About Us

Homes for Older Women (HOW) is a not-for-profit program run by Older Women’s Network (OWN) Blue Mountains. It connects women aged 55+ facing housing insecurity with compassionate property owners keen to make a difference.

How did HOW come about?

HOW LOGO

In early 2023, OWN Blue Mountains member Bronwen Johnston approached the OWN committee with an innovative idea to see what they could do to help local women caught up in the national housing crisis.

Bronwen formed a team with Heather Shepherd and Kerry Chater and the HOW concept was embraced by the OWN membership. Julie Nance and Vent Thomas later joined the HOW team to strengthen the project with their skills including communication and IT.

The HOW team was alarmed by the growing body of research that shows older women are now the fastest growing group to experience homelessness in Australia. They were shocked to discover that in the beautiful Blue Mountains where they had each lived for decades, 66% of homeless people were women – higher than the national figure. They also learned rental stress in the region had escalated at an alarming rate – 400 per cent compared to under 200 per cent elsewhere.

In setting up the program, the volunteers benefited greatly from their generous Advisory Committee and a growing number of supporters, including OWN NSW.

Meet our team

BRONWEN JOHNSTON

BRONWEN JOHNSTON

HOW TEAM VOLUNTEER/OWN BLUE MOUNTAINS CHAIR

Bronwen is an MBA graduate who is an accomplished organisational leader. She has worked in the healthcare industry for more than 20 years in addition to experience in the not-for-profit, government, corporate, tourism and small business sectors.

Bronwen has a solid track record in leadership roles, economic development, sales management, marketing, small and large business development and project management.

JULIE NANCE

JULIE NANCE

HOW PROGRAM MANAGER

Julie has 30 years’ experience as a communications and project management specialist across a range of fields servicing the government, not-for-profit and corporate sectors. She has led high-performing teams at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the Y (YMCA NSW), Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network, Cancer Council NSW and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

The Mercy Foundation has provided one-year’s funding for the part-time Program Manager role. Julie also continues to volunteer her time.

HEATHER SHEPHERD

HEATHER SHEPHERD

HOW TEAM VOLUNTEER

Heather has been involved in not-for-profit organisations for more than 40 years, often as a Board/committee member and treasurer.

She has extensive experience in developing budgets for special projects including grants. The HOW team also benefits from Heather’s project management and financial reporting expertise.

VENT THOMAS

VENT THOMAS

HOW TEAM VOLUNTEER

Vent has more than 45 years of experience working in theatre and entertainment production, corporate event production, web design and hosting, and marketing and business development.

He is skilled in digital, social and print marketing, proposal writing, business systems and strategy implementation.

Vent has a strong track record of developing marketing and automation systems to improve organisational efficiency.

OUR WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS

We are grateful for the support of OWN Blue Mountains’ members, bringing their wealth of experience and expertise to the HOW program.

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