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For a lot of us, a warm bed and a roof over our heads is a given, and getting up for work in -7° is merely an inconvenience.
But for a growing number of Canberrans, a safe space to call home is a luxury and a daily battle against the weather is reality.
Between 2011 and 2016 the number of people sleeping rough in the ACT doubled, with more than 1600 Canberrans homeless on any given night.
There’s a number of reasons people can end up sleeping rough, from a teenager escaping an unstable living situation to international students sleeping on campus and women escaping violent environments with their children.
Toora Women Incorporated is a not-for-profit organisation that works with the latter group, helping to support women facing domestic violence, their own or others’ alcohol or drug addictions, mental health issues and homelessness. Last year, the organisation provided support for 269 women and 200 children who cited domestic and family violence as their reason for being homeless.
“Due to the immediate threat to their safety, women and children in our service are often forced to leave their homes quickly without bringing their belongings,” says Toora’s Executive Director Susan Clarke-Lindfield. “Finding safe and affordable housing becomes their main priority.
“Many of the children in our care suffer multiple forms of harm and are victims of complex trauma from either witnessing or suffering from violence themselves.”
It was recently announced that $100,000 of the ACT 2018 Budget will go towards supporting the employment of a child and family specialist, though Toora says more support is needed to help every child they see lead as normal life as possible within their circumstances.
Toora provides infants with warm clothes throughout winter and school-aged children who have difficulties at school with tutoring or counselling. The organisation also helps working mothers who struggle to afford early or after school care for their children.
“Innocent children’s lives are significantly disrupted for reasons beyond their control,” says Susan. “We are also supporting several new mothers whose physical and mental stress has affected their breast milk production and they must rely on baby formulas. Without jobs, they also do not have enough money to buy basic needs such as nappies.”
Yesterday, Monday 6 August, kicked off Homelessness Week, with this year’s theme being ‘Ending homelessness together’. Toora is relying on the generosity of the community to help make a difference to the lives of many of Canberra’s women and children.
Donations can be made through Toora’s website.