Junction Connect January 2019

January 30, 2019

Garden A ‘Saviour’ For Helen

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Junction CEO Maria Palumbo with Garden Competition winner, Helen.

When Helen saw her Mitchell Park property for the first time, the yard needed a lot of work.  

However, when she spotted a native frangipani in the front yard, she knew it was the perfect home for her.

“My mum passed away not long before I moved,” Helen said. “I had been living with her and caring for her and one of the things she always said was she’d like a frangipani. When I saw it (the frangipani) near the front window I knew it was meant to be.”

That was 14 years ago. Today, Helen is among the winners of Junction’s 2018 Tenant Garden Competition, claiming the prize for best rear garden. Helen was among 12 entrants to win first or second place in the second annual competition, which received 33 entries.

“When I arrived, I used to walk around the streets to familiarise myself with the neighbourhood,” she said. “As I walked I would grab a few clippings here and there. My whole garden is made of those cuttings. I haven’t spent a cent on plants or mulch.

“In fact, I wanted to plant a garden bed over some old grass so I used old newspapers to cover the ground until it died. It has turned out the newspaper has been the best type of mulch because the flowers in that bed are now blooming.”

Helen, who was nominated for this year’s competition by a friend, said gardening gave her energy and “a lot of enjoyment”. It was also a haven for others.

“My neighbours come over and we sit and talk here and have birthdays here. It’s very peaceful.

“My mum had also liked bougainvillea. We’d try to grow them where we previously lived but it hadn’t worked. When I moved to Mitchell Park I brought a pot which had a geranium and a bougainvillea but the bougainvillea had never grown. Eventually I took it out of the pot and put it in my new backyard.

“It went berserk. Every time I look at it now, I think that’s mum.

 “I think the garden loves me. It’s been my saviour.”

Riding The Waves Of Life

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Surf’s Up - A group of young people get their balance.

Riding the waves of life has become a little easier for young people in our care thanks to an annual initiative run by Surf Culture Australia in collaboration with local surf school - Surf Culture Australia.

Life’s A Beach is a seven-week program starting in mid October. Most recently, 15 young people under the guardianship living in our care took part. The program aims to educate participants about water safety and surf techniques while building teamwork skills and fostering fun along the way.

“When children and young people come into our care, they are there because they have been through, in most cases, unimaginable trauma, neglect or abuse – or perhaps all these things," Junction CEO Maria Palumbo said.

“First and foremost, we are there to keep them safe and to overcome what they have experienced through therapeutic support – while also, helping them to enjoy as much as a normal childhood as possible.”

Open For Service

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Junction General Manager, Community Services Kirsty Drew and David Basham MP. 

Torrential downpours and gale force winds couldn’t put a dampener on celebrations to mark the opening of our new Fleurieu office.

Member for Finniss David Basham MP and General Manager, Community Services Kirsty Drew cut the ribbon at the December event attended by local service partners, staff and supporters.

Ms Drew said the new office was more than a shop front.

“While some people stop by to pay their rent or discuss maintenance, often the people who come through our doors are doing so at a really low point in their lives – when they have no-where else to go or no-one to turn to. They could be dealing with family violence, on the verge of homelessness or maybe they are already sleeping rough. Sometimes they are on their own, others have their children, little babies, whole families who are in crisis.

"What is really important about this new site for us too, is that it enables all our staff to work from one base – housing, homelessness and community services. The benefits of this connection, not just for our staff but most of all for our tenants and clients, can’t be understated.”

Thanks to all who attended and supported the event including Finniss River Vineyard.

New Understanding for Financial Hardship

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Maria Palumbo with UCWB Executive Manager, Social Inclusion, Carol Shard.

Faster help is on the way for some of the most vulnerable South Australians struggling to deal with debt and money worries.

Through a new memorandum of understanding between leading social enterprise Junction and Unity Care Wesley Bowden (UCWB), tenants living in social housing properties managed by Junction will be eligible for free priority financial counselling that is confidential with UCWB. 

Junction CEO Maria Palumbo said the initiative would ensure earlier intervention in many situations.

“As housing providers, we have the privilege of gaining an insight into the homes and lives of our tenants,” she said. “This can put us in the unique position of being an obvious connection between tenants and links to other supports such as financial counselling.

“However, the reality is that right now in SA, it is usually a two to six week wait to see a financial counsellor. If you are facing pressing circumstances, which many people are by the time they reach out, this delay can be detrimental and compound what is often an already dire and extremely stressful situation.

 “People living in our properties are generally on low and fixed incomes. Some have complex needs that require ongoing support. Ensuring they have priority access to financial counselling, in many cases, prevent them from reaching crisis point.

“The fact that the counselling is completely confidential between UCWB and our tenants is also really important.

“It means tenants can feel completely confident the help and support they receive is strictly a matter between them and their counsellor. Junction is simply the link.”

Out and About

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A tenant-led square dancing session at a recent Strathalbyn Pop Up.

Forging community connections doesn’t happen sitting behind a desk. That’s why our People and Places Team can be found popping up around SA – quite literally!

The team is linking with tenants and local organisations and services through a series of grassroots events held in neighbourhoods and community centres. 

“It’s about us reaching out and listening to our tenants and communities in a way that is comfortable for them,” Tenant Services Manager Adrianna Burnes-Nguyen said. 

