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Tenancy service removes stigma of homelessness

22 November 2013 Brendan Wong

Residents struggling to enter the private rental market often have their tenancy application rejected due to prejudices over their employment or financial status, according to a local housing service.

Wollongong Emergency Family Housing (WEFH) manager Julie Mitchell said her housing service often heard stories of people desperate to secure housing in an extremely competitive rental market. 

“Too many times clients have told us of their frustration in phoning service after service with little credit on their phone and the fatigue of having to retell their story time and time again," she said.

“This experience is overwhelming for a person in crisis. Many times people break down and cry as they relate the experiences that have led them to a place where they never thought they would be - homeless.”

In an effort to boost support for people at risk of homelessness and to prevent tenancy failure in the Illawarra, WEFH partnered with Bevans Real Estate Wollongong to launch a tenancy support project called Home Run.

The project held its first meeting last Thursday, bringing together representatives of the community housing sector and real estate agents.

“There were three things that we wanted to achieve out of the day," Ms Mitchell said. "It was just to break down the barriers with real estate agents about the stigma of being on Centrelink, that all different types of people are on Centrelink benefits, and people become homeless because of different reasons. It may be ill health, it may be a family break up or it could be a change in the finances of that family."

Ms Mitchell added there was strong evidence to show tenants who were given support had higher chances of sustaining their tenancy.

A recent survey by WEFH of 167 former tenants revealed that 163 were now in stable secure housing, 91 were employed and 92 were undertaking study or further education. All 167 said that support assisted them to become independent and get their lives back on track.

At the meeting, property managers were encouraged to refer at-risk tenants to the Wollongong Homeless Hub, a new service launched last month by WEFH, which provides people with information, advice and access to specialist homeless and housing services, with the aim of supporting the transition out of homelessness and preventing it in the first place.

A representative from Centrepay also spoke at the meeting to advise property managers to have their tenants’ rents paid through their service, which significantly lowers the risk of arrears.

Property consultant at Bevans Real Estate Wollongong Lisa Brooke said she got involved with WEFH because she wanted to assist those who were marginalised in the community.

“The team at Bevans are all passionate about helping out in the community and we saw a great opportunity to be of assistance," she said.

“We wanted something that could be a long-term relationship. It wasn’t just once-off, but something we could support over the long term in whatever way we could."

Tenancy service removes stigma of homelessness
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