Three new apartments for disadvantaged older lesbians will be available next year after a humble bequest has turned into an inspiring legacy.

Heather Chapple, a local lesbian feminist, poet and carpenter, died on October 5, 2007, leaving a $300,000 bequest to the Matrix Guild, a support group for lesbians aged over 40.

With Chapple’s money, Matrix has acquired three apartments in Brunswick to assist in housing older lesbians in need.
Matrix took advantage of the federal Government’s social housing funding stimulus boost, joining forces with the Victorian Women’s Housing Association (VWHA) to buy the three properties.

The Government gave 75 percent of the purchase price. With the 25 percent Matrix had access to — and the assistance of the VWHA — $300,000 turned into $1.2 million.

“We couldn’t apply for that funding directly. That’s why we partnered with the Women’s Housing Association which is feminist-based and has a history of housing women experiencing financial disadvantage,” Matrix housing project convenor Anneke Deutsch told Southern Star.

“Matrix started with the dream of an old dykes home, but you need a lot of capital behind you to do something like that. At the moment there’s more demand amongst older lesbians to have some independent places to live.”

The two-bedroom apartments, scheduled for completion in 2011, will have wheelchair access, solar hot water, access to a gym, air conditioning and heating, stainless steel appliances and secure basement parking.

“Because older people — not just lesbians — often don’t end up driving or don’t have money for a car, we wanted it to have good walking access to public transport and medical facilities and shops,” Deutsch said.

Although the VWHA owns the apartments outright, Matrix has signed a Memorandum of Understanding and sought legal advice to ensure they choose apartment applicants and see a return on their investment if the apartments are sold.
Matrix will seek applicants later this year. Singles and couples can apply.

Applicants must be over 65 years old, with assets not totalling over $30,000. The most disadvantaged and those facing homelessness will be given priority.

Rent will be pegged at 25 percent of household income.

“We want to promote that one woman’s bequest has made this possible, so we’re hoping other lesbians consider that they might give a bequest or a partial bequest of an estate to Matrix, because if you’re not a lesbian there are not that many people who would donate to lesbians for charity,” Deutsch said.

Matrix’s annual fundraising Satin and Silk Ball is on Saturday, February 20 at St Kilda Town Hall. The night will feature the Australian Kylie Show, DJ Anny and door prizes.

info: For expressions of interest in the housing, email housing@matrixguildvic.org.au To book for the Satin and Silk Ball, call Lou 0419 539 324.

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