Pictured: Simone Parsons (WCS COO), Wal Edgell (PLH Chairman), Annabelle Daniel OAM (WCS CEO), Minister Natasha Maclaren-Jones, Minister Natalie Ward, Adam Crouch MP

A new partnership between Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) and Pacific Link Housing (PLH) will increase the supply of affordable accommodation for older women at risk of homelessness or experiencing domestic and family violence on the Central Coast.

At the last Census, the number of older women experiencing homelessness increased by 31% between 2011–2016. According to Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) however, those captured in Census and Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) data represent the tip of the iceberg, with an estimated 110,000 women over 45 years of age are at risk of homelessness in New South Wales alone. These figures demonstrate the critical need for greater investment in social and affordable housing and targeted approaches to support older women.

Allawah House, located in East Gosford, will provide fourteen studio units with access to communal lounges, kitchens, laundry facilities and gardens, to women over 55.

The property, purchased in 2021 by local developer BEA Projects, has been made available to PLH and WCS via local social enterprise real estate agency Key2 Realty, temporarily and at low cost, for the purpose of providing affordable housing to older women at risk of homelessness. Allawah House is an example of ‘meanwhile use’, an innovative housing model that utilises a vacant property that may be earmarked for future redevelopment, for the purpose of providing a social benefit.

WCS, COO Simone Parsons, has spearheaded WCS’ Transitional and Meanwhile Use Program across a range of sites, explained the need for projects like Allawah House.

“More affordable and stable housing is needed to help re-establish women’s lives post violence, especially for older women, who are the fastest growing cohort of homelessness in Australia. WCS is delighted to be working with Pacific Link Housing, supported by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), to help older women achieve important goals, such as maintaining stable housing, secure a positive tenancy history and help treat the trauma associated with domestic violence and homelessness.”

WCS will provide residents with case management support and coordinate community engagement and wellbeing activities, while PLH will take responsibility for property and tenancy management. PLH will also provide assistance to identify long term affordable housing pathways for Allawah House residents coming out of the transitional housing arrangement throughout the program.

As the Central Coast’s only local Tier 1 Community Housing Provider, PLH has a demonstrated track record of working with government to develop housing solutions that are innovative, focused and financially responsible.

PLH CEO, Ian Lynch said of Allawah House and its partnership with WCS, “The provision of affordable housing solutions benefits all of community, and needs innovative, community inclusive responses. We are proud to partner with like-minded organisations such as WCS and BEA Projects who are willing to take an innovative approach, to provide solutions, and in this instance, to older women at risk of homelessness or escaping domestic violence.”

The meanwhile use opportunity arose thanks to one of a growing number of relationships that have been formed between PLH’s social enterprise, Key2 Realty, and local property developers.

A Director of BEA Projects, Laurie Elliss, said “We are extremely pleased to be able to utilise our site in the short to medium term, to the benefit of the local community whilst future planning is contemplated, and we recognise and value the tremendous work of the likes of PLH and WCS”.

Allawah House is made possible thanks to funding support from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.

Minister for Women’s Safety and the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Natalie Ward said, “The site comprising of an empty aged care facility had been sold with no immediate plans to redevelop, so rather than let the space lay unused, the site was repurposed for use by women aged 55-years and older who were escaping domestic and family violence or who were at risk of homelessness,” Mrs Ward said.

Minister for Families and Communities Natasha Maclaren-Jones said the initiative represented a compassionate, innovative and sensible use of a space that would otherwise be left vacant.

“This initiative is a great example of how unutilised private buildings can be put to good use to benefit vulnerable people at risk of homelessness and provide DFV escapees with a safe place to heal as they begin to rebuild their lives,” Mrs Maclaren-Jones said.