It is estimated on any one night there are 46,000 homeless women in Australia. The largest single cause of homelessness in Australia is domestic and family violence, which mostly affects women and children.
But thanks to one Australian social enterprise, women like Judy and single mum Kellie, are turning their lives around and finding they do have a future after all.
Those of you who commute to work in one of our major cities will be familiar with the The Big Issue magazine which is sold in central business districts by the homeless. In addition to providing a source of income for homeless men, The Big Issue also runs the Women’s Subscription Enterprise.
The Women’s Subscription Enterprise was launched in 2010 and provides job opportunities, access to training, mentoring and support for homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged women in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. Women are employed to pack the magazines in a safe, women’s-only space, for distribution to subscribers every fortnight. For every 100 subscriptions sold, The Big Issue can employ one woman through the Women’s Subscription Enterprise.
Following a family breakdown, Judy spent more than a decade living in refuges and temporary accommodation, losing her confidence and self-respect along the way. Judy saw little future for herself until she joined the Women’s Subscription Enterprise in Sydney in 2011.
“After the first shift I got my self-esteem back,” said Judy. “I wasn’t useless like I thought I was, not an idiot like I felt I was. I walked out a different person. Instead of being depressed and lying around at home I have something to do, something to look forward to.”
Since starting with the enterprise, Judy has also secured permanent housing through Housing NSW and says she now has more hope for the future.After a difficult start to adulthood, single mum Kellie has become a positive role model for her three children.
Kellie initially worked as a vendor selling The Big Issue magazine on the city streets of Melbourne but she much prefers the safety and camaraderie of working at the Women’s Subscription Enterprise.
“We aren’t pressured to sell magazines and we enjoy working together and having a laugh,” said Kellie.
The Big Issue established the Women’s Subscription Enterprise so that women like Kellie didn’t have to rely on selling magazines on the streets. As many homeless women are fleeing domestic violence or caring for children, The Big Issue needed to create a safer and more practical way of helping women to help themselves.
Since launching in 2010, many women have also gone on to complete accredited training with the Women’s Subscription Enterprise and several women have secured mainstream employment.
Kellie was one of 21 women who completed a Certificate I in Vocational Training and Certificate III in Business through the Women’s Subscription Enterprise in 2012. She is now doing volunteer work in the aged care sector and hopes to secure work as an aged carer.
Monthly subscriptions of The Big Issue can be purchased for just $12.40 a month or $155 a year at http://www.thebigissue.org.au/shop/
Remember, for every 100 subscriptions sold, the Women’s Subscription Enterprise can employ one homeless woman so she can provide herself and her kids with a brighter future.