Katoomba's Margaret Gargan knows first-hand about homelessness

Not homeless any more: Katoomba's Margaret Gargan, with her cat Raffy, has first-hand experience of being without a home. She is running the Rotary ball next month at The Carrington to raise funds for the issue.
Not homeless any more: Katoomba's Margaret Gargan, with her cat Raffy, has first-hand experience of being without a home. She is running the Rotary ball next month at The Carrington to raise funds for the issue.

As recently as last winter, Margaret Gargan found herself helping out a young homeless man on her way home from a night out in Katoomba.

“It was a freezing night,” Ms Gargan said.

“I went home and found a warm blanket and  jacket ... hand warmers and scarf… we went straight back ... he thanked me and said he would pay me back one day, but I said there was no need.”

But this 69-year-old nurse knows more than most about what it is like to be homeless.

Nine years ago she found herself in the Northern Territory, bankrupt, recovering from a heart attack and living in a women's refuge.

“My world came crashing down. Part of my heart actually died. I became severely depressed, suicidal in fact. It was devastating. I drove from Mataranka to Katherine. How I made it I don’t know.

“Fortunately I am a registered nurse and was able to restart my life again after all of the support and counselling I received. I was able to recognise that your mental health is far more important than money or possessions.” 

As she had done several times before in her life, she dusted herself off and started again, coming to the Mountains to help those with cancer and now driving the local Rotary campaign to combat homelessness.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about it … it motivates me to make a difference in their lives.”

The Upper Blue Mountains Sunrise Rotarian wants to remind the public that homelessness can often be “just a step away” and is encouraging attendance at the inaugural Rotary Black and Silver Ball fundraiser being staged next month. It’s hoped the event at the Mountain Heritage on Friday April 28, will raise $10,000.

Funds go to Wentworth Community Housing’s Heading Home – Ending Homelessness Here project and a spokeswoman for the group, Melissa Grah-McIntosh, said the community’s support is what is helping drive some creative solutions to this issue. 

“What Heading Home needs next is housing solutions, and the project team is working on some promising possibilities including private rentals, garden flats and tiny homes,” Ms Grah-McIntosh said. 

“Funds raised by the Rotary ball will be of great help to housing those most in need in our community.”

In 2015/16 Wentworth’s homelessness services assisted 153 new people in the Blue Mountains. The most common cause of being left without somewhere to live were triggers like loss of income through illness, unemployment or family separation, she said. 

Ms Gargan is now writing a book about her life. For tickets to the Rotary ball call Ken on 0428 988844 or go to: www.bluemountainsrotary.org for more details.

The team working on the Rotary Ball to raise funds to fight homelessness include L-R: Jenny Montgomery, Michael Small, Melissa Grah-McIntosh, Ken Devine, Margaret Gargan.

The team working on the Rotary Ball to raise funds to fight homelessness include L-R: Jenny Montgomery, Michael Small, Melissa Grah-McIntosh, Ken Devine, Margaret Gargan.