A community service organisation in South East Queensland is doing everything it can to support and improve the lives of some of the 10,000 women who are experiencing homelessness every year.
The Toowong Women’s Homelessness Service, run by Anglicare Southern Queensland, provides temporary accommodation and support to women 18 years and over, as well as young women between 16-25 years of age with children who are pregnant or parenting or working towards reunification.
The service is helping to create an equitable future by providing holistic services that help women rebuild their self-worth to make sustainable changes in their lives. The team supports women to increase their capacity to sustain tenancies and build positive parenting skills through a trauma informed recovery oriented, strengths-based case management framework.
Anglicare Women’s Homelessness Service Manager Carol Birrell said staff are seeing more and more people who have never experienced homelessness due to rising living costs and a lack of affordable housing options.
“We are seeing older women and those with children and pets who have never experienced homelessness as they have always been able to maintain a private rental. However, in the current crisis, those rentals are simply no longer available,” Ms Birrell said.
“We have also seen an uptick in people who are employed, but due to lack of supply, they can’t find a rental, or have had their rentals end without grounds and are now homeless.”
The services also provide medium-term accommodation and support to women who transition from the residential program into Anglicare’s Community properties that find many women on a lease for the first time in their life. With a number of properties located within the community, women are provided with the opportunity to access affordable housing for up to six months with continued support and case management to sustain their housing while they are waiting for a public housing or community housing offer.
“We provide them with a place to stay as they have some stability and someone to work with who understands the challenges that they might go through,” Ms Birrell said.
“An important part of our role is supporting people while they are waiting for housing because it is hard for people to wait and not know where they’ll be living, or what space and location they have to build their life around in terms of connecting with doctors or psychologists.”
The Toowong Women’s Homelessness Service also run the Women’s Early Intervention Service, which is an outreach program designed at assisting at-risk women and to help connect them with vital support services.
Ms Birrell said homelessness is such a complex issue that can spiral into a domino effect.
“The reality is that we’ve had women here that have had jobs and rentals and it can sometimes only take an event in their life which challenges them to reach out to services to seek support, and it’s not necessarily a loss of property or it could be a loss of property or something else, but that might not be the first thing,” Ms Birrell said.
“It’s like the chicken or the egg. Which one comes first? Is it the issues that were going on in that property or relationship or mental health? What is the reason? It’s not always the loss of property, but it might end in a loss of property, but that might not be the first thing.”
Last year Anglicare Southern Queensland supported 314 women, 46 men and 159 children across both its residential supported accommodation and its outreach program for both men and women.
With International Women’s Day just around the corner, Ms Birrell said the theme of embracing equity resonated with her and her team as it’s all about supporting those who are most vulnerable and ensuring they have the same opportunities as everyone else regardless of their background and upbringing.
“I think the significant thing Anglicare has done for women is that we have identified the need to do more for women and it’s about women working with women and trying to see them in a better position in life,” Ms Birrell said.
“This is a purpose-built building designed to offer more accommodation to women. Previously we were only able to support up to 14 adult women and now we can support up to 23 adult women and eight young women and their children. We also look after 31 adult women and 22 children in our onsite and community program.”
For more information on Women’s Homelessness Service in Toowong, please visit the Anglicare Southern Queensland website.