REGIONAL agency ac.care is leading a bold cross-agency project to deliver accommodation and support for young people at risk of homelessness in Murray Bridge.
A fundraising target of $100,000 has been set to make the vision a reality with a vacant property now secured, partnerships formalised and a broad program designed to address the needs of young people.
The broader community, along with individuals and businesses in the construction sector, is being urged to support the initiative to convert a disused community housing building into four self-contained and fully-furnished units for short-term lease by youths aged 15-21.
The Studio Purpose project will extend beyond provision of independent accommodation for vulnerable youths to include broad support to help young people reach their potential.
South Australia’s branch of international non-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity will drive the construction phase of the project.
Habitat has a global mission to “bring people together to build homes, communities and hope” and will work with the project partners and supporters from the community and business sector to convert the building from a duplex to units.
“The project is aimed at addressing a shortage of safe accommodation for young people in the area, but is about much more than a warm bed and welcoming space, with a focus on health and wellbeing, education, development, connection and engagement,” ac.care Murraylands homelessness program manager Thanuja Hiripitiyage said.
She said the project was developed through cooperation with other organisations and government agencies after work by ac.care over recent years found young clients were unable to find suitable accommodation in the Murray Bridge area.
“This has contributed to some young people sleeping rough in inappropriate living conditions, adding further risk in the lives of vulnerable youths,” Ms Hiripitiyage said.
The partnership involves ac.care, AnglicareSA, South Australian Housing Authority, headspace Murray Bridge, Rural City of Murray Bridge and Habitat for Humanity.
“We want to reduce youth homelessness in the region by building on our existing services and creating positive partnerships with key stakeholders to provide holistic support to youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” Ms Hiripitiyage said.
“This will be achieved by building on young people’s culture, skills, knowledge, experience and strengths, while recognising diversity.”
Accommodation will be managed by AnglicareSA for young people receiving an independent income and not in state care, with an expectation tenants will engage with employment and education opportunities to boost their future prospects and wellbeing.
“We are seeking community support and partnerships to develop and sustain this initiative and ensure we can work together in the Murraylands to make meaningful and long-term differences in the lives of young people to reduce youth homelessness,” Ms Hiripitiyage said.
Project partners will deliver services to tenants via agreements either through home visits or with external priority appointments and develop exit strategies to help youths transition from the units to reunification with families, private rental arrangements or other housing options delivered by service providers.
SA Housing Authority chief executive Michael Buchan welcomed the initiative to help youth in the Murray Bridge region.
“We are delighted to be involved in this project,” he said.
“The provision of these two properties will mean safe accommodation for young people to stay and have the stability they need to engage with support services to help them plan for the future.”
Habitat for Humanity is leading the appeal for donations and in-kind support from businesses and individuals in the region for the construction phase of the project.
“A solid partnership is in place to ensure Studio Purpose can make a significant long-term difference in the lives of at-risk young people once development of the units is complete,” Habitat for Humanity South Australian executive director Ben Sarre said.
“We are calling on the construction sector and general community to help make the vision a reality by contributing labour, materials and funds – every contribution helps and this project provides an opportunity for people to use their skills and resources to make a genuine and positive difference in lives of young people in the Murraylands.”