A former convent in Lyneham will re-open on Tuesday to house up to 26 homeless women including those with children.
The service will be run by CatholicCare but Canberra and Goulburn chief executive Anne Kirwan said it would not operate with religious grandeur.
Ms Kirwan said the CatholicCare team had been working to re-open the accommodation for about a year and were very pleased to have it ready just in time for winter. They received an injection of money from the ACT government as part of a stimulus package to house the homeless during COVID-19.
The initial trial period is for five months during which the service will accommodate up to 20 single women and six women with children at any one time.
Following the trial, the single women's accommodation could be expanded to include all 38 rooms in the former convent-turned student accommodation-turned housing for the homeless.
Women over the age of 18 are eligible to apply and the service is taking direct referrals as well as through the central access point for homelessness support, OneLink.
The space for single women is warm and vast. Each room has its own heater, sink, fridge, bed, desk and cupboard. In one of the two living areas on the ground floor, a piano, television, lounges and a wall of bookcases lay in waiting for their new guests.
Situated outside of the main block are six self-sufficient two-bedroom villas, fronting onto grassed areas or gardens. These will provide housing for women and their children.
Because the building is so well-known, the service will not operate specifically to house victims of domestic violence. Generally the locations of such facilities are kept secret to protect the safety of the women from the perpetrators of violence.
CatholicCare deputy chief executive Lisa Higginson said the housing would be a short- to medium-term option for the women, who they would support from day one to apply for access to permanent homes.
"We expect to see people here from all the vulnerable groups; people who are experiencing domestic violence, older women, women with mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems, culturally and linguistically diverse women and women with disabilities," Ms Higginson said.
She said they already have one family lined up to move in when the service opens on Tuesday and four to five people had been referred to them for the single women's accommodation.
"All the data shows there are gaps and bottlenecks in the system so we're hoping to alleviate some of that and accommodate those women."
Sister Noelene Quinane lived at the convent for two years from when it opened in 1969. She was also the founding principal of Mackillop College in Tuggeranong. On Friday she had baked chilli and cheese scones for the tradies who were putting the finishing touches on the refurbishment. Sister Noelene has moved back to Canberra from Sydney to be a "grandmotherly" figure for the women at Mackillop House.
"[Mackillop House] has been a place of hope in different ways for over 50 years, and now it will be a place of hope, of welcome, of love and warmth for these women," Sister Noelene said.