September 17, 2020
Junction tenants Alan and Sue
A Junction initiative connecting South Australia’s homeless to others with similar lived experience is paving the way for shared and more secure, private rental opportunities.
The initial concept sees eligible clients aged over 55, supported to live together with a view to forging connections so they can pursue more affordable and sustainable housing.
Junction CEO Maria Palumbo said an existing Junction property had been refurbished, including separate housing for men and women, to enable the pilot project.
“People aged over 55 are over represented when it comes to our homeless and women in this age group are the fastest growing demographic of homelessness in Australia,” Ms Palumbo explained.
“Of course, what we also understand is that sustaining private rental on one fixed income is really tough, if not impossible. “We’ve created a situation where people can live here and, with the support of our outreach staff, they can stabilise their lives. At the same time there’s a real possibility of finding a compatible long-term housemate which is the foundation for a share housing arrangement in private rental.”
For tenant Alan, the opportunity is something he doesn’t take for granted.
After the house he was renting was gutted by fire, he found himself homeless.
“I’d rotate houses, swapping food where I could for a couch for the night,” Alan said.
“Having a shower, that was the main thing. I’d get up in the morning, have a shower, leave and then start again with someone else. It’s no way to live.”
While being treated for burns as a result of the fire, a hospital social worker suggested Alan contact Junction. After several chats and an interview, Alan was ‘given the keys’.
Soon after, following a similar process, Sue moved in. “Cherylee (outreach worker) brought me over to see the property,” Sue said.
It had been a hard road to stable housing for Sue after a long period of uncertainty.
She had purchased a home 12 years ago but a family dispute resulted in the sale of the house and Sue walking away with just $2,000.
Sue began renting at Mitchell Park but after her housemate left, she couldn’t continue to afford the rent on her own.
“I was lucky in the way that I did have a car so I went between sleeping in the car at friends’ houses for quite a while,” she said.
About a year ago, Sue moved into a friend’s property but when the lease came up, it was time to move again. That’s when she connected with Junction.
While Sue admits initially feeling a little daunted living closely to someone she didn’t know, she said Alan was a very respectful neighbour “and that’s why it’s worked.”
Soon after she moved in, Alan – who helps out at various charities in the south - began leaving food packages on Sue’s doorstep.
He was chuffed when he opened his door one day and there was some homemade soup. Sue had returned the favour.
In addition to cooking, Sue has rediscovered her love of gardening, virtually transforming the front and backyard of the house.
Ms Palumbo said ensuring the right tenancy mix and dynamic was crucial to the pilot’s success.
“There are no guarantees but here they have the chance to get to know other people, see what it is like to live with that person or group and go from there,” she explained.
While Alan and Sue don’t envisage sharing a private rental tenancy together, they feel the property is a good foundation to meet others who they might be able to pursue a joint housing situation with in the future.
“You won’t find the absolute perfect, flawless housemate but you can find harmony and you have to be happy with that,” Alan said.
Junction is currently working to identify potential new tenants for the property.