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Sacred heart launches mid-year appeal

Sacred Heart Mission (SHM) has launched its mid-year appeal, recounting the story of Nat*, who found herself experiencing homelessness before being connected to services at the Women’s House.

The appeal calls attention to Nat’s difficult situation after arriving in Australia from Indonesia, when her relationship turned violent, a common cause of homelessness in Australia.

After summoning the courage to flee the violent marriage, Nat spent two years couch-surfing and working casually, earning just $100 a week. Without any form of a support network, professional skills and speaking little English, Nat could not afford private housing and before long, she was experiencing homelessness.

“I was alone and thought to myself if something happened to me, who is going to look for me? Who is going to care?” Nat says.

“I felt so sad. I had no one. I was homeless.”

The appeal explains how Nat came to even more dire straits when she was hit by a speeding car.

“I felt like, ‘why are all these bad things happening to me?’ Everything was happening at once.”

Nat eventually secured short-term, ‘crisis’ accommodation with SHM, where her spirits and hopes were nurtured as her body recovered. During this time, she was referred to SHM’s Women’s House, which she says was a pivotal moment in her life, as she was able to turn her life around.

“This is what help looks like. The great women here at the Women’s House… They told me whatever support I needed I would find it here. I went, felt comfortable and met a lot of great people,” she says.

The Women’s House obtained funds that would allow Nat to study English and Community Services. Nat is now fluent in English and passed her Certificate IV in Community Services, which she wants to use to help other women with a similar experience to hers. She is in transitional housing with Launch Housing, and looks forward to moving into a share flat with friends in the future.

The 2016 Census revealed the person most likely to walk into a homelessness service is a woman aged 24-34, often with a child by her side. In Victoria alone, statistics reflect that of the 24,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night, over 60 per cent are women.

Complex issue

Homelessness is a complex issue, but this is further complicated for women due to issues such as family violence, assault, financial inequality, and gendered role pressures.

Women are two and a half times more likely to retire in poverty than men as a result of the gender pay gap (15.3 per cent in Australia according to the 2016 Census), and a higher incidence of part-time work combined with extended periods out of the workforce.

Nat has made many friends at the Women’s House and still visits. It has given her a new lease of life; she likes to socialise, relax and take part in the weekly pottery classes.

“I can love myself more now. I feel the sun on my skin and it feels so beautiful! I come to the Women’s House and I can now enjoy my surroundings like never before,” she says.

The Women’s House offers various services for women with housing, physical and mental health concerns, substance use issues, family violence, financial and legal matters, and social and life skills, to meet the growing demand.

Women in our community need the safety of the Women’s House. It will cost SHM $613,540 to run the Women’s House this year. After receiving some support from the State Government, SHM needs $294,541 before 30 June to keep the doors of the Women’s House open.

Donations to the SHM winter appeal will ensure women like Nat continue to receive the support they need to exit homelessness and get a second chance at living a fulfilling life.

To donate call 1800 443 278 or visit: sacredheartmission.org/helpwomen