Women’s Stories

Pania's Story Header

Pania has a lot to celebrate this year! This lovely woman is turning 40 and living alone for the first time. A former care worker, she had always lived with her parents and sibling in the Greater Wellington region. She had to quit this job, eventually, in order to care full time for her parents after their health began the fail, and due to her own health beginning to decline.

Late last year, the stress of the living situation at home reached crisis point and became untenable. There were safety issues and Pania reached out to Citizen’s Advice Bureau for help. Having never asked for any assistance in her life from Work and Income or the community, this was not easy for her; she is a proud woman. She was referred to us after a short period living on the streets, she had few personal possessions.

“My experience in this House would prove to be important for my wellbeing; to be able to gain back my self-esteem”

The staff at Wellington Women’s House, assisted her in getting a clothing grant and took her shopping so she could have the basics, and a food parcel from Wellington City Mission while she settled in. She stayed with us for 9 months; longer than usual but she required major surgery. On her return from hospital, she recovered in a room we set up to be more accessible for her needs.

Once recovered, staff referred her to budgeting services to help her manage her debts and she began to save for her move. Pania began house hunting with staff accompanying her to flat viewings and assisting her with applications. Eventually she found a lovely place; that is perfect for her current needs before taking the next steps in her independent life.

Pania’s story isn’t over with the House as we will continue to do outreach ensure that she is happy and able to manage her living situation. Pania has truly blossomed.

*Pania is not the resident’s real name.

Download a PDF of Pania’s Story Here


Susan, 40, had enjoyed a successful marketing career before a string of life-changing events left her broke and with insurmountable debts and a maxed-out credit card. She found herself couch-surfing and at a turning point in her life. She moved into the Wellington Women’s House 6 weeks ago and with the help and guidance of the support worker, who referred her to career advisor, she has already found a part-time job.

She was also referred to a budgeting service which has helped her lower repayments by consolidating her debt; now an overwhelming debt will be paid off in just 2 years. These are just the first steps to ensuring Susan moves onto a stable and secure place that she will be able to maintain.

” If you are smart, and eat the incredible food donated by Kaibosh and Good Bitches Baking, if you make your coffee at home before you head out, WWH actually provides you with the opportunity to save.”

Her focus now on finding that place and this is made easier knowing that her debt is decreasing and that she will have the support that our outreach programme provides once she makes the move.

“It’s been a super supportive place for me to get back on my financial feet, take the time to understand myself and get some therapy to ensure I understand the reasons that lead to me spending like there was no tomorrow.”

*Susan is not the resident’s real name.

Download a PDF of Susan’s Story Here


Shelley* is 55 years old and this month she is moving into her own home and setting up her own business. Before coming to stay with us at the Wellington Women’s House she’d been living in Melbourne studying counselling and working in the homelessness sector providing housing and support services.

After being diagnosed with advanced cancer that needed aggressive treatment she wanted to come home to New Zealand. She returned to Nelson, but with no community and without a supportive family she was on her own with no financial resources to fall back on. It took six years for Shelley to recover from the effects of chemotherapy on her immune system. When she was finally ready to work again she realised that she would need to move to a larger city to set up her own counselling practice.

Finding us online she spoke to Margaret, our House Manager, and came to meet us.

“It is clear that Margaret is making inroads into creating an environment that is pleasant and clean. I first noticed the garden and a sense of warmth. The phrase boarding house feels old school, but it gave me a platform to work from. I have been really ill this year, but because it was affordable I wasn’t under pressure. It felt like a good starting point. A spring-board. And the location is fantastic”.

This month Shelley is moving into private rental and is busy setting up her own business. She’s already joined the community gardens and is looking forward to growing her own vegetables, being part of a community and developing a real sense of belonging.

*Shelley is not the resident’s real name.

Download a PDF of Shelly’s Story Here


Maree remembers arriving at the house and noticing how peaceful it was and how safe it felt. She recalls being told “here’s your food cupboard. There’s some food to get you by, and if you haven’t got something and you need it, just ask one of us and we’ll see if we’ve got it.” Many of the women at the house have been in similar situations, have come here for a break, have found that safety and that ability to be able to express themselves and tell their story.

 “For me, initially going out of the house felt really unsafe in case I met him again.”

But being told she could do it and given strategies by people who had lived through it themselves gave her the courage she needed.

“When I came back from having gone out, especially the first few times, it was like ‘well done, you did it’, That kind of support has helped me to face what really was a very challenging situation.”

Maree had been at the house only a few months but said that even in that short time she had changed so much.

“Every time people see me they say ‘wow’, ‘you’re smiling now’, ‘you look so much better in yourself’, ‘you’re a different person’”.

She also found that, even after just a few months, she could already start to give back and pass on the messages and support that she had received when she first came to the house.

Download a PDF of Maree’s Story Here