Moving into a unit provided by Good Samaritan Housing in Brisbane has been the circuit breaker that Alison and her eight-month-old baby Aleira were looking for, creating a secure space in their lives in which to learn valuable life skills and prepare for a future full of hope.
“This was very, very much needed,” 19-year-old Alison says. “It’s given me and my daughter our own space and peace and security. I feel very lucky to have found somewhere like this.”
Good Samaritan Housing Brisbane is a ministry of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, which provides supported independent living accommodation for young mothers and their children who are homeless, or are at risk of being homeless. It was officially launched on June 19.
The initiative, which receives no government funding, welcomes vulnerable mums and their young children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, offering stable supported low-rental accommodation in four two-bedroom flats.
It helps residents to develop emotional, economic and social stability; commit to a personalised program to enhance their living skills; and build social capital and support networks that will enable them to transition into independent living in the community.
Before coming to Good Samaritan Housing, Alison and Aleira were living at Alison’s grandmother’s home, an arrangement that she felt did not have long-term prospects.
“It was very crowded there,” Alison says. “My daughter and I just needed some extra space to ourselves so we can become more independent and so that we’re not always in everyone’s way.
“It’s great here. It’s really peaceful and there is a lot of help if you need it. They also support you to get into private rental when the time comes and link you up with support services in the community.”
Alison says that having space, peace and security has allowed her to think about her hopes for the future.
“I want to go back to TAFE and get some qualifications, maybe in child care or aged care, and hopefully make a nice life for me and my baby,” she says.
Good Samaritan Housing Community Coordinator, Joanne Davies, says they are looking forward to welcoming more young families like Alison and Aleira into the accommodation.
“We’re geared towards helping single mothers with children aged up to four to live in a low rental situation in our units for a period of up to 12 months,” she says.
“At the end of the 12 months we assist them in transitioning into independent living in long term housing in the community.
“And at the same time, we’re teaching our residents life skills that help them build social capital, to empower them.”
Those life skills can include things like budgeting, cooking, house-keeping and organisational help, according to the individual needs of the resident.
Joanne says an important part of the support provided by Good Samaritan Housing is helping to establish links between the resident and community support networks.
Good Samaritan Sister Bernardina Sontrop, Chair of the Board of Good Samaritan Housing, says the ministry is at the heart of the Good Samaritan charism.
“It is part of our expression of being neighbour,” she says. “And it’s very much linked to our history as well. Our first work when we were founded in 1857 was to care for the colony’s women and children in a refuge and, since then, it’s taken various expressions.”
The emphasis on longer-term transitional housing, rather than crisis accommodation, “allows more time to spend with the young women, helping them to develop the necessary good management and resilience to assist them to live independently in the community,” Bernardina says.
Deputy Chair of the Good Samaritan Housing Board, Rose Kelly, believes the initiative is a much-needed alternative in the housing market for young single mothers at risk of homelessness.
“The limitations on public housing stock, strict funding protocols, high and increasing demand for housing for this group, and the general fragility of this market make it increasingly difficult for young mothers to secure tenure at their time of highest need,” she says.
“The success of the program in the medium- to long-term will depend on sourcing the appropriate candidates and then working closely with them to ensure they develop the necessary social and life skills to take them beyond this safe environment.”