In 2019 as statistics began to emerge about the increasing number of older women experiencing homelessness, members of Soroptimist International of The Hills District felt a need to address the issue and bring a focus to the community to highlight the growing problem.
This culminated in the Club partnering with the SI Hornsby Club to hold a Forum open to all members of the community. Early in March 2020 the Forum was held and was well supported by the community and local stakeholders. Keynote speakers included Bev Baker from the Older Women’s Network and Annabel Daniel from Women’s Community Shelters.
Following on from the 2019 Forum, an action plan had been put in place to continue to advocate through State and Local Government to increase the availability of affordable and social housing. COVID prevented any further follow-up at that time until the 2023 Hidden Homelessness Forum was held on 25 October.
The event was chaired by Emeritus Mayor, Michelle Byrne who said homelessness in women over 55 is often well hidden, with women sleeping in cars or couch surfing. She stated that more needs to be done to find solutions for housing affordability and homelessness and encouraged everyone attending to help find solutions that ensure all women over 55 have a permanent safe roof over their heads.
Bev Baker and Annabel Daniel returned to this year’s forum to make presentations relating to up-to-date statistics, realities and projects. Bev spoke about the reasons why many older women find themselves in this situation through difficult domestic situations, low income and very little superannuation.
Annabel told how the Women’s Community Shelters organisation has established the Meanwhile Housing concept that establishes partnerships with corporations to utilise vacant properties awaiting development approval, transitional housing options for women experiencing homelessness.
Denis Van Someren and James Visione, from Kenthurst Uniting Church, were among those attending the 2020 Forum. For a number of years they had been concerned about the increasing plight of homelessness in the community and had been approaching both Council and Government bodies about possible solutions.
From that time on they dedicated themselves to support older women experiencing homelessness by providing transitional housing and Kenthurst Women’s Transitional Housing Project was born.
Denis and James were invited to make a presentation at the 2023 Forum and spoke about their journey over the past 3 years. The project focused on working with their Uniting Church Executive to facilitate the proposed accommodation, resulting in a renovated, fully furnished home now available to offer transitional housing to two in-need women.
They said that the project has been helped by strong support from the Kenthurst Men’s Shed, Rotary and The Hills Soroptimist Club along with local fundraising events. The project has produced a planning blueprint that could be applied in other districts where dedicated volunteers see a need.
Club President, Cathy Tracey, said “We are concerned about the continued rapid growth in the North West of Sydney. The cost of housing, rent and living costs are skyrocketing and no doubt these pressures are contributing to family breakdown and homelessness.
There is a serious lack of transitional social and affordable housing in the Hills District, despite significant housing development projects.”
Interested community members can find out more about our Club’s activities by accessing [email protected], on facebook at facebook.com/sithehills, or by contacting President, Cathy Tracey on 0435 837 118.