryers. We have a sleep room for women who are sleeping rough.

Maria Coelho: Two meals a day, art activities, other programs run by volunteers on a daily basis. All we asked for people at the door is a name. So it doesn’t really need to be their real name. From then on, they can tell us as much or as little as they want.

Robbie Chaplin: We try to work in partnership with them. I think that’s incredibly important.

Maria Coelho: It’s one-on-one support. It goes from actually finding housing, finding crisis accommodation, support with getting ID, getting funding for household appliances or work on their mental health.

Nat: Since I came to the Women’s House, since I met Robbie, to be honest, it changed my life. My focus now is study. I’m studying community service and now I am a diploma student. I already received something. I want to give back. Basically, I just love to meet people in the Women’s House and support.

Maria Coelho: Supporting women, supporting each other.

Robbie Chaplin: You do this work to try and make a difference.

Maria Coelho: Try to empower women, make sure that they’re happy and safe. They can move on with their lives, that whatever crisis they’re in, that’s just a temporary thing. We just need to give people chances. And I think the Women’s House does that beautifully.

Robbie Chaplin: When we can work with the women to help effect the change that they’re seeking, it’s magical.

Nat: The Women’s House is my second home.

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