Lyn Bailey enjoyed a decades-long career as a midwife, but after a divorce from her former husband, she was left unable to purchase a home for herself.
So Ms Bailey started renting, but upon retiring just before her 70th birthday, she found herself not able to afford rent.
What followed was a stint of house-sitting and two years living with her daughter and her family, before she was again in the position of trying to get an affordable rental, up against applicants who offered to pay higher rents to secure tenancies.
"So I found myself in dire straits, not knowing what I was going to do," Ms Bailey said.
By luck she saw an advertisement for the Housing Trust, applied, and has now called an "absolutely beautiful" unit in Shellharbour home for almost three years.
Housing Trust hopes to have more homes available for women like Ms Bailey come Christmas 2024, with construction beginning on nine new units at Dapto.
The predominantly two-bedroom units will house older women, as well as single women with children.
Housing Trust chief operating officer Amanda Winks said the organisation wanted to provide not only affordable homes, but build a community of women of all ages and children.
"We can see the opportunities for a really beautiful community here," Ms Winks said.
The $5.5 million project is partly funded with a $4.34 million injection from Wollongong City Council, using a federal government grant.
The council funding will also contribute to another Housing Trust project of 27 homes in Wollongong, work on which is expected to get underway soon.
The Illawarra remains in the grip of a housing crisis, with about 2000 households on the public housing waiting list in Wollongong alone.
Single women aged over 55 are on the frontline and a NSW parliamentary inquiry into homelessness in 2022 made this group a focus of its investigations, recommending the government consider funding new social housing for older women, a recommendation the government supported in principle.
Deputy lord mayor Tania Brown said, as a single woman in her 50s, it was a "small slope to suddenly be living in your car".
Women had often spent years out of the workforce caring for children, Cr Brown said, leaving them with much less superannuation than male counterparts.
Ms Bailey's own experiences made her a "passionate advocate", especially for older women.
She said she was "forever grateful" for her Housing Trust unit, and spoke of the security it brought to not only her, but her children too.
"We can all just get on with enjoying our lives," Ms Bailey said.
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