Compelled by compassion and social responsibility, the founders of social enterprise, Sanctuary Place, want to break the cycle of homelessness, especially in the hard-hit Hunter Valley region. WIth long waits for Government housing the business has addressed the need by building social housing themselves.
Cost effective new homes
The founders have backgrounds in finance and construction and with their industry experience have developed a very cost effective model. Their effort is focused on their own local area, the Hunter Valley, near Newcastle in New South Wales. This also helps to avoid the high land costs of capital cities and enables the construction of more homes.
Sanctuary Place is passionate about their mission and want to practice not just preach their mission. A very important element in their approach is to treat the homeless as real people who deserve respect and dignity. Homes are offered on a very low cost lease and the aim is to provide people with life-long accommodation. Having housing certainty is a tremendous relief for residents and improves physical and mental wellbeing.
Everyone deserves a decent home
Founder and CEO, Michael Mason, is personally familiar with the demeaning quality of some temporary tenancy offered to homeless people. ‘We provide fully furnished, new homes, not as a privilege, but as a fundamental human right. Sanctuary Place is building a cumulative structural solution to a cumulative structural problem, not a quick-fix band-aid solution’.
This new initiative is made affordable through environmentally sustainable designs. The residents have case workers to ensure capacity building, accountability, practical solutions, referral pathways and counselling.
Mature women the most neglected
Sanctuary Place has recently completed four shared homes in Rutherford for mature aged people, followed by five purpose-built emergency homes and a planned eco-village of 12 family homes, all in the Hunter Valley with more community living plans on the drawing board. Sanctuary Place is constantly designing solutions in line with the emerging demographics of homelessness.
‘We provide a new lease of life, morally and literally,’ explains Mr Mason, ‘targeting the most neglected cohorts in our area, who happen to be mature aged women’.
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Hunter region homelessness
The 2016 Census revealed a 12% increase in homelessness in the NSW Greater Hunter region, with over 1700 people ‘sleeping rough’. The Specialist Homelessness Services Annual Report 2016-17 confirms that the over 55 age group is spiraling at ‘three times the growth rate’. There were about 960 housing-seekers aged over 55 in the Hunter Valley with homeless women exceeding men.
Rent is $17 a week
Rent at the four Rutherford homes is $17 per day, giving residents an opportunity to finally breathe a sigh of relief. This includes all utilities, landline and internet, so that residents are not tapped on the shoulder to move on, again. Sanctuary Place Regional Support Coordinator, Emma Belenus, assesses the housing needs and compatibility of residents. She receives referrals from both private and community channels, before handing the key to eligible people who have ‘lost their way in a complicated housing market’.
Mr Mason concludes, ‘We cannot do this alone, but our first world country can indeed achieve our shared vision of ending homelessness together.’