Thank you to Stevie Cox at QUT Entrepreneurship for this post. The Entrepreneurship team, through QUT Foundry, work with visionary individuals who are seeking to achieve their entrepreneurial goals of creating businesses and social enterprises. Find out more
If I asked your thoughts on the largest of the issues surrounding homelessness, what immediately comes to mind? What if I asked about your thoughts on the people most impacted, which group would it be? Would it be people with substance abuse issues? Maybe it would be people living under the poverty line, struggling to live day to day. How many of you would be surprised if I said the most impacted group is in fact, older women, and then what of your thoughts when you find out this group, has expanded beyond its original age demographic to include middle aged women? Who are we even talking about here anyway you ask – your mothers, your grandmothers, sisters and aunts or more commonly, the hidden demographic. Yes, there has been a shift in size and make-up. The original statistical grouping was women aged 50+, however this has now expanded to include women aged 40 and upwards.
The environmental factors surrounding older women’s homelessness are also quite diverse, and they are many. The most obvious ones are domestic and family violence (DFV), lack of affordable housing and relationship breakdowns, but there is much more going on within these spheres which is its own topic and desperately needs to be discussed more often. Older women, particularly stay at home mums, often have not had the same opportunities to save for their retirement that their partners have had, therefore when something breaks, or they are forced to leave, the impact is enormous. Think for a second of what it takes to move house if you’re renting and on a Centrelink payment. Now add in all the extra considerations if you’re a mum in your 40’s with 2 children where you now have to factor in proximity to schools, suitability of housing, safe neighbourhoods etc. There are many more concerns if you are a woman leaving DFV such as proximity to services and support networks. So where do we fit in?
MyTHaven is a social enterprise that started as a means of providing a temporary/transitional housing option for our homeless, but it has become so much more than that. We have received eight expressions of interest for our tiny house designs, been invited on the journey of HOW-M (Housing Older Women’s Movement) and have engaged with Q-Shelter, QUT’s Engineering faculty with furniture design and fabrication students working on flat pack furniture for tinys. More importantly, we have received invaluable feedback from the people on the ground that see this as a way out of potential homelessness for them. Breaking the cycle. And we’ve only been operating for 7 months.
Our focus points:
- Tiny house villages for homeless older women created with tiny houses on wheels (THOW’s). These tiny houses provide a pathway to home ownership and a means of providing security of tenure, and maintain a person’s dignity, independence, and contributing to them feeling valued as members of society.
- Sustainability – solar powered with either their own water supply or connected to town water. There are even options for composting toilets or utility connections. Tiny houses are well documented for the sustainable lifestyle they provide and minimal environmental footprint – there is no slab!
- Alignment to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Global Compact. We are reducing our footprint wherever possible, and this includes being part of the circular economy, our up and downstream supply chains, and the organisations we choose to partner with.
We’ll be starting our first two builds soon. If you want to be a part of this, or just want to follow our journey, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.
We’ve found a sponsor for our pilot build and are actively looking for somewhere to build it. We’re also doing our due diligence on the plethora of finance options out there for anyone wanting a tiny. As a social enterprise we reinvest at least 50% of our profits back into bringing our tiny house villages to life. So if tiny houses are your thing, and it’s in your values sphere, reach out through the lovely folk at ACPNS. Thanks for reading!