There’s over twenty (20) years’ documented history of female homelessness on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
In the year leading up to the Shelter’s opening, what was then Manly Community Centre and St Vincent de Paul in Brookvale recorded more than 300 women turning up in search of crisis accommodation. These statistics and years of experience fuelled the need for what began as Manly Women’s Shelter (MWS).
In 2007, the Northern Beaches Women’s Housing Co-op was formed, headed by Jacqueline Smith, Manager of Manly Community Centre. Two years later, the Co-op brought together Margaret Gallagher from Pregnancy Help, the Rotary Club of Manly Sunrise, Manly Community Centre and the Hunt Family Foundation (represented by Mrs Ellie Hunt) to discuss the possibility of opening a shelter in the area.
Manly Women’s Shelter was finally realised in 2010, thanks to further collaborative efforts and much-needed start-up funding provided by the Hunt Family Foundation.
Members of Rotary Club of Manly Sunrise painted and refreshed the newly leased Shelter property as part of a charitable donation that included installing fencing and other security measures. Soroptomist International (Manly) provided furniture and established a library for the residents. Other community groups, including The Sisterhood Balgowlah, along with generous individuals, donated household goods, clothing and other essential items.
Manly Community Centre – now Community Northern Beaches – initially provided expert advice on setting up and running the Shelter, offering support services to the residents. Since then NBWS has aligned with Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) to continue our growth.
Manly Women’s Shelter opens its doors to homeless women across Sydney’s Northern Beaches. During that first year, operating from two small rental houses, we provided over 70 homeless women with accommodation, providing emergency short-term support and helping them find secure, long-term housing.
Mrs Ellie Hunt passed away after a short battle with cancer. Ellie spent the previous five years absorbed in the establishment then operation of the Shelter. Ellie made it her daily business to work hands-on with the Shelter staff and Manly Community Centre in giving every opportunity possible to women in need of crisis accommodation. Ellie’s drive and support is sorely missed. The Board and staff work hard to maintain, extend and honour her legacy.
A third house, adjacent to the two existing properties, was leased as a transition house for women ready to move from crisis accommodation into largely independent group living. The transition house helps prepare residents returning to permanent housing in the community, while holding them safe within reach until that time arrives.
By its fifth year of operation, over 250 women had been housed and helped by Manly Women’s Shelter.
Our name legally changed to Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter (NBWS) in January 2018. Our new name better reflects our establishment remit: supporting unaccompanied homeless women right along the peninsula. Over 400 women have now benefited from our services. The Shelter’s numbers are growing along with the need.
NBWS leased a second transition property, easing a bottleneck in the Shelter and enabling us to house more women. We’re very proud and grateful to have won a 2019 Myer Community Fund grant to support this important extension of our service.
The Myer Transition House is already operating at capacity, with residents receiving NBWS Outreach support.