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Housing and homelessness - what can parishes do?

At a recent gathering of parish representatives and housing support agencies, the issue of Housing and Homelessness was discussed. They met in response to the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2018-19 A Place to Call Home – Making a home for everyone in our land.
 
Those who attended were fortunate to hear several expert speakers who told of their efforts to reduce homelessness and improve access to housing. Several presenters have provided papers summarising their activities:
Sr Bernadette Keating pbvm facilitated the 'What can Parishes do' workshop. The final exercise, a plenary discussion, identified several options to improve housing access.
 
WHAT CAN PARISHES DO?
 
Parishes
  • Rent a property in the name of your parish and offer it to homeless people. Ensure that the parish leadership is on board and that you have a plan in place for all aspects of the tenancy. 
  • Form a group in your parish and undertake the 4-week Parish Homelessness Inquiry to identify the housing and homelessness issues in your parish, and decide what you and the parish can do to help.
  • Consult within the parish and with neighbouring parishes and (i) Organize support for homeless people e.g. meals, so needy can access good food. Share services to cover several nights a week; (ii) Link churches and use resources (e.g. halls) for meals and for sleeping; (iii) Make maximum use of untapped resources
  • Get to know some homeless people. “Once you know a homeless person, you will identify with the problem” (Netty Horton, CEO CatholicCare)
  • Reach out to homeless people - invite connection, for example, following a meal. Invite them to Mass, welcome them when they arrive
  • Get to know and use links with volunteers and responsive services to help people who are homeless.
  • Lobby state MPs, local councillors, churches, for better social housing.
  • Support Vinnies programs to help the poor and homeless.
  • Use established structures (e.g. Parish Council) to raise awareness and move your parish to action.
  • Work together: TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More).
  • “Empty nesters” can invite a single person to share a vacant room. 
  • Find out what other parishes and church agencies are doing to help with housing and homelessness.
  • Find out what can you do to help and take action.
Catholic Church

  • Identify potentially available land that might be used for social housing.
  • Catholic Social Services Victoria recently completed a social housing survey across the Archdiocese of Melbourne. It details the social housing provided through the Church and identifies potential developments for additional low-cost housing.
Work with other churches

  • Invite other churches to come to our forums and consult other churches and agencies, e.g. Uniting regarding their social housing policies and practices.
Local Government

  • Consider using rotundas in parks as safe places for people who prefer to sleep outdoors.
  • See what St Anne’s Parish, Seaford have achieved advocating on behalf of housing endangered residents in their area.
State Government

  • The Victorian Government collects Stamp Duty from real estate sales: can this be separated/ quarantined for social housing? Ask your local member what s/he thinks, especially as the Election approaches.
  • Increase pressure on Housing Victoria so that the public/private partnership concept for development includes social housing.
  • Make sensible use of what public land is available and aim to increase numbers of housing available.
  • Donate land to housing associations to build on/rent (at subsidised rates) to the poor.

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Catholic Social Services Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Elders in each of the Communities where we work.
 
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