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At-risk youth start building for their future

Affordable Housing for Life project launch
At the launch of the Affordable Housing for Life project are (from left): AHFL Manager William Rak, project participants Mick and Robert, Senator Arbib and Marist Youth Care CEO Cate Sydes.

Australia’s first combined training, employment and housing project for at-risk youth was launched in Shalvey, addressing the twin issues of extremely high unemployment and homelessness faced by at-risk youth in Western Sydney.

The first sod was turned to mark the Affordable Housing for Life (AHFL) project's official launch on Friday 28 May by the Federal Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib, together with AHFL trainees Robert, Mick, Jerome, Dane and Steven who proudly attended the event.

“This project is a first in that it will give young, homeless people real training, work experience and shelter,” Senator Arbib said.

The project participants at the launch were aged between 15 and 18, all from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. They spoke positively of their involvement so far with the project’s training component.

"It feels good," one of the participants said. "I’ll know it’s something that I’ve done in my life and I can actually live in it.”

It is hoped that the Shalvey house will be completed by the end of this year.

'Positive and productive lives'

The Shalvey house is the first of two AHFL project homes (the other being in Hebersham) that have been approved under the new SEPP Affordable Housing-Supported Accommodation, a more streamlined development process for social housing providers. The project aims to be fully self-sustaining on completion of the first two houses.

The project was conceived by Marist Youth Care (MYC), the largest not-for-profit provider of residential care to youth at risk in Western Sydney.

AHFL brings together MYC's expertise and experience as a community housing provider in partnership with BoysTown (employment skills), Bridgeworks Employment and Training (training skills), St John of God Healthcare and St Michael’s Family Centre at Baulkham Hills.

According to Marist Youth Care CEO Cate Sydes, the project aims to provide not just a bed, but also the tools and support at-risk youth need to lead more positive and productive lives.

"MYC currently provides full-time residential care for up to 120 at-risk young people per night and outreach services for 1,000 young people and their families each year," Cate said.

"The benefit of the AHFL project is that it recognises the critical need for housing, whist integrating a range of essential services to provide a solution for these young people’s lives in working towards independence.

“The first intake of young people entering the AHFL program are undertaking training and are now working on-site after completing their pre-employment training. They are really excited at the prospects of constructing what could be their own home.”

On-the-job training

The AHFL project is based on a Social Enterprise Model, which provides paid work and on-the-job training, to enable young people to successfully make the transition into open and sustainable employment.

Implementation of the Social Enterprise project has been supported by the Commonwealth Government, which committed $1,711,847 under the Jobs Fund Program and the Mercy Foundation, which provided $60,000.

The project will focus on the construction of ‘green’ dwellings to house homeless young people or those at risk of homelessness. At the same time as providing access to affordable accommodation, the project also offers national accredited training, ongoing employment and the opportunity to be socially included within their local communities.

Project participants will be employed for up to six months within the Social Enterprise under the direction of a full-time supervisor and will be paid award wages in the building and construction industry.

Trainees will receive on- and off-the-job training in a nationally recognised qualification (Certificate II in Building and Construction). Participants will also be eligible for safe, secure and affordable permanent housing; assistance into open and ongoing sustainable employment; and other wrap-around mentoring and health support services.

Yanna Janawee project aims to support Aboriginal people to achieve independence

A win-win partnership has been formed between Marist Youth Care (MYC) and the Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation. The two organisations will “walk together” to proactively and sensitively provide a means to further close the gap in healthcare, life expectancy and employment for the Western Sydney Aboriginal community.

Through the partnership, the Community Support Service Program (CSS) Yanna Janawee (Aboriginal for ‘walking with me’) has been established.

The CSS program will support Western Sydney Aboriginal community members and their families who need links to a range of mainstream and Aboriginal services in Blacktown and Mt Druitt.

Services may include welfare, social support, family violence (including drug and alcohol), housing, childcare and legal advice.  There will also be free and readily available access to the internet at both sites.

Marist Youth Care, a Western-Sydney based organisation with more than 100 years’ experience in caring for young people at risk of social inclusion, initiated the CSS partnership after current statistics showed that 42 per cent of participants in MYC’s Youth Homelessness Program were Aboriginal.

The CSS program will act as an information referral and assessment bureau, identifying client needs and enhancing access to the most appropriate local support services.

By better linking Aboriginal people to community services, CSS will improve social inclusion and community cohesion. The overall aim of the project is to support Aboriginal people in the Blacktown and Mt Druitt areas to achieve independence.


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