The Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC) opened a new space in Surry Hills last week.

The day drop-in centre, which has been running since 1977, provides a safe space for gay, straight and transgender women escaping domestic violence and homelessness.

Founded by Jeanne Devine, the service was started to provide an avenue for women in need who were not comfortable going to the larger religious or charitable services.

Upon meeting her first homeless transgender woman 30 years ago, Devine realised the deficit of services for transgender individuals who felt uncomfortable staying in men’s refuges and decided to make this a cornerstone of WAGEC’s services.

“We have a particular focus on transgender women, being the only women’s drop-in centre in the city to allow them access,” WAGEC service manager Lara Sabbadin said.

“Approximately 20 percent of our client base is transgendered and 30 percent same-sex attracted.”

Offering a place where women can come to cook, do washing, have a shower, store their belongings and get access to legal, financial and counselling services, the new centre will assist WAGEC to further broaden their programs and help more people.

“With the new space, not only have we been able to increase the quality of the health and safety environment we deliver services from, but also the open plan layout allows for more of a community centre space and feel,” Sabbadin said.

“We also have computer access for the clients to use the internet here, and are about to start more strongly focusing on IT and literacy education and training opportunities for the women.”

The drop-in centre is at 361 Riley St, Surry Hills. Phone: 9360 5388 or visit www.wagec.org.au.

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