Snapshot of life at McAuley House

A researcher’s snapshot of life at McAuley House in March 2017 provides an important insight into the lives of the women living in the new $11 million facility at Pickett St, Footscray, which was opened in November 2016. It also provides staff and policy makers with vital information about women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The house was full for most of March with the 25 en-suite bedrooms occupied. Most of the women stay at McAuley House for an extended period and the average stay is now 264 days. As well, staff at McAuley House also supported 19 women in transitional housing in March. In the 2015/16 year McAuley House provided accommodation to 59 women.

Three quarters of the women at McAuley House are Australian citizens or permanent residents. One quarter are on temporary visas or are non-permanent residents.This trend, identified two years ago and noted in the 2015/2016 annual report, has created added pressure on limited resources, with women staying longer, and without access to funds. Half the women in March were receiving Government support, while three women had no income.

A profile of the women at McAuley House in March reveals:

  • Three quarters are aged 36 to 55 years
  • Half are mothers
  • 100% were homeless or at great risk of homelessness
  • 88% have experienced family violence
  • Almost all have chronic mental health issues
  • Almost half have a chronic physical condition
  • Over one-third have alcohol or drug issues

McAuley Community Services for Women researcher Wendy Forrest said residents at McAuley House are engaged in a range of recreational activities while three are working and three are studying. Volunteers and staff run an extensive program to create a strong network within the house and to support the women develop skills that can be used once they leave McAuley House. These activities include social and recreation activities, community nights, birthday nights, outings, drama, yoga classes, jewellery making and a Cooking Program. Most women are also connected to at least one external support service or program.

While Wendy provided the snapshot using data collected, she also asked residents to comment on what life was like for them at the new McAuley House.

For most residents, the new bedrooms, with their private bathrooms, is something they have not experienced for a long time and has had a huge impact. “I am so grateful for being here – my room is a haven”. “Personally I like it here – I like my own space”. “I think this place is so awesome, from having cooking to activities, this place has everything we need”.“I won’t forget the old McAuley but the new McAuley is beautiful! It’s really good to have the community where all are welcome”.“I like how everything is new and clean”.

For another woman the security of the place is a key feature, “Safety and security is great – locks and all that”.