22 February 2023

Why it's more important than ever to 'give where you live'

| Dione David
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Two little girls from behind working on a craft project

The YWCA’s key focuses are children’s services, community development, housing, youth engagement, education and training and advocacy. Photos: YWCA.

Canberrans have always been generous, but as the Hands Across Canberra (HAC) Canberra Day Appeal draws to a close, CEO Peter Gordon is calling for locals to dig even deeper.

He says as Canberra’s community services and charities are witnessing the pointy end of the “cost of living crisis”, HAC’s “give where you live” mantra is more important than ever.

“Throughout COVID, the number of people living under the poverty line in Canberra spiked from 30,000 to 40,000,” he says.

“It had such a profound impact on community services and charities that we have not recovered. That was before the cost-of-living crisis hit.”

Last year, 75 charities were involved in the appeal, raising a collective $640,000.

One was the YWCA, which raised $12,000 for its YHomes project in Ainslie.

The project will build nine units to provide supported housing for women fleeing domestic and family violence, and women over 55 years at risk of homelessness.

READ ALSO Cost-of-living pressures in Canberra under the microscope of new government committee

“We know from our older women homeless services that we’re short about 3000 units of social housing. We know women make up 67 per cent of that need. And we know single, older women are again a large component of that,” YWCA CEO Frances Crimmins says.

“When we first announced the project in the suburb of Ainslie, we immediately started receiving emails and calls from women asking if they could move in.

“While we’re delighted to bring nine homes online, we need so many more.”

Ms Crimmins says it’s alarming how easy it is for women, particularly older women or those who’ve experienced family, domestic or intimate partner violence, to fall below the poverty line or find themselves facing homelessness.

“Most of the women we currently house in our programs to support older women have been women who’ve led conventional lives,” she says.

“They’ve done exactly what society told them to – been the primary caregivers, good wives, raised children and made a home. If they were employed, it tended to be part-time, and many weren’t employed when superannuation schemes were around. Even today, many women in part-time work have very little superannuation.

“It’s a reality in Australia that many women live below the poverty line. And if you don’t own your own home when you need to retire, you’re in trouble because the ability to earn an income that can pay market rent in Canberra and across the country is at a catastrophic level.”

The official first sod turning for the YHomes project in Ainslie has already taken place, but inflation means more funds are needed to complete it.

Construction in Ainslie started a few weeks ago and its completion is expected by the end of the year; however, the charity is now fundraising to cover a shortfall that has come courtesy of inflation and increased building costs.

The YWCA is just one of the hopeful charities joining the capital region’s largest fundraising campaign.

“Canberra is one of the wealthiest cities in one of the wealthiest countries. At a time when most of us are acknowledging the cost of living is going up, if you happen to be in a position where you can contribute to any of the Canberra Day Appeal charities – whether ours or another deserving cause – please do so,” she says.

“We all have seen an unprecedented increase in a call for support.

“My call to Canberrans is to give something and to give local because there is a fellow Canberran who really needs your help today.”

READ ALSO New Hands Across Canberra chair takes up community challenge

This year, reflecting a greater need, a record-breaking 120 charities are involved with a target of raising $1 million.

Mr Gordon says it’s a lofty goal but achievable.

“The need in Canberra can be quite hidden. We’re encouraging Canberrans to look at the various charities involved in the appeal and I can guarantee you, one will be doing something meaningful to you,” he says.

“The more you think about these causes – whether it be women’s services, disadvantaged children, drug and alcohol rehabilitation or any number of deserving causes – the harder it will be to say no.”

To give to the HAC Canberra Day Appeal, visit the website. The Canberra Day Appeal Giving Day launches on 8 March.

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