Three years ago, the site of our new aged care facility in Orange NSW, Benjamin Short Grove, was an abandoned expanse of dirt with great potential. Late last month, hundreds gathered to celebrate the successful completion and official opening of the $16.7 million facility. Guests including government representatives and direct descendants of Sydney City Mission's founder, Benjamin Short, were warmly welcomed through the doors by Mission Australia General Manager of Aged Care Jill Bicknell and Director of Care Kim Dillon.

Benjamin Short Grove is designed to accommodate up to 60 local vulnerable women and men from the Orange and Cabonne Shire regions, some who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, financially or socially disadvantaged, are in unstable accommodation or who lack the financial capacity and family support to access mainstream aged care facilities. To date, there are 27 residents settling into their new homes with the tailored 24-hour support of 15 full time staff members.

The facility was made possible by a $14.7 million grant from the Federal Department of Health as well as donations from Mission Australia supporters who turned the facility into a reality by donating more than $1.5 million for the project over 18 months. Local quilters Orange Quilt Whisperers gave the facility a finishing homely touch by donating unique colourful quilts which adorn each bed.

Michael Newman, a representative from Aboriginal Affairs NSW and local Wiradjuri man, gave a Welcome to Country in the area's traditional language to open the official proceedings. This was followed by a series of speeches from various stakeholders who provided different perspectives on the impact Benjamin Short Grove will have in the local community and beyond.

Recently retired CEO Catherine Yeomans acknowledged the significance of the new facility and highlighted the need to replicate this model in other states.

"The opening of Benjamin Short Grove is a great accomplishment in providing accommodation and 24-hour care that is appropriate for older people in the NSW Central West. And now, Mission Australia offers three vital aged care facilities: Annie Green Court and Charles Chambers Court in Sydney, and Benjamin Short Grove here in Orange. These facilities offer a model that can, and should, be replicated to meet the growing need across the country," Catherine said.

She suggested that if the Commonwealth Government funded the construction of one new homeless aged care service every year in each state and territory, it would have a meaningful impact on addressing the current housing shortfall.

Present on the day to officially open Benjamin Short Grove was Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM. During his address, he said helping people in regional, rural and remote Australia was a top priority.

"I commend and thank Mission Australia for their dedication in creating a welcoming, safe and comfortable home for 60 vulnerable older people. Our vision for aged care is to provide access to quality, affordable, respectful and culturally comfortable care for every Australian, regardless of where they live or what their circumstances are," Minister Wyatt said.

Jill Bicknell spoke passionately about the provision of care model at the facility, explaining that those who have a history of chronic homelessness and disadvantage typically require more specialised support and integrated services than those residing in mainstream aged care services.

"Many older people or people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness are sadly no longer in contact with their family or social networks. They also often age prematurely due to a poor lifestyle and face other problems like chronic health problems, malnutrition, chronic loneliness, or a history of violence and trauma," Jill said.

One resident is 72-year-old Orange woman Daphne. Being locked out of her home with nowhere to go following disputes with extended family members, struggling to manage her own money and suffering health problems, Daphne has had a difficult past three years. In recent months, she had to couch surf and was forced to sleep on verandas on rainy nights. A little over one month ago, she moved into the safety of her very own room at Benjamin Short Grove.

"It's alright in Orange because you've got places to go to, so I can go out to any places downtown. The staff take me down and bring me back," Daphne said.

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