Pregnant women who are experiencing insecure housing now have a supportive pathway to safe accommodation, social services and compassionate health care, thanks to a Victorian Government funded collaboration between the Royal Women’s Hospital, Housing First and Launch Housing.
The Cornelia Program aims to break the cycle of insecure housing for vulnerable women and their babies and is the first such collaboration in Australia between a hospital, a housing provider and a homelessness service that focuses on this cohort of at-risk women.
The program provides women with access to transitional accommodation in a new apartment complex located in Melbourne’s inner south, comprising 36 studio apartments, as well as tailored wrap-around health care and social support provided by Royal Women’s Hospital and Launch Housing.
Women in the Cornelia Program have access to accommodation for up to 12 months and receive specialist maternity health services, along with support to access other health and psychosocial programs. They are also provided with guidance and support to access long-term and stable housing.
The site located in Melbourne’s inner south was acquired by HousingFirst with support from the Victorian Government through the Victorian Property Fund and Homes for Home in 2016. The program has subsequently been supported through a major philanthropic grant.
Keeping mother and baby together, in a safe and secure location, provides women in the program with the best opportunity possible to care for and stay with their child, with an emphasis on keeping the baby safe and supporting the mother-child attachment.
Opportunities for children are improved when they grow up in a stable and supportive environment. This program seeks to break the inter-generational cycle of disadvantage by providing women with a secure and safe environment to gain skills and independence and the best place for their child to thrive and succeed.
The Cornelia Program will operate for a minimum of five years and will be formally evaluated to provide evidence of its overall impact.
“This multi-disciplinary, multi-agency housing and support program is an Australian first. Given the extreme vulnerability of pregnant women experiencing insecure housing, a collaboration of this kind will give mothers and their babies the very best chance to overcome the cycle of poverty and homelessness,” says Dr Sue Matthews, CEO The Royal Women’s Hospital
“We welcome this Victorian Government investment, along with the very generous support of two key philanthropic donors. We are so grateful to have such supportive funders, they have been fundamental to this unique program becoming a reality.”
Bevan Warner, CEO, Launch Housing also said, “This program will offer a pathway out of homelessness for pregnant women and new mothers by helping them to bond with and care for their babies in a real effort to keep them together as a family unit.
Ultimately, it aims to change the life trajectory of some of Victoria’s most vulnerable women and babies. We can end homelessness in Melbourne if we work collaboratively across sectors and fund both housing and support.”
At the suggestion of the donors. the Cornelia Program is named after Roman hero Cornelia Africana who was celebrated for her dedication to her children.
CEO of HousingFirst, Haleh Homaei, said “This project will provide much-needed housing close to transport and services. The project has seen an architecturally designed conversion of three buildings into purpose-built studios suitable for new mothers and their baby.
Well designed, located and managed housing can break the cycle of homelessness and we’re proud of this special building and the lives it will change.”