Crisis refuge for women and children receives funding boost

The Good Samaritan Inn’s vision for the expansion of its residential services for women and children who have experienced family violence and/or homelessness is edging closer to reality, thanks to a Victorian Government grant and a donation to the Good Samaritan Foundation from the Marist Sisters Australia.

However, a 30 per cent rise in building costs in recent months means there is still a little way to go, and a fundraising campaign will be launched before Christmas to help meet the shortfall.

The Good Samaritan Inn has been delivering a specialist crisis refuge response to women and children survivors of family violence and/or homelessness since 1996.

The Inn currently provides short-term case work support to about 250 women, children and young people every year. Guests stay at the Inn for an average of 25 days, with the provision of a bed, meals, crisis and casework support, counselling, group therapy and referral to other specialist services as required.

Crucially, during the early stages of a woman’s referral to the Inn, the availability of skilled and qualified staff members 24/7 enables emotional support in those critical moments when she may feel compelled to return to her violent partner.

Under the expansion project, a former convent within the City of Banyule will accommodate women and children who are moving out of crisis accommodation but are assessed as requiring further transitional housing and support.

The Banyule Project is a collaboration between the Archdiocese of Melbourne, a local parish, and the Inn.

Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Inn, Felicity Rorke, said it was exciting that the project was drawing closer to becoming a reality.

“We’ve got the funding to run the place, which is really great,” she said. “Now, we just need to do some more fundraising and seek further grants to have the building modified so that it is fit for purpose.

“We’re hoping that it will be up and operating in the first quarter of 2024.”

Felicity said the Inn was successful in applying for a $1.7 million grant from Family Safety Victoria, as part of the Victorian Government’s efforts to address the issue of family violence in the community.

“We’ve now put in a business case to seek some additional funds for the building works,” she said. “Family Safety Victoria is very committed to the project happening, so we’ll wait and see the outcome of that.”

In addition, the Marist Sisters donated $50,000 a year for three years to the Good Samaritan Foundation, the first $50,000 of which will be directed to the Banyule Project.

Executive Director of the Foundation, Catherine Cresswell, said the Marist Sisters said they had donated to the Foundation because the works it supports aligned with their own Gospel values, ministries and charism.

A meeting was held between representatives of the Marist Sisters and the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

“It was decided that in the first year, we would direct the funds to the Inn’s Banyule Project because it was a really good fit with what the Marist Sisters wanted to support in terms of services for women and children,” Catherine said.

“It was wonderful for both congregations to be able to make that connection because so many threads of that connection with their charisms and ministries were there already.”

Chair of the Good Samaritan Inn Board, Patricia Bergin, said the Inn was “very appreciative of the funding received, which will go towards the development of an inclusive play area and therapeutic sensory garden at the new facility”.

“This space will allow for therapeutic activities for the residents, which we know is critical to the residents’ emotional and physical recovery,” she said.

To meet the recent rise in building costs, further fundraising initiatives will soon be underway.

“We will be calling on current and new donors to support the project,” Patricia said. “We will be launching a fundraising campaign leading up to Christmas in the hope that we will be able to generate further funds. We will also continue to reach out to philanthropic groups to provide funds.”

Once built, the new facility will accommodate 10 women and more than 20 children for short to medium term accommodation for up to 12 months.

Felicity said that while at the old convent, the women and children would receive ongoing risk assessment and safety planning, and case planning, including referrals and advocacy to other specialist services as required.

For women referred to the Banyule Project with no permanent residency in Australia, their case plan would identify referral to an immigration specialist to help with their visa applications.

Through their specialist family violence case manager, guests would also be linked with other specialist, local services to ensure the best outcomes for their ongoing housing, health and emotional and psychological wellbeing, as well as receive employment readiness sessions and employment mentoring.

Good Samaritan Sister Marella Rebgetz, who is Chair of Members of the Good Samaritan Inn, said the progress towards the opening of the new residence for women and children reflected the Sisters’ long-standing and ongoing commitment to this ministry and the hard work of both the staff and Board.

“The important thing is that despite the various challenges around funding, we are progressing with this project,” Marella said. “And the wonderful work currently happening at the Inn for women and children in crisis continues and grows.

“So, we’re moving forward with that vision, which will help us to continue to expand and improve the services of what we do at the Inn.

“The Inn and its Board have incredible vision and energy and are looking at all the options for raising the funds needed, not only to provide crisis accommodation for women and children who have experienced domestic violence but to be proactive in supporting and empowering them over a longer period so that they don’t return to a vulnerable situation. The work they’re doing at the Inn is really wonderful.”

Meanwhile, in a new direction for the governance of the Inn, lay people have been appointed Members of the Inn, who Marella said would bring new skills and gifts to the role, and ensure the sustainability of governance into the future.

The ministries of the Sisters are supported by the Good Samaritan Foundation. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia. To make a donation, click here

This article was published in the November 2022 edition of The Good Oil.