Providing Housing for Women and Children Escaping Domestic Violence
11 June 2018 at 8:00 am
Janelle Goulding is the CEO of Address Housing, a specialist housing provider for women and children affected by domestic violence. She is this week’s Changemaker.
Goulding has more than 30 years’ experience in the housing and development sectors, both in the private and public housing areas.
After starting off her career working in real estate and the building industry, Goulding moved into the social and affordable housing sector.
After serving almost five years as CEO of affordable housing developer City West Housing, Goulding took the reins of CEO at Address Housing in August last year.
The charity manages more than 100 properties across Greater Western Sydney, the Hunter and the Mid-North Coast regions for women and children escaping domestic violence, ensuring they do not become homeless.
Goulding has been recognised for her work as a winner in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards for 2016.
She has also been shortlisted as the Not for Profit Executive of the Year in the 2015 and 2016 CEO Magazine Awards, and was a finalist in the 2016 NSW Telstra Business Women’s Awards (For Purpose and Social Enterprise Award).
In this week’s Changemaker, Goulding explains what prompted her move to the social housing sector, explains the difference Address Housing has on women and children escaping domestic violence, and reveals her goals for the organisation moving forward.
You started your career working in the real estate industry. How did you end up in the social and affordable housing sector?
I started in real estate and then ended up in the building industry. I was the GM at AVJennings for a number of years and then went on to Defence Housing, which is when I got my interest in housing and how it makes a difference to people’s lives. And up from there I actually did some contracting for nation building with the Department of Housing which is now Housing New South Wales. And I just absolutely found my niche I guess, realising how important housing was to people’s lives and how it can make such a difference.
What attracted you to working with Address Housing?
It was interesting, I was actually the CEO of City West Housing for about five years, and then I looked at Address Housing. I was about to join their board as they were having a change of management and I ended up being in the role.
I’ve certainly got an interest in domestic violence and how it affects people’s lives, and Address Housing is a very specialist housing provider. We only have 100 houses but it is the only one of this kind, where women that are homeless as a result of domestic violence can have an opportunity to re-establish their lives.
What do you see as some of the main challenges in the social and affordable housing space?
I think obviously the affordability crisis is getting worse and there’s more and more people who are living beyond the poverty line and paying 40 to 50 per cent in rent. It’s been this way for a number of years now and we have to have a very firm strategy on allowing low-income earners to live close to the city. And also the government has a huge problem with about 80,000 people on the waiting list for social housing. So I think definitely a national strategy is key to this and it has to happen sooner rather than later.
Housing affordability is a real issue as more and more people are getting pushed onto the social housing pathways list, because they just literally cannot afford to pay rent in capital cities. And the homelessness rates are exponential at the moment, I read an article the other day that there’s been an increase of 48 per cent in rough sleepers.
What difference do you think Address Housing has on women and children escaping domestic violence?
There are a number of refuges and crisis centres that have been closed down as a result of funding cuts. And women traditionally escaping domestic violence would go to a refuge, but there are more people requiring refuges then there are refuges. So once they get into a refuge it takes a long time for them to re-establish themselves.
So Address actually offers them an opportunity to go into transitional housing to live independently, and get their children resettled back into schools. Then we have a program called Transitional Housing Plus, which is rebated rent for five years and in that time, we work with the specialist homeless services and the tenant to try and get them into employment, to get them trained up so that they can get back into the workforce and can get their lives back to a normal state.
To come out of a domestic violence situation, normally they have to leave the family home and they can’t live in a refuge for the rest of the time, particularly with children. So [our work] just gives them an opportunity to rebuild and restart their lives and live a little bit independently without having to pay ridiculous rents.
And the other thing is the safety issue as well. I mean most of these women are escaping the perpetrator. So they have to move out of the area that they’ve lived in and they can’t just go and take a flat down the road, because usually the perpetrator is within a close vicinity.
What does a typical day look like for you as CEO?
We’re very small, I mean we only have three staff. So my role as a CEO is very hands on. My day entails everything from working with the board on strategic direction, right down to having a tenant ring me on my mobile and being hysterical or something like that. Or weekends for example, I could get calls from police to say there’s been a DV incident.
So it really is a very different hands on role. I enjoy that, being able to speak directly to the tenants as well. I mean a great example of the work we do, is we’ve got one tenant at the moment who has come out of a very bad domestic violence situation, and we’ve been able to work with her and she’s just graduated from university and got a Bachelor of Nursing. So without us or without the assistance, she says quite openly there’s no way that she would have been able to achieve that.
What do you do in your spare time when you find time for yourself?
I obviously love to spend time with my family. I’ve got three older adult children and I like to have my family time with them. I like the normal things, like going to a movie and out to a restaurant and things like that, but generally this job really does entail being on-call 24 hours a day. It’s nothing for me to be working on a Saturday night or something like that if something’s happened. I love what I do and I’m very grateful that I can give back and help people that are less fortunate than what I’ve been. I’ve been lucky in my career and my life.
Are there any goals for Address Housing moving forward?
As I said we are very small but obviously we’d like to grow and work in partnership with other organisations. I’d very much like to see Address Housing as a bigger organisation being able to offer more and more accommodation, because 100 houses in Newcastle and Sydney is just a drop in the bucket. And [it’s great] being able to take women out of the refuge path and get them into independent living. The issue also is that it’s not just women. We can’t forget that there are men out there affected by DV as well.
Is there anything you are reading, writing or watching at the moment?
I do read a lot of books around social and mental health. I am actually studying how drugs and alcohol affects domestic violence as well, because it is obviously a key player. I also do enjoy watching things on the ABC like Australian Story and on that human services side of things.