In his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis shared a message of hope to all expecting mothers:
“Keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood. Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world…Try to experience this serene excitement amid all your many concerns, and ask the Lord to preserve your joy, so that you can pass it on to your child.” (171).
But for some young women in Western Sydney, the joy of motherhood is often overshadowed by fears and concerns of homelessness, living on the poverty line, or the need to flee domestic violence.
CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains’ Houses to Homes service provides pregnant and parenting young women aged 16 to 25 with a safe and secure place to reclaim the joy of motherhood.
Houses to Homes was established in 1988 by the first Bishop of the Diocese of Parramatta, the late Bede Heather. He recognised the need for a purpose-built facility to house and support at-risk pregnant girls and young mothers, and help them break the cycle of homelessness and domestic violence.
“For many young mums faced with homelessness, hardship and abuse, Houses to Homes is the only place they can turn to for help and hope,” Manager Louise Masters explained.
“Often they have no family or friends to stay with, so finding them safe, affordable housing is our number one priority, along with making sure they feel safe and have all the basic necessities,” she said.
Each young mother’s room is set up with a bed, sheets, blankets and towels. Houses to Homes also do a shop with the young women so that they have nutritious food to eat.
For pregnant mums, the service provides cots and bassinets they can borrow as well as a baby hamper and essentials for a newborn including a microwave steriliser, waterproof bassinet sheets and nappies – necessities that they don’t have the funds to buy.
“Some young mums come with a few garbage bags full of clothes and belongings – and not much more,” Louise said. “Some mums may have some necessities for their baby, but often, they’ve got nothing themselves.”
An important part of Houses to Homes is providing pregnancy and parenting support on a one-to-one basis.
The team of registered nurses and midwives are on hand seven days a week to assist the new young mums in any way they can – whether it be supporting them at the hospital during their labour or when their newborn baby won’t settle or feed, and in the following months as they learn how to support and care for their child.
The team also provide advocacy during GP and antenatal visits, refer and assist the young women in their care to access community resources like mental health counselling, financial counselling and mothers groups and reconnect them with pathways to education and employment.
Every year, more than 100 homeless women and children from Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds turn to Houses to Homes for shelter for an average of six to nine months at a time.
In 2020, they provided 4,718 instances of assistance to sustain tenancies and avoid evictions, a 15% increase on the previous year.
To meet the needs of young homeless mothers in our community, Houses to Homes must expand their service and provide more support staff, transitional accommodation and resources.
“We truly give the girls our all,” Louise described.
“We provide a safe haven for young mums to bond with their baby.
“Nobody is a perfect parent, so we work with each mum until they’re safe, have improved living and parenting skills, and can move into their own place where it’s affordable and safe for them and their children.
“One example that comes to mind is of a girl who had a baby recently. I was on the phone to her, and I was helping to allay her anxiety. She was telling me about how she wasn’t coping, she hadn’t slept for five days whilst she was at hospital and she was exhausted, but then she paused for a minute and said, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful’ and you could tell she was looking at the baby.
“She told me, ‘I want him to have a better life than I did.’
“I think it’s not judging and persisting and believing that everybody should be allowed to have a try, and our mothers have been able to do it well,” Louise said.
With your support of Parramatta Catholic Foundation’s Bishop’s Christmas Appeal, young pregnant women and new mothers can be given the foundations to establish a safe, supported and happy family life on their own.
Your donation will help CatholicCare’s Houses to Homes to support vulnerable, at-risk young women and children who need safe, affordable housing and parenting support.
Please donate to the Bishop’s Christmas Appeal by visiting yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/bishops-christmas-outlook-appeal-21