Meet Mary and Joanne, who work within VMCH’s Pastoral Care and Affordable Housing teams.
Mary, Senior Manager Pastoral Care Services has been working with VMCH since 2016. Her role involves building relationships with VMCH residents, mainly those who are marginalised and vulnerable, providing them with emotional, spiritual and mental support.
Joanne works in Affordable Housing Pastoral Care, and Property Administration. She wears a couple of hats across VMCH. She provides social and emotional support to around 400 residents across 21 VMCH Affordable Housing sites, as well as assisting with property maintenance calls from residents; ensuring sites and units are running as they should.
Here they speak about the housing challenges which are contributing to the rise in homelessness in Victoria.
Nearly 70% of VMCH Affordable Housing residents are female… why do you think there’s a greater need for housing support for women?
Mary: Many women have come because of a low income, lack of permanent housing, separation, divorce or abuse. Some women might not have had budgeting skills or worked in the past as their husband was the main provider. They didn’t choose this path of life, but this is where they’re at now.
What are the common challenges Affordable Housing residents face?
Joanne: A common challenge I have recognised within the Affordable Housing community is financial hardship. This is reflected in their anxiety and stress to manage everyday living expenses and bills.
Another common challenge I see is family breakdown or loss and friendship conflict. Residents may be vulnerable and isolated if they do not have access to good family and friendship support.
Mary: Before they come into Affordable Housing there’s often a two or three-year waitlist so that causes a lot of anxiety and stress. For some, managing their finances is tough. Mounting medical bills for example can leave people feeling low and unable to buy food and other essentials. Sometimes there’s a difficult family situation and they’re alone and hurting.
What do you think can be done to address the rising rates of homelessness?
Joanne: It is important for us to be aware and educated around factors contributing to homelessness or being at risk of homelessness. Some of these can be mental health, addiction, social isolation, domestic violence or family breakdown.
It is also important that people know what services and support are available, as well as organisations like VMCH looking at further ways we can reduce the rate of homelessness.
Mary: Basically, we need more affordable and social housing stock. We need to lobby the Government and stop giving over buildings in prime spots to private developers.
What more do you think could be done to support older people in terms of permanent housing?
Joanne: As it is independent living, there is a need for home care package services for our residents who require assistance. It’s important that when we see there is a need, that we continually inform them of what home care support is out there.
What positive changes have you seen in our residents as they progress through our assistance programs?
Joanne: The changes I have seen have indicated a large impact that our services have on them.
They are grateful to have access to home care services, where they can enjoy living independently with extra support. They also appreciate pastoral care and having someone available to entrust with their concerns and they enjoy the company.
I am often touched by the strength and resilience of our residents to overcome battles in their life. They have a love for life and hope for the future, which is admirable.
What do you hope to see for VMCH Affordable Housing residents in the future?
Joanne: I hope they feel accepted, supported, safe and settled within their own home. I hope that they feel cared for and valued by VMCH.
Mary: I hope they have a real sense that this is their home – that they don’t have recurring homelessness or instability. That they feel valued by the VMCH community and we help them build up the confidence to have a voice and feel heard.
As you get older, having a bit of extra help at home is important, so you can do the things you love. For more information about VMCH’s home care services, contact us on 1300 650 615.