Home Stories - Victorian Summer Edition

MARCH 2018

Welcome to our first edition of Home Stories for 2018

Inside Our last Good Neighbour Awards Page 9 Christmas party photos Page 12 Ballarat community garden makeover Page 6

Page 14

We still have futures scholarships available for 2018! Don’t miss out!

A reminder to all Victorian residents that we have 10 scholarships available each semester to support residents with up to $500 towards out of pocket educational costs with VCE studies, VET courses, Certificate courses 1 through to 5, Diplomas, Bachelor or Master Degrees and Apprenticeship courses. Seven

scholarships were granted last semester, so make sure you enrol now to be successful in receiving a scholarship in 2018! For an application form, please email info@ hcau.org.au or visit www.housingchoices. org.au/residents/victoria/get-involved/


A message from the State Manager

“I ca n’t wa it to see the opportu nities 2018 holds, a nd worki ng with you to help you a chieve you r goa ls this yea r.”

Summer is well and truly here and much like you, I am looking forward to some relaxed weekends at the beach! It’s a fantastic time of year in Melbourne and I hope you were able to enjoy a relaxed and cheerful festive season with family and friends.

It was an incredibly busy last quarter for Housing Choices in 2017, with my personal highlight being our resident Christmas party at Fitzroy Town Hall. It was such a pleasure to spend the day with those of you who could attend, enjoying our beautiful roast lunch and the With One Voice Choir regaling us with festive tunes! I hope you enjoyed it as much as the team and I did. If you have photos of the day you’d like to share with us, please send them in! This publication would not be nearly as entertaining without your stories, so please continue to let us know what else you have been up to. This last quarter is usually the most enjoyable for the year as we look back at everything we’ve achieved with you in 2017. We’ve seen some fantastic outcomes for many of our residents including some amazing scholarship achievements (make sure you apply for 2018), truly inspiring garden projects, residents who haven’t let disability get in the way of achieving their

goals, and of course, your wonderful recognition of our Community Development Officers as we all work together to help our neighbours. It is fair to say that my job wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting without the remarkable inspiration that you, our residents, provide us all with on a daily basis. Reflecting on everything we’ve achieved together in 2017, really reminds me why I come to work every day. I can’t wait to see the opportunities 2018 holds, and working with you to help you achieve your goals this year.

Dione Stephen Acting State Manager, Victoria



Being transparent about our performance is important to us. Here is an easy- to-read chart that tells you about what we measure and a traffic light system to clearly indicate our performance. Performance Measure Victorian Performance Our performance Traffic light Measure

Days to repair and

21-48 days

21 days

empty property

Days to allocate an empty property

7-21 days

32 days

when it has been repaired

Rent arrears for current tenants






Tenancies maintained



Complaints resolved within 30 days



Urgent repairs completed



Priority repairs



Non-urgent repairs



2017: THE YEAR THAT WAS 2017 has been a fabulous year for Housing Choices and we thank you for choosing to be a part of the journey. It was fantastic that so many of you were able to attend our resident Christmas party in December and we had some great feedback about your experience with our service.

It was busy year for all of us and here is a quick list of some of our 2017 achievements: • Secured 69 additional properties to house victims of family violence • Launched our FISH (Financial Inclusion in Social Housing) program (including Good Money workshops) • Introduced our Transitional Housing Program (THP) with RSL Victoria and Sacred Heart Mission. • Acquired 227 new properties • Invested $2.2m upgrading 44 properties in North Melbourne • Invested $1m upgrading 8 properties in Geelong • Developed new properties in Newport and Werribee • Held 21 resident meetings across 17 locations

• 4 new community garden projects at Mary Street, La Trobe Close, Bute Street and Kew • Successful grant from Victorian Heritage Restoration fund for restoration works at Advisory Committee’s (VRAC) seven members achieved the following: • Regularly reviewed Housing Choices’ Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Victoria and provided advice on areas for improvement • Helped develop new letters to residents regarding rent reviews • Informed and endorsed a revised Housing Choices Resident Community Fund procedure for Victoria. • Completed training on the role, tasks and responsibilities of meeting chairpersons, provided by an external trainer and tailored to residents’ needs our Drill Hall site in Melbourne. This year our Victorian Resident

