By Benjamin Millar
The first tenants in a groundbreaking “tiny home” pilot program to help tackle homelessness have praised the project for providing a sense of safety and belonging.
Launch Housing unveiled the first phase of its $9 million Harris Transportable Housing Project on Monday, officially launching the first six of 57 “tiny homes” built on nine VicRoads reserves along Ballarat Road in Footscray and Maidstone.
Deborah, the first tenant placed in one of the properties – along with her dog, Zeus – said her life had been drastically changed since she secured the house.
“I have noticed changes in how I view the world and dreams and aspirations are now possible,” she said.
“Slowly, a day at a time, I’m building a new life. I am slowly integrating back into society.”
Deborah said it was the first safe, stable home she has had since becoming homeless at the age of 13 when her father shot her mother dead then turned the gun on himself.
“I battled drug and alcohol dependency from a young age,” she said.
“These units are perfect for people who have battled with so many issues, such as myself.”
Deborah said Zeus loved sunning himself on the front porch and she had forged friendships with her fellow neighbours.
“My garden out front is my favourite space,” she said. “I love that I can have a garden and have stability, that my garden can grow and I can watch my flowers bloom.”
The project is a partnership between Launch Housing and philanthropists Geoff and Brad Harris, who chipped in $4 million, along with the state government’s Victorian Property Fund.
Launch Housing chief executive Bevan Warner said the project could be rolled out across Victoria after the success of the early homes.
But he warned the homeless challenge remained daunting, with almost 25,000 people in Victoria being without a home on any given night, including about 1700 people sleeping rough.
“Let’s be clear, homelessness is getting worse, not better,” he said. “Many people receive no practical help at all … there are not enough beds and not enough homes.”
Mr Warner said 195 hectares of government land sitting empty across Melbourne could host more than enough relocatable homes to end rough sleeping.
Geoff Harris said Australia was a wealthy enough country to provide education, healthcare and housing to all Australians, but it had dropped the ball on basic housing.
“We decided to donate $4 million, which is the cost of the actual building of the first 57 units,” he said.
“What struck me is they are just normal Australians, who have had their challenges. When Deborah showed me through her home on the first night that I was here, there was a sense of pride and belonging and I was very emotional hearing her say that.”