Pop Up Makes A Difference

Pop Up Makes A Difference

Rather than keeping a property vacant while it waits for redevelopment, Uniting has made it into a temporary home to a group of women who would otherwise be homeless.

Uniting has earmarked an inner western Sydney site for retirement living with a social and affordable housing component. The site, which was previously used for residential aged care, is due to be demolished in early 2019 for redevelopment.

In the inner city, these women turn to specialist homelessness services like the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre and WAGEC, (the Women and Girls’ Emergency Centre) for help. In turn, these services support women to access appropriate housing, which is in short supply.

Simon Furness is Property Director for Uniting.

“The vacant building presented a transitional opportunity within a 12 month window to meet a rising need via secure affordable housing enabling women to set themselves up,” Mr Furness said.

“The property has around 100 rooms, but not all were suitable for use due to broken windows or other maintenance issues,” Mr Furness explained.

“We identified around 30 bedsit rooms with a kitchenette and bathroom that we could use.”

The building started taking first temporary residents in March 2018. Three women have since found more permanent housing.

The rooms were furnished with donations from the Construction Profile company following a refurbishment of a large hotel and each room is equipped with a microwave and bar fridge. The YWCA also donated a television for the common lounge area.

ABS data identifies that older women are a growing cohort of the homeless population.

The lack of suitable options for affordable accommodation force many older women into a transient life of caravan parks, sleeping in their cars or vans, or on friends’ lounges.

Uniting is providing an innovative stop-gap until early next year to allow the women to find more permanent housing solutions.

Uniting currently has signed partnership agreements in place with four specialist homelessness services for referrals:

  • Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC);
  • Newtown Neighbourhood Centre (including the Boarding House Outreach Service);
  • YWCA Rapid Rehousing; and
  • Domestic Violence Service Management (DVSM)

CEO of Newtown Neighbourhood Centre Liz Yeo says they have referred ten women to the Uniting site since it opened.

“Older women are a growing but often hidden cohort of our homeless population. This can be due to issues such as sudden unemployment, illness or relationship breakdowns.”

“There is a lack of affordable housing options for women, including boarding house style accommodation that is safe for women. This helps to fill that gap,” she said.

Mr Furness said that the temporary re-use of a development site as a short-term homeless shelter is a first for Uniting.

“We will continue to look for other opportunities to use our buildings to accommodate those experiencing homelessness, and would encourage other building owners to do the same.”

For immediate assistance with crisis housing in NSW, call Link2Home on 1800 152 152.

Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor

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