With an estimated one in 200 Australians sleeping rough, housing the homeless is one of the City of Sydney’s biggest priorities, with a number of strategies and services burgeoning.
The seven bedroomed PIF House opened last week. The former medical centre in Redfern will be used as affordable housing in a joint venture by City of Sydney, The Salvation Army and Property Industry Foundation.
CEO of Property Industry Foundation, Rosemary Smithson said: “We came to the conclusion that we needed to do something for young people directly – by getting them into work.”
They developed an eight week programme with The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Support Network, getting young people work-ready through gaining experience.
“After a pilot programme with 12 people, we realised that even if they succeeded in the work place, not having a stable address is an off-put for employers,” Ms Smithson said.
The Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP was unavailable to comment on this issue, but a City of Sydney spokesperson said: “Affordable housing in its most basic terms means housing that people can afford to live in, which includes people on low incomes. The young people living in PIF House will be on Youth or Newstart Allowance or will have employment.”
Compared to social or community housing, affordable housing means charging rent. At PIF house, 25 per cent of income will be taken for maintenance of the property.
“We teach the people at PIF House budgeting. If they didn’t pay rent, we would not be teaching them. It is a step into the real world,” Ms Smithson said.
Robbin Moulds from The Salvation Army spoke of a young Indigenous boy who moved into PIF House at the weekend. “He is about to start the pathways programme for employment. He will pay rent from his Centrelink and once starts working in September, he will pay from his income. It will teach him responsibility.”
Should the new residents lose their job, a committee will assess whether the individual can go on living at the house. “If they lost their job because of something bad they had done, their case would be handled differently than if someone was let go for reasons beyond their control” Ms Smithson said. “Decisions are made case-by-case. Our priority would be to find them another job immediately.”
Currently, a 12 month maximum stay is permitted at PIF House. It is hoped the youths will have enough job security by then to move on to private accommodation.