26 September 2023

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Rita Miller’s Story: Celebrating 35 Years of Catherine House

On the 12th of September, 35 years ago, Catherine House opened its doors for residents to stay, staffed by Sister Anne Gregory, Sister Pak Poy, Sister Margaret Tully, Michelle Saybe, Sister Maureen, and our first volunteer, Faye Mather. On that first night, the Sisters waited in anticipation. Sandwiches, cups of tea and 12 warm beds were prepared. No one came.

Sister Anne was determined, she drove to the Adelaide parklands and approached a woman, inviting her to stay. This woman was hesitant at first. “Why would I leave my tree and park to sleep in a room?” she asked. Sister Anne managed to coax her with the promise of a warm drink and a feed, so she came along, bringing her shopping trolley.

She slept upstairs, in a bedroom now named after her, Rita Miller’s room. When Sister Anne went to greet her in the morning, she was gone. After that night, word of mouth travelled, and before long, each bed was full. Several months after opening, Rita Miller returned to Catherine House. When Sister Anne asked why she had left so suddenly, Rita told her of the shame she felt in asking for help, feeling undeserving.

For the past 35 years, Catherine House has supported thousands of women, many of whom, like Rita, have felt shame or hesitance in receiving help. We’d like to thank our staff, volunteers and supporters for their role in helping women know they are deserving of support, deserving of safety, regardless of where they have been. That they should be heard, believed and respected. Thank you for helping end women’s homelessness.

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