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Hidden Homeless

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.”

Hidden Homeless
James visione, dennis van someren, cathy tracey, annabelle daniel and bev baker

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]

Bev Jordan

Bev Jordan studied journalism at Harlow College in the UK.  She achieves a Diploma in Journalism from the National Council for the Training of Journalists. After migrating to Australia at the end of 1984, she took up a Senior Journalist position with Cumberland Newspapers, based on the Parramatta Advertiser. She has since worked on the Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and was a lecturer in Journalism at Macleay College in Sydney. Bev returned to Cumberland Newspapers (NewsLocal) and worked for 30 years covering all different mastheads, including Mosman Daily, Mount Druitt Standard and finally Hills Shire Times for the last 17 of those years. Bev’s passion has always been local community journalism.  She says “As a journalist, I have always seen it as my job to inform, inspire and involve.  I am a passionate advocate for organisations and people making a difference to the world around them. Connectedness is so important to the health of an individual but also to a community, no matter how small or large.

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