For more than 30 years, CatholicCare’s ‘Houses to Homes’ service has been assisting young mothers experiencing homelessness to get back on their feet.
Young women aged 16 to 24 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and who are pregnant or have a baby, are referred to the service for transitional housing and support.
Houses to Homes Manager Louise Masters said staff work with these young women to access the right care and support they need to safely care for their baby and themselves, and rebuild their life.
‘One of the most critical roles we have is to assist clients to develop the necessary parenting skills to care for their baby and build confidence as a mum,’ she said. ‘We help our clients to believe that they can do this by themselves.’
She said they also work closely with their clients to help them develop important life skills, such as cooking, budgeting, looking after a home and maintaining a tenancy.
‘When we first meet a client, we spend a lot of time getting to know them and building trust,’ Louise said. ‘Quite often they have come from very difficult situations and we need them to feel that they can talk openly and honestly with us so we can help in every way possible.’
Louise said staff made sure their clients have access to physical and mental healthcare, education, employment, financial and emotional support.
‘It’s not unusual for women to come to us with nothing more than a plastic bag filled with their belongings,’ Louise said. ‘So we have to start from scratch. Often they have no family or friends to stay with, and so finding them safe, affordable housing is our number one priority along with making sure they feel safe and have all the basic necessities.’
The team works closely with a number of agencies to access safe appropriate long-term housing.
Houses to Homes staff can support clients at hospital for the birth of their baby and afterwards when they are discharged.
Modelling safe adult relationships was another important role for Houses to Homes staff.
‘Often the young women who come to us for support haven’t had good role models in relationships,’ Louise said. ‘So we make sure we model this to help them learn what a safe relationship looks and feels like.’
Louise said the goal with each client was to see them back on their feet, healthy and with a healthy baby and a place to call home.
‘We work with clients for as long as they need, whether that is one year or five years—we give clients the foundations to establish a safe, supported and happy life on their own,’ she said. ‘To see them on the other side looking healthy, happy, enthusiastic about life is lovely.’
“We want to break the cycle of homelessness and see them succeed”.