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Bethlehem Community

Older woman with glasses seated in the Bethlehem community garden, looking directly at you

Community housing for women

Bethlehem Community is a supported accommodation program offering a two-year therapeutic community and support for women who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness and have high-level complex needs, such as mental and physical health conditions, drug and alcohol related issues.

Our two housing sites are based at Reservoir and Thomastown. Sacred Heart Mission staff provide appropriate mental health, drug and alcohol support, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) referrals, and in-house health and wellbeing activities to socially disadvantaged and isolated women, who are over 35 years of age and unaccompanied by dependents.

In partnership with Unison Community Housing, Bethlehem Community provides support to women living in long-term-permanent independent community housing, as well as outreach support to ex-residents now living in private rental.

Sacred Heart Mission will be prioritising all support and housing vacancies to people in emergency accommodation (hotels/motels) due to COVID-19 until further notice, as per DHHS COVID-19 Homelessness Guidelines.

Bethlehem Community is built on the following core values

  • Safety and security
  • Compassion and caring
  • Respect and dignity
  • Quality housing
  • A non-judgmental approach
  • Empowerment and -self-determination – acceptance of individuality
  • Trusting relationships based on open communication and support.

Criteria for joining Bethlehem Community

  • Women who have experienced homelessness or continual transitional housing, e.g. have previously lived on the streets, in crisis accommodation, such as shelter, private hotel, or couch surfing, low cost rooming house, unsustainable public housing, or who have a history of unstable and/or unsafe accommodation, and
  • Are unaccompanied (single, without children), and
  • Are 35 years and over, and
  • Are self-referred, referred from a service or agency, or family, and
  • Who express some interest in living in BC, and
  • Whose needs are not able to be adequately or appropriately addressed by another service, and
  • Are ambulatory, and
  • Have a VHR application – Priority Housing in place.

Reservoir

Based in Reservoir, this Bethlehem Community site comprises 10 bedrooms with ensuites, a large communal kitchen, common dining room, a lounge room and extensive gardens. A covered deck is popular for socialising, art classes or quiet time. All women who live here receive 24-hour support. Staff are present to support women in their daily lives as well as for case management and social inclusion activities. Some women may need ongoing supported accommodation and others may, through the support provided, build their capacity for more independent living.

Thomastown

Our Thomastown site (called Sophia’s) is a purpose-built apartment complex with 17 rooms that provides independent, affordable housing to women. Bethlehem Community provides outreach-based support, case management and social inclusion activities to women living at Sophia’s. Residents live in independent units, which include a kitchen, living and dining area, bedroom, bathroom and balcony or courtyard. A fully equipped community room provides a central hub for a range of activities. Sophia’s residents also have access to a community garden, barbecue area and a shared laundry.

Social Inclusion/ Wellbeing Program

Bethlehem has a monthly calendar of activities and outings available to the residents, we provide group programs that fosters meaningful activity, independence and participation. It is designed alongside suggestions from the residents, who are encouraged to contribute. Health and wellbeing activities are also built into the weekly culture of Bethlehem when structured activities are not rostered.

Quotes from residents

“I hope Bethlehem continues to grow. I wish there were more places like it for women in crisis. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if there had been no Bethlehem.”

“When I first came here, I didn’t have the confidence I have now. There was one occasion I gave a speech to Bethlehem’s supporters and volunteers. I would have never had the confidence to do that before. I used to be shy, like I felt I wasn’t good enough…But then I came here and I realised that I do have rights, that I do belong and that I am good enough. If I didn’t have this place I’d be back to where I started.”

“My life is back on track and I have passion again. I look forward to getting up in the morning (yes, I did say morning!).”

“I came here afraid, frightened, unsure, bewildered. At the end of my tether, I had given up, felt beaten, depressed and lost. Thanks to everyone here for giving me back a life, love, hope and mateship, everything a soul is in need of, is here.”

More program information

Please download our pdf information sheet (145 KB) and pdf brochure (242 KB) to learn more about Bethlehem Community’s work and eligibility criteria. If needing help, please contact us on 9462 3937 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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0136,596Meals served through our meals program over the last year
069,269Hours contributed by our volunteers over the last year
05,740Responses at our Women’s House over the last year
Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.

 

Sacred Heart Mission has always aimed to be a place that embraces a sexuality and gender diverse community; everyone is welcome at our table and we believe a diverse community is good for everyone.