Homelessness is one of our biggest challenges, which must be solved.

Increasing numbers of young people, single parent families and older women (amongst others) are facing homelessness. The personal cost to each person is enormous. Without a stable home, it is difficult to stay connected with your community. It is incredibly difficult to stay in school or tertiary study or to hold down a job. Feelings of depression and anxiety may be exacerbated. As a foundation, Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation has made grants to prevent homelessness a priority since 2008 and has added increasing the supply of affordable housing as a priority area in recent years.

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With delegates at the National Homelessness Conference.


This year’s National Homelessness Conference, organised by Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and supported by Homelessness Australia, was themed on ’ENDING HOMELESSNESS TOGETHER’. This is the right topic for where we find ourselves today. The problem of homelessness can only be solved by everyone working together, including the community, developers, all levels of government and the experts and leaders in social and community housing and support services.

Hearing from people who have experienced homelessness is very important to informing solutions. We provided a grant to the Council to Homeless Persons so that people who have a lived experience of homelessness could attend the conference. We have also commissioned research, so we can hear directly from older women, drawing on the data in our Vital Signs report. For example, the number of older women couch surfing has increased 83 per cent since 2012. This Vital Conversations project is currently underway.

I completely admire the leaders in our homelessness and housing services, especially those whose projects we have had the honour to fund in the last few years.  I was especially proud of Jeanette Large from Women’s Property Initiative (WPI) and Heather Holst of Launch Housing when they presented on Tuesday at the National Homelessness Conference on opportunities within the private rental market. Both organisations are leading wonderful projects demonstrating new solutions to housing solutions; in the case of WPI, enabling older women to gain stable housing through a loan and rental arrangement, and for Launch, developing long term housing for women and their families following family violence.

Both WPI and Launch have also established real estate agencies, which are social enterprises and registered REIV real estate agencies. The net profits from WPI Real Estate and HomeGround Real Estate are returned to WPI and Launch to help fund their homelessness and housing support services. Everyone who rents out a property in Melbourne should consider using these great social enterprises. About ten days ago, I attended the launch of a revamped nursing home in South Melbourne, which is now providing housing for 38 older women at risk of homelessness, while the nursing home would otherwise be vacant.  Led by Jan Berriman from YWCA and Rob Pradolin (former General Manager of Frasers Property Australia), a team of builders and tradespeople have given pro bono and low bono support to the fit-out. A brilliant use of a vacant building.

We are so proud of the work of Habitat for Humanity led by Phillip Curtis, which handed over keys to another of their new low income properties last week.  The idea of sweat equity where a family contributes labour to construction and receives five per cent off the purchase price is an idea that should only grow.

 

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Topping out ceremony at VincentCare’s redevelopment of Ozanam House.

Recently the Foundation's Board members and staff were invited to attend the topping out ceremony at VincentCare’s redevelopment of Ozanam House which will be completed early in 2019. We provided a grant of $600,000 several years ago to help kick off the fundraising for the project. The new Ozanam House will double the housing provided and provide a range of short and long-term accommodation for both men and women (for the first time) who have been caught up in a cycle of homelessness.
 

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Artist's impression of the redevelopment of VincentCare's Ozanam House.


We are also exploring a collaborative approach to the development of affordable housing in the City of Darebin. Darebin is undertaking the steps required by the Local Government Act to provide a site. All going well, the Foundation will then provide a $1 million grant to a community housing provider (charity) and the opportunity for a $2 million impact investment loan (which will be assessed and managed by SEFA). This can then leverage other funding contributions, which could be from government, commercial investors and/or other impact investors.

All of these projects have been supported by the Foundation through a grant or an impact investment.

I feel momentum building in this space. If we all use our Aussie ingenuity, practicality and kindness, I really expect to see more positive change in the coming year.
 
Catherine Brown

Chief Executive Officer

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