“Where we can we bring our urn for a cuppa, some bickies and sometimes even a lunch so we’re not rushed. It’s really about hearing what is happening in local neighbourhoods and working out ways we can better empower individuals and groups to help build better places to live for everyone.”

Ms Burnes-Nguyen said Tenancy Officers accompanied the People and Places team to help address housing related concerns tenants might have as well as representatives from the local councils and NDIS Local Area Coordinators where available and appropriate.

“It’s not just about Junction connecting with tenants, it’s about bringing together people who can help each other and work together,” she said.

“Just as importantly, it’s a platform for tenants to meet each other, to strengthen ties and even forge friendships.”

Accolade a Bonus Reward for Nat

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Natalie at Hackham Community Centre. 

It was just over five years ago that Natalie Holman, then working as a legal secretary, decided to pursue a new career. 

Wanting “something more fulfilling” she gained her certificate IV in Youth Work – and has never looked back.   

In fact, Natalie was recently named a runner up for the South Australian Youth Worker of the Year Award.   

As a Therapeutic Support Worker with Junction for the past four years, Nat fulfils a caring role with guardianship children supporting their development and helping them overcome the effects of trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

She considered the award recognition “an absolute bonus”. 

“Every child is unique and the difference you can make by building a relationship can be really rewarding and satisfying, that’s what I’m there for,” Nat said.   

“I was working with a little boy who was struggling with a speech impediment. To hear him now be able to pronounce certain words and to know when to slow down and take a breath when he’s speaking sounds like a small thing but it really is huge for him and how far he’s come.   

“It’s usually the small steps you notice and they’re the things that make you see you are having an impact – that the time you spend with these kids is making a difference in their development and their lives.   

“I just do what I do because I love it.”   

The 2018 Award ceremony, hosted by Nat Cook MP, Jayne Stinson MP and Susan Close MP, was held at Parliament House in mid-November.   

Support Adds Christmas Sparkle

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Some of our 2018 Appeal supporters. 

The festive season was a little brighter for hundreds of South Australians thanks to a heartening response to Junction’s 2018 Christmas Appeal. 

Cash donations and gift vouchers combined with toys and food for hampers reached those in need in mid-December, enabling many people – who would otherwise have struggled - to provide a special Christmas lunch or presents for their family.

“We were extremely grateful, again this year, to have tremendous support from our corporate partners coupled this year with unprecedented generosity from individual donors and families,” Junction CEO Maria Palumbo said.

“This enabled us to reach out to many clients and families who are struggling to make ends meet and for who Christmas, is actually an incredibly stressful time.”

Program co-ordinator Tania, who presented an Aldinga family of five with donations a few days before Christmas said it was an extremely humbling experience.

“The kids were bouncing with excitement and were so happy with the presents – they were very suitable and opened and played with them straight away,” Tania said.

“The parents were in shock, dad had to walk away, and mum was lost for words and with many tears of gratitude.”

A huge thank you to everyone who supported the Appeal.

Helping Hand For Volunteers

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Maria Palumbo with volunteers Lou and Len and Junction HR Advisor, Jen.

Research shows volunteering improves the length and quality of a person’s life.

We certainly wish that for our wonderful team of Junction volunteers who selflessly give their time to improve the lives and circumstances of our clients and communities. 

Recently, we updated our volunteer handbook to reflect our growth and to provide some more guidance and support to our volunteers.

“When a social enterprise like Junction starts attracting more volunteers, it is an exciting time of growth and community for everyone involved,” Executive Manager, People and Culture, Kathryn Keenihan said.

“It can also be a little overwhelming for staff who need to on board, train and manage all of them.  This is a great problem to have, but as an organisation we need to create systems and standards to support our volunteers.

“That’s where the Volunteers Handbook comes in handy; it serves to inform, educate and support our volunteers.”

“At its core, the Volunteers Handbook is a consistent resource (printed and digital) clearly defining what Junction does, and how volunteers help our organisation so that everyone starts off with the same knowledge.”

If you would like to become a Junction volunteer or for more information, phone 8203 5700.

People First Property Maintenance

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Junction Program Maintenance Officer Brett Marshall with Danny Di Rubbo (Maintenance Matters).

Ensuring more than 4000-plus tenants across the State live in decent housing that is well maintained and upgraded regularly is a key Junction priority.

However, we can’t and don’t deliver this alone. Our organisation works closely with around 100 local contractors to deliver responsive repairs, general maintenance and planned upgrades of individual properties and common areas in our neighbourhoods from as far south as Kangaroo Island to as far north as the Riverland.

Late last year, we thanked our maintenance contractors –South Australian sole traders and businesses - for their patience and co-operation at an end of year gathering at the Joiners Arms Hotel.

General Manager – Housing Services, David Burton said it was also an opportunity to speak with contractors about the broader nature of Junction’s work including our community services.

“The reality is, we do ask a lot of our contractors because some of the people living in our housing are facing really challenging situations or they have literally come out of crisis,” Mr Burton said.

“This calls for not only an ability to get the job done but to do it with care and sensitivity. There also has to be a degree of flexibility. From our perspective it is imperative we engage people-oriented professionals to deliver our maintenance services. We are fortunate in South Australia to have many local businesses who fit this bill.”