Sunday, 12 February 2012

Karinya House: Advancing the status of our most vulnerable women

This week our Zonta Club returned from our summer holiday break. To open the year we had a great guest: Jacqui Gallagher from Karinya House.

Karinya provides supported accommodation, transitional housing and outreach services to pregnant and parenting women, particularly younger ones, who are in crisis.

So what does that mean in real terms?

Imagine a pregnant teenager - homeless, perhaps the father is gone, perhaps she has problems with her family. Mostly likely she has dropped out of school and at worst may have been involved with drugs or the victim of violence.

Karinya provides a safe place where she can go.

In the past year Karinya hosted 38 women with 37 babies; and provided outreach services to 235. 64% of these women where below the age of 25. Unfortunately 316 young women were not accommodated.

Karinya's clients are truly among the most vulnerable and at risk women in our community. Can you imagine one of these young women without supporters, any possessions, a place to live. Many times she has given birth in hospital and with no where to go, she is referred to Karinya. Young women in such a position rarely have skills in parenting, home life, employment and personal care. Without Karinya's services these young families could face a very uncertain future.

This is where Karinya's outreach services come into play. Their case work support is wide ranging and can include:
  • Birth preparation support
  • Health care advice
  • Budgeting and financial planning advice
  • Public housing applications
  • Support accessing education to finish school studies
  • Referral to other services for medical, antenatal, legal, welfare, and housing organisations
  • Assistance moving and maintaining independent living
  • Practical assistance with household goods, clothing, baby goods and maternity requirements
Club members Penny (centre) and Ceri (right) deliver kitchen starter packs to Karinya
Karinya's clients provide regular and positive feedback on the services. Jacquie shared a card recently recieved that expressed one young woman's appreciation for the support, care and compassion experienced.

 Jacquie shared another story of "Lisa". Lisa was escaping violence, she had a 2 yr old daughter and had a new baby son recently delivered by caesarian. Lisa was living in a car, had no income and was not a permanent Australian resident so she didn't qualify for welfare benefits. Lisa said she had "no voice and no dignity".

Once moving into Karinya her life instantly changed for the better. Beyond the safe environment, Karinya helped Lisa get a scholarship to a Toddler Parenting course, achieve her drivers license, gain permanent residency and access welfare benefits and now is planning to access independent housing.

"I couldn't imagine Karinya could do what they did. They brought back my dignity as a woman and a mother."

Karinya have a hope for the future. They are currently negotiating with the government to access a tract of land and are developing a plan for a cluster housing project to provide more refuge housing so women and their families can transition into a safe and independent lifestyle.

The Zonta Club of Canberra Breakfast is proud to be among many who have continued support for Karinya House over many years. Our club is supplying kitchen starter packs, ready to go maternity bags, a spring cleaning working bee, financial donations, 2nd hand baby goods and furniture, linen and towels.

Karinya is providing a vital service to so many of the young women of Canberra and helping them move forward and become valuable participants of our community.

How about your club? What are your service projects that support vulnerable young women in your community?

All photos sourced from Karinya House Annual Report 2009/10


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