• Implemented a rotating chairperson procedure • Hosted a BBQ with Housing Choices staff who are not usually in direct contact with residents, in order to extend the influence of the residents’ perspective to their work • Considered and approved six applications from resident groups and support partner agencies to the Housing Choices Resident Community Fund • Participated in reviewing our communications platforms • Critiqued and endorsed our Futures Scholarship Program for residents, which is now in operation. These are just some of the many outstanding achievements that you have helped us accomplish. Thank you for being part of our success in 2017 and we are looking forward to working with you in 2018!


Gareth’s story:

From resident to key advisor

“Housing Choices has given me back a ‘home’. It’s lovely. It’s given me the chance to spread out and really connect with my boys. It’s my base for everything I’ve done since.

For many years, Gareth struggled with both physical and mental illnesses. At heart a family man, for a long time he put on a brave face for his wife and two children, but found he was drowning under the weight of his mental illness.


Eventually his wife was unable to cope with the stresses of Gareth’s health issues on top of the pressing needs of their growing family, so the toughest decision of all was made and Gareth left the family home to ensure the most stable environment for their growing boys. Desperate to remain as close as possible to his sons, Gareth opted to live in a caravan outside the family home, but with minimal heating and little money, this style of living took a further heavy toll on his health – he contracted pneumonia the first year, shingles the next and influenza during the third. During this period, Gareth was referred to a mental health day program with community support organisation ERMHA in Dandenong, where things started to look up. “They were fantastic. It became apparent that I was a little more advanced in my recovery than a lot of the people I was with,” he said. Gareth found it reassuring to realise that his recovery might not be as big a stretch as he’d first thought and he undertook one of their mental health recovery courses, run entirely by people with mental health issues themselves. “I had a chance to do this course and it actually ‘did what it said on the packet’. I had to travel to the north of the city every day to do it. But I did it and it was the only mental health service that had worked for me, in any way, shape or form,” he said. After receiving his course completion certificate, he undertook further training with ERMHA. He was also diagnosed with diabetes and so faced an even more uncertain health future. So to help him resolve the now more pressing problem of finding a safe and secure home for the longer term, ERMHA connected Gareth with Housing Choices – his

first experience with a community housing provider. He didn’t know what to expect. “I had to find myself somewhere to go by the Monday and I got a call while I was in the supermarket on the Friday before. I dropped all the shopping with excitement and relief.” Housing Choices had found him a two-bedroom unit in the south- eastern suburbs that would provide a long-term stable base for him, close to his family, so he could continue his relationship with his two beloved boys. “When I saw the property, I was just elated. Over the moon. Ever since I’ve been there, I’ve been happier than I had been for years. My sons come over and stay with me and they’re not far away. It’s right near town, which is handy as I have a bit of difficulty walking far distances these days because of my diabetes.” “Housing Choices has given me back a ‘home’. It’s lovely. It’s given me the chance to spread out and really connect with my boys. It’s my base for everything I’ve done since. “I didn’t go out for years; didn’t talk to people for years. I was in this little corner; in a shell. I couldn’t communicate in any way at all and Housing Choices has allowed me to get out, find myself again and work towards employment.” These days, Gareth’s life is pretty calm, with far fewer money problems. “I’m not always on track, but I’m much better than I was. I’ve learned how to control my triggers. “I pay everything by CentrePay and with my disability pension, so whatever I’ve got left over is for me. I try to make it last a fortnight, not very successfully sometimes, but I manage. You learn very quickly to become an expert at budgeting.”

