This morning a valuable asset to the Byron community is set to disappear, temporarily, hopefully, not permanently.
With a vision to disrupt the cycle of women’s homelessness, the Linen SHIFT project was born to provide unique individual support and education for at-risk women in a safe residential environment.
The Linen SHIFT opened its doors in March 2020 during the height of COVID and against all odds, provided employment for over 14 women transitioning from welfare to wellbeing. The project is the only on-site commercial laundry in the Byron Shire – the closest similar on-site service is in the Tweed.
Co-founders Anne Goslett and Julie Wells hoped that by fostering emotional and physical wellbeing, women would be empowered to regain their lives, reconnect with community and achieve their full potential.
Hard work and determination
And for over 12 months they had watched as their hard work and determination made their vision a reality.
But today their dream has become a nightmare as they are being forced to close their doors.
The pair were very happy to announce on March 8, at an International Women’s Day Fundraising Lunch at Elements of Byron, the need to expand the project – but their situation became anything but celebratory when they received an email about the termination of their lease, giving one months’ notice to vacate, delivered just a day after the IWD event.
A big challenge to relocate in a short time
Managing Director of the project, Ms Goslet said it is with a heavy heart that they announce the temporary closure of the Linen SHIFT. ‘It’s a big challenge to relocate in a short time, but it’s only through facing challenges head-on that we’ve come this far. We’re determined to save the laundry and the employment opportunities we have created for vulnerable women at risk of homelessness.
Both of the women say they were shocked to receive one month’s notice to close down the business and relocate. ‘After months of relentless and unsubstantiated complaints from one neighbour, the matter is being solved by terminating our lease – on a loophole.’
Ms Goslet says that now more than ever, with inflated rents and a lack of affordable housing, homelessness is threatening women of diverse socio-economic backgrounds. ‘Our response has always been to be part of the solution. As much as it’s a devastating impact that our lease would not be renewed, it’s now time for us to make this move, to relocate the laundry and strengthen our capacity to keep supporting vulnerable women in the community.’
Ms Goslet says they credit the incredible reciprocity of the Northern Rivers community for the success of The SHIFT Project’s residential wellbeing programme and the Linen SHIFT Laundry, as key to the success of disrupting homelessness in women.
‘We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the set up of the property in Acacia Street – from Council to the building team and assorted tradies who got us up and running, to the CWA volunteers who filled in the gaps whilst we were reaching out and building our team of casual workers and the SHIFT community in general who have supported us endlessly.
‘We have had 12 months of a very successful business venture, opened during COVID and have been able to offer over 14 women casual employment during this time.
‘We apologise for this unexpected short-lived venture.’
What the project needs is a 120 to 150sqm premises to rent in the Byron Industrial Estate.
The women say this is not a permanent closure. ‘It’s a small pause while we find new premises and complete the necessary applications to begin again.’
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