At a time when homelessness is on the rise it is good news to hear that a transitional housing project just completed at Kenthurst will welcome its first residents shortly.
The news was welcomed by people at the recent Hidden Homeless in the Hills forum organised by The Soroptimist International (SI) The Hills.
MC and SI member Michelle Byrne who founded the annual Hills Winter sleepout said when the first one was held 10 years ago noone was really talking about homelessness in the area.
“When it started people didn’t recognise homeless in the Hills. It’s not obvious … it’s people in cars sleeping in cars, women and children looking for emergency housing and couch surfing.”
The census of 2021 recorded 206 people homeless in the Hills of those 27.2% were under the age of 19 19% were over the age of 55 and 34.5% of people were employed.
“The fastest growing group of homeless people are people with jobs who can’t afford the rent,” said Michelle.
Bev Baker Chair of the Older Women’s Network NSW urged the Government to do more to provide social housing.
“When I bought a home it was three times your annual salary today it’s 13 times the annual salary. Without a home you are powerless,” she said. “I will be 81 when I finish paying off my mortgage.”
She said the Older Women’s Network is calling on governments to increase the amount of money spent on community housing. “New developments have to include low-cost housing … and local government has got to increase that social mix.”
Annabelle Daniel, CEO of Women’s Community Shelters, said a Housing for the Aged report had 110,000 women over the age of 45 at risk of homelessness in NSW.
She said it was very easy to suddenly find yourself homeless and cited the case of a 75-year-old woman who had been working in a bookshop. Her casual shifts were cut from four days to three (she was struggling to pay her rent) and then she had a car accident. “Things snowballed very quickly and she became homeless,” said Annabelle.
Her organisation is promoting “meanwhile use housing” which has enabled them to use properties for housing that would otherwise be empty for a few years awaiting development plans.
Examples included Beecroft House (a former nursing home) now providing transitional housing for 20 older women and Mosman House.
With a million unoccupied homes in Australia on census night there is a lot of scope for “meanwhile use housing”.
She urged everyone to keep an eye out for underutilised properties that could provide safe housing for a period of time.
Dennis Van Someren and James Visione from Kenthurst have spent several years trying to find a community solution to homelessness.
They have established the The Hills Women’s Transitional Housing Project with the support of several community groups. Residents will be moving into the first house soon and the project has enough money to fund a second transitional house.
“We want it to be an example to other groups. It is a pilot program for others to find a community solution,” said James. For more information email [email protected]