Hospitality begins at home

The House of Hospitality first opened its doors to men recovering from alcoholism in 1991, and since then has evolved into a drug and alcohol-free, safe place for families and individuals experiencing homelessness to stay while they search for accommodation.

The house, originally located at the priests’ residence at Pius X High School, Adamstown, is now located in Broadmeadow and offers community style living, close to public transport, for up to three families or individuals to stay for up to three months.

Josephite, Sr Carmel Hansen, who, along with her faith community, founded the house 15 years ago, also lives on-site. During the 1990s, Sr Carmel worked with the St Vincent de Paul Society as a psychologist, and she continues to work professionally outside the house. To her ‘housemates’, she provides guidance and a listening ear, but stresses that independence is empowering. All residents are encouraged to participate fully in home life, whilst searching for suitable accommodation. The house is self-funded and relies on in-kind donations and contributions from people living in the house. “Those staying pay a small amount, which is part of the empowerment program,” said Sr Carmel, “The philosophy of the house is that we need to empower the poor and not just have charity for them.”

The House of Hospitality has been home to single dads, people recovering from addictions, women and children escaping family violence, asylum seekers and many others. Due to there being no full-time worker staying at the house, Sr Carmel only takes referrals from people who know the house, such as the Department of Housing, Centrelink, City Mission and women’s refuges.

To continue to offer this important service to the community, Sr Carmel is supported by her faith community, Peter Hempenstall, Frank McDonnell, Josie O’Donnell, Jacquie Coleman, Cheree and Michael Flanagan and son Isaac. “They’re a support to me, if something happens to me I can ring them and they’ll come across, but mainly we meet every second Sunday to pray and talk about what’s happening in the house or social justice issues we need to address, particularly in regard to housing, but it’s always justice-oriented.”

It’s this unwavering commitment to justice that sees Sr Carmel and the House of Hospitality living the gospel values each day.

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Geri Williams

Geri Williams is the Online Communications and Brand Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. She is also a regular writer for Aurora Magazine.

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