By Bev Jordan
Members of a Kenthurst Church are investigating the feasibility of converting the unused Sunday school rooms at the church into transitional short-term accommodation for homeless women over the age of 55.
Dennis van Someren and James Visione said the need to repurpose unused space at the property to provide accommodation for vulnerable people was in the planning stages but would meet a huge social need as the fastest growing population of homelessness is women over the age of 55.
Mr Visione said the plan was to repurpose part of the church building to provide interim accommodation for four women.
Last week members of the community were invited to hear an update about the plans and listen to organisations working in the field of providing accommodation for older women.
The number of older homeless women in Australia increased by over 30% between 2011 and 2016 to nearly 7,000 according to figures from the ABS.
Simone Parsons from Women’s Community Shelters spoke about the Over 55 women’s shelters they had opened in Beecroft and Mosman in partnership with Link Housing.
She said the number of older women accessing homeless services grew by 63 per cent in 5 years. She said DV issues, housing crisis and financial difficulties were the main issue pushing women to seek help.
After refurbishment, Beecroft is now providing a transitional home to 45 women and Mosman House is providing accommodation for 20 women.
“These are women who have contributed to their communities, who have raised a family.”
She said losing a partner, losing a job and the financial implications of living as a solo person at that stage of their life places them in a vulnerable position
The aim of interim housing is to provide women with housing security and provide them with time to recover and get back on track.
Bev Baker from The Older Women’s Network said the face of homelessness had been changing in Australia.
“As the Older women’s network, we know that older women over the age of 55 are one pay check away from not being able to pay their rent. “These are women who have worked all their lives, they retire with less super, due to COVID women in low paid work have lost their jobs. “Priority housing is not given to women until they are over the age of 80 but the grim reality is there is not enough housing stock.”
She asked, how do you choose between a woman and 3 kids escaping domestic violence or a 70 year old woman who can’t pay her rent?
“I would like to congratulate (Dennis and James) that they as a community are prepared to work and recognise that in this glorious, leafy community that there are women who are in danger of homelessness.”
Dennis van Someren a member of the Rotary Club of Kenthurst said the project had the support of community groups such as the Rotary Club, the local Men’s Shed and Soroptimists International.
Any project would partner with Women’s Community Shelters and Link Housing. Link Housing would manage the property while Women’s Community Shelters (managers of ‘The Sanctuary – The Hills Women’s Shelter), would be responsible for intake assessment and provide access to services and support. Money for the project would be raised throughout the wider community.