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Catherine House provides life-changing crisis accommodation and support services for an alarming number of women now experiencing homelessness.
Catherine House Philanthropy and Engagement Manager Jaylee Cooper says the charity – which has seen a staggering 45% increase in demand – does far more than offer 24/7 safe accommodation.
It also brings in external services including a GP, Centrelink, legal support and financial counselling to help women rebuild their life while also helping find them permanent housing. “We are a very holistic in our approach. People ask what’s different about Catherine House, and I say “We are so much more than just a bed and a meal”.
At Adelaide’s Finest we are putting our support behind this charity by donating part proceeds from the sale of every single Community Co grocery product to Catherine House Crisis Accommodation Service.
Community Co is our home brand with hundreds of quality products which give customers another way to buy the best on a budget.
The funds raised from the Community Co product sales at Pasadena will go directly to the accommodation service. It costs $152 a night to support a woman at Catherine House and Jaylee Cooper says every dollar counts.
Women are the fastest-growing cohort of homeless Australians and seek help from Catherine House for myriad reasons including domestic and family violence or mental illness.
More recently, the rapid increase in cost of living and the lack of affordable housing contributes to homelessness. “The demand is so high. We’re now supporting 54 women on a nightly basis. The wait list is 8 to 12 weeks minimum to get into Catherine House and there are up to 60 women on the wait list at any one time,” she says.
Many women in crisis now can’t get a rental property when they become homeless so, devastatingly, they end up sleeping in their car or on a friend’s couch.
“They can stay with us at Catherine House for up to 3 months, or until we find them housing, but at the moment women are staying with us for up to 5 months because we can’t find them housing,” she says.
“The problem then is that we end up with a bed blockage. We can’t and won’t kick women out, that defeats our purpose, but meanwhile that wait list just gets longer”.
Catherine House, was established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1988 and started with just 12 rooms.
“It started 35 years ago because there was nowhere in Adelaide for women experiencing homelessness. Those women would need to go to men’s shelters and obviously that wasn’t ideal as most of those homeless women were coming out of domestic and sexual violence,” Jaylee says.
“We were the first women’s homelessness service then and we’re still the only one.”
Jaylee says it costs $1.2 million per year to run the crisis accommodation service. The charity receives $500, 000 from the State Government and the rest, about $700,000, is made up of donations, events and fundraising appeals.
“We have a big shortfall to simply open the doors. It’s a lot, and that’s why we are so grateful for every little bit of help we receive,” she says.
Jaylee explains that when a woman enters Catherine House, it is generally through a referral including other homelessness services, hospitals, GPs, SAPOL, or directly from women.
“When a woman finally does get a place, she receives a phone call from an intake worker to let her know she has safe housing. Then she’s immediately given a case worker so that is really her support person who helps her look for housing – first and foremost we really need to find women a home,” she says.
“When women arrive, they are in crisis and the last thing they feel like doing is go to housing authority and honestly they don’t know where to start, particularly if they’ve left a domestic violence relationship, they have no money, so we just start that process for them.
“We allow them time to settle and some women will come in and sleep for days because they are exhausted. If you have been sleeping in your car, or on the street or you have finally left a violent relationship, then you are emotionally depleted – so we allow the women time to do that while we start working with housing applications.”
Jaylee says the next stage is working towards finding safe and affordable accommodation for women when they leave Catherine House. “Women arrive here at a low point in their lives and our whole aim is to help them walk out with their lives changed”.