Groundbreaking New Partnership to Double Shelter Capacity for Women and Children at Risk of Homelessness and Domestic and Family Violence Launches in Western Sydney

May 12, 2023 , , , , , ,

Women’s Community Shelters (WCS), a leading charity supporting women and children at risk of homelessness and domestic and family violence, The Haven – Nepean Women’s Shelter, and community housing provider Evolve Housing, are proud to announce a ground breaking partnership to increase access to shelter accommodation and support services across the Penrith LGA, NSW. 

The project, known as The Haven Residences, will launch during Domestic and Family Violence Prevention month this May, and has received backing from the NSW Government’s Domestic Violence investment funding. 

This marks the first occasion in which WCS has worked with a shelter in our network to use the innovative “core and cluster” accommodation model, which will allow for the expansion of The Haven – Nepean Women’s Shelter. The shelter provides crucial supported accommodation services to women, with or without children who are at risk of homelessness or domestic and family violence. 

The core and cluster project reflects WCS’ ongoing commitment to empowering and assisting local communities to access new opportunities to address the increasing numbers of women and children seeking help to leave domestic violence and homelessness. 

The NSW Government funding towards each WCS shelter represents a percentage of each shelter’s operational costs, meaning the continued support of their trusted community stakeholders and donors is vital in order to create and maintain additional safe bed nights for women and children. 

The three project partners have worked together to refurbish an apartment block purchased by Evolve Housing using the DV funding, allowing The Haven to support more women and children, in a unique model known as core and cluster. This allows for independent living and privacy for residents whilst providing on-site access to caseworkers and community support. 

WCS CEO, Annabelle Daniel OAM, said that WCS’ work has always been about creating innovation in providing safe housing, and partnering with local communities to do it. 

“We have worked to develop new housing solutions to address the pressing need for safe and affordable housing and WCS is committed to improving the lives of women and children in Australia. The expansion of our cherished Haven – Nepean Women’s Shelter and its services will play a vital role in helping more women and children in the Penrith region,” continued Annabelle. 

Deputy CEO, Simone Parsons added, “This exciting new partnership will allow us to more than double the support and safe beds we provide to women and children in the Nepean and surrounding regions in order to help them rebuild their lives.” 

Established in April 2018, The Haven is the fifth shelter in the WCS Network and delivers crisis accommodation services and wrap around supports to women and children in the Penrith LGA. The WCS Hub (Head office) is the professional service core of the entire WCS Shelter Network and underpins the establishment and operations of each WCS Shelter.  

The Haven’s Chair, Sharon Levy, said the extension of the WCS model and existing Haven Shelter to include core and cluster and rapid rehousing provides flexible and responsive accommodation options for women and children, with a range of private and shared spaces, as well as communal areas for women to connect and receive support.

“Ultimately, we will be able to support more women and children in our area, which is something we are always striving to do. The Penrith community has supported The Haven since we first opened, and it is because of its ongoing support and generosity, as well as the vital support of the business community that we are now in a position to build upon the last five years and provide more desperately needed assistance to local women and children,” Ms. Levy said. 

As the property owner, Evolve Housing will manage the tenancies associated with the six rapid rehousing units, while also providing property management services, maintenance and repairs and renovations to make the property fit for purpose before clients move in. 

Lyall Gorman, Group CEO of Evolve Housing said that as a community housing provider, Evolve Housing recognises its responsibility to play a role in increasing the supply of social and affordable housing for women and children escaping domestic and family violence, and is proud to be playing a stronger role in supporting this key area of need. 

“Evolve Housing is delighted to be partnering with Women’s Community Shelters and The Haven Nepean Women’s Shelter through the Core and Cluster Program that will support women and children experiencing domestic violence by helping them get into safe, affordable accommodation,” Mr Gorman said.  

“Domestic and family violence is a critical issue and it’s vital we provide safe and secure housing options for women and children escaping these situations, while supporting them on their journey to greater independence. 

“With the increasing costs of housing, particularly rental unaffordability, women and children who are already in vulnerable situations are faced with the harsh reality of housing stress and potential homelessness. 

“We commend initiatives like this that help build on our Safe Foundations’ partnership with Women’s Community Shelters and look forward to continuing this great work in supporting those who need it most in our community.” 

The new core and cluster shelter program will operate from the entire apartment complex and provide clients access to staff support 24 hours per day, 7 days per week through direct service delivery and on-call service provision. It is due to open in late May 2023. The project will deliver eleven fully self-contained residential units and one on site office located within the Penrith LGA. The shelter will provide a mixture of core and cluster units and rapid rehousing units – for single women and women with children.

The crisis accommodation will be provided for three months, and rapid rehousing accommodation will be provided for approximately six months. Crisis accommodation is very short term, with substantial support services required, whereas rapid rehousing is a longer tenure, typically a few months, and targets people with less intense support needs, but still in crisis housing need. 

The project will also be supported by online homewares and furniture retailer Temple and Webster, who will help furnish and style the property. 

The Haven’s Shelter Manager, Samantha said: “The needs of our clients are often very complex and require a range of different accommodation solutions and this will allow us to provide the very best support to our clients. Wellbeing support services will be delivered by our staff who are a key component of the project. Programs will be co-facilitated by shelter staff, student placements and community volunteers to ensure a cross-section of the community is involved, both to boost sector engagement and reduce the stigma of domestic and family violence.”

This partnership marks a significant step forward in the fight against homelessness and domestic and family violence, and demonstrates the commitment of WCS, The Haven Nepean Women’s Shelter, and Evolve Housing to making a positive impact in the lives of at risk women and children.