Uniting partnership to address homelessness on the Central Coast

Uniting partnership to address homelessness on the Central Coast

Uniting has joined forces with a Central Coast real estate agency and the social services sector as part of a unique local partnership to help reduce homelessness.

Uniting is one of five Specialist Homelessness Service (SHS) providers on the Central Coast and has formed a partnership with Sorensen Real Estate to co-ordinate referrals from all local SHS providers.

The unique partnership involves a cost-saving initiative which links landlords with vulnerable people in need of housing.

Under the partnership model, landlords who place a tenant who is registered with a local SHS provider will have their usual leasing fee waived. They will also avoid the need for advertising and promotional materials – and their related costs.

This provides a saving for participating landlords of around $1,000 or more off the cost of sourcing and signing up tenants. In addition to saving money, landlords can also enjoy both the “feel good” of placing a vulnerable person in stable housing and peace of mind knowing that the tenant will be supported by a SHS provider.

Uniting Youth and Homelessness Services in Wyong representative, Tricia Carlson, said that this partnership a win-win for all involved.

“Specialist Homelessness Services provide more than just a roof over heads. For example, our Uniting Doorways program helps people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to find accommodation as well as links to health, education, legal, financial and community support services,” said Ms Carlson.

To give credit where it is due, the partnership idea was the brainwave of Central Coast Community Council Executive Officer, Brad Wilson, who identified the number of vacant local properties when reviewing recently released Census data.

“Of the 138,000 residential dwellings on the Coast at the time of the Census, a staggering 17,224 where unoccupied – that’s 1 in 8. We need to get these properties onto the permanent rental market,” said Mr Wilson.

Mr Wilson suggests three contributing factors to this phenomenon – wealthy Sydney-siders with personal holiday residences, the rise of investment holiday homes using new platforms such as AirBnB, and our ageing population.

“Anecdotally it appears that when ageing parents move into nursing homes, or even when they pass away, the idea of making the property available to the rental market doesn’t naturally flow.

“Whilst Government policy is certainly crucial to addressing homelessness and housing affordability, individuals probably don’t recognise they can play a role too.

“We want the owners of these 17,000 properties to see that they can solve homelessness on the Central Coast – one family at a time,” said Mr Wilson.

This initiative is being promoted to local Uniting Church congregations on the Central Coast to encourage property owners to sign up, and there are plans to promote it in a mailout with local rates notices.

Uniting is involved in several local initiatives working with the real estate industry to help reduce homelessness. The Central Coast team recently coordinated a free half day workshop for real estate agents to provide them with greater awareness to identify issues to help tenants maintain tenancies by referring them to appropriate early intervention services.

“In understanding the issues faced by struggling tenants and by working with Uniting on the ‘Keeping House’ early intervention program, property managers can take a different approach to help avoid failed tenancies which, in turn, saves them time and the expense of chasing rental arrears,” Ms Carlson explained.

“The ‘Keeping House’ program is an early intervention service which provides a range of support services to help sustain successful tenancies.

“Once a potential issue is identified by a real estate agent, such as a late payment, they can refer the tenant to our Uniting Doorways’ Keeping House program and we will work with the tenant to help them maintain their current tenancy.”

The ‘Keeping House’ program began in July 2015 in an effort to reduce homelessness on the Central Coast and since then, Uniting has assisted more than 80 local households to maintain their tenancies.

Pictured: Uniting forms partnership to address homelessness on the Central Coast (L-R), Brad Wilson, Central Coast Community Council; Rhonda Bluff, Sorensen Real Estate; Karen McKinney, Uniting Doorways; Tricia Carlson, Uniting Youth and Homelessness; Andrew Sorenson, Sorensen Real Estate.

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