His two sons (now 15 and 17) visit regularly and often. “I have to have the fridge and freezer full of food as they’ll clear out half of it in two days. You know what teenagers are like!” He recently completed another TAFE course in youth work and says that without his new home he would not have had the time or the space to pursue further education. With a strong desire to help others and give back to the organisation that helped him in his time of need, he became an active member of the Housing Choices Resident Advisory Committee. “I heard about [the committee] through Home Stories. I thought, ‘I could do that’. I could have said ‘that’s too hard going into the city, back and forth. But I saw it as another challenge to my intellect. He relishes the opportunity to provide real and highly valued input to Housing Choices, bringing to the committee his neighbours’ and other community concerns, for whom he is now trusted and highly-respected representative voice. “My own life experience and my battles with mental illness put me in a really good position to help others, through understanding, compassion and a genuine willingness to listen - and that’s what the committee is about. And that’s what Housing Choices means to me.” “I enjoy it. I like to see what’s going on in our community,” he said.

Ga reth



Ballarat Community

An absolutely amazing effort from these fabulous people! All of them sweated it out in 32-degree heat in sunny Ballarat to complete a planting bee of 120 native plants with residents. Staff enjoyed the last BBQ for 2017 with local families, support staff and contractors on site.

It was a great opportunity to meet and engage with residents and their supports. Staff were treated to a tour of the units and enjoyed a mini art exhibition. Much was learned and shared about the local community and we trust the work undertaken will last for many years to come. We can’t wait to see the garden in 12 months’ time. We encourage the residents to send in photos from time to time - to keep us updated with how the new garden is flourishing.



Staff profile: Jane (student placement)

still prepa ring to climb

Tell us a bit about you

My name is Jane-Lee, though I prefer to go by Jane. I’m 24 years old and I’m doing my Social Work placement in Housing Choices’ Community Development Team. I’m currently doing a double degree at RMIT University, a Bachelor of Honours of Social Work and a Bachelor of Social Sciences/Psychology. It’s a five- year program and I will graduate next year around February, upon the completion of the required 500 hours for my Field Education 2 Placement in February. friendly everybody was when I first started, and probably even more surprised that they continued to be just as friendly and welcoming over the course of my placement. It’s clear that Housing Choices as an organisation has worked hard to build an inclusive and welcoming community amongst its staff and it’s been really wonderful to meet so many friendly individuals who are so competent in their own areas of expertise. The thing that really stood out to me was Housing Choices didn’t just stop at providing affordable housing – which is an awesome thing in its own right. But you go that next step and say, “well how can we help build resilient and inclusive neighbourhoods?”. I really liked that, because communities are amazing spaces that can harness and leverage engagement and participation for social change and positive growth. How do you find Housing Choices as an organisation? It seems silly now, but I was actually quite surprised by how What made you seek a placement with Housing Choices?

What are some of your most memorable moments with Housing Choices tenants?

Interacting with the residents in the Preston Hub’s Craft and Chat and Meal and Recipe Sharing groups specifically, and the other resident based community groups and activities, has been an amazing experience. These groups welcomed me into their community from day one and it’s been awesome watching them grow as a group and develop new skills, in new areas for some and old hobbies for others. What are some of the key elements you think make a great community development officer? Working with Naomi has highlighted for me the importance of using a strengths-based approach with our resident community. Housing Choices residents often face high levels of adversity or even crisis in their lives, and by focusing on their strengths, skills and achievements (rather than their deficits) we are able to acknowledge and promote residents’ individuality and resilience, which I think can be a really powerful thing.

Caption Head over to his page @ bobbybajrammounteverest2013 to stay up to date with his progress. The latest update from Housing Choices resident Bobby Bajram on his journey to climb Mt Everest - continuously training to ensure peak physical condition - recently participating in the Blue Dirt ladies’ mountain biking weekend and an international athletes training event at Falls Creek. We wish you continued success Bobby. Keep up the good work! We can’t wait to see what you achieve this year!


2017 Overall Winner: Arnold Alsem


... to Arnold as the overall winner of the Housing Choices Australia Good Neighbour Award in 2017! His neighbours have recognised his hard work taking out the garbage and recycling bins for everyone and for regularly watering and taking care of the outdoor area for all his neighbours. Well done Arnold!

QUARTER 1 Rachel Larionoff Linda Newman Kidus Tekalalgn Bezawit A Mamo John Fernando Fallon Huