At-risk youth start building for their future


Affordable Housing for Life launch at Shalvey
AHFL Manager William Rak (left), project participants Mick and Robert, Senator Mark Arbib and Marist Youth Care CEO Cate Sydes at the launch of the Affordable Housing for Life project for at-risk youth in Western Sydney.

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

The first sod of earth was turned to mark the Affordable Housing for Life (AHFL) project's official launch on Friday 28 May by 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 attending the launch were aged between 15 and 18, all from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. They spoke positively of their involvement so far with training component of the AHFL project.

"It feels good," one of the paticipants 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 2010.

'Positive and productive lives'

The Shalvey house is the first of two AHFL project homes (the other being in Hebersham) which 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.

According to MYC 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 Sydes 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.”

Secure housing, sustainable employment and support services

The AHFL project is based on a Social Enterprise Model which provides paid work and on-the-job training to enable young people to transition successfully 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 11 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.

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