YWCA Canberra has surpassed its goal to support up to 15 older women through its innovative Next Door program by more than 400 per cent in its first year.
Next Door empowers women age 50+ (and Aboriginal women 45+) to secure and maintain affordable, appropriate and safe homes.
“Through the program, we provide holistic support tailored to the woman’s individual situation,” said YWCA Canberra’s CEO Frances Crimmins.
“Based on funding we received from the ACT Government, we had originally targeted to help between nine and 15 women a year,” said Ms Crimmins. “This was deliberately flexible because the amount of support varies depending on the complexity of the woman’s needs.
“But in our first year, we have already supported 78 women.”
Of those, 60 per cent are now in their preferred housing solution. We are supporting the others with case management until they can move into new homes.
“Our goal is to nurture and empower older women to overcome the challenges, trauma and inequality they have experienced in their lives and build their resilience, independence and wellbeing,” Ms Crimmins said.
“Following a life-time of work and caring responsibilities, often characterised by inequalities around wages and superannuation compared to their male counterparts, many older women don’t have financial security.
“And with the COVID-19 crisis disproportionately affecting women, the situation for older women is only getting worse.”
At 70 years old, renowned Canberra artist Liz Coats had never expected to need the services of a program like Next Door. The COVID-19 crisis changed that.
“I survived in Canberra with house minds and renting rooms from time to time. Of course, those are the very things that have been stymied by COVID,” Ms Coats said.
“It was pretty desperate for a while. It was getting more and more difficult to survive.”
Ms Coats contacted YWCA Canberra and was put on to the Next Door program. The team organised temporary accommodation for her and planned a long-term solution to her housing that will enable her to keep working.
“To have this level of care is very gratifying,” Ms Coats said. “I just feel extremely lucky that I’ve been caught up in this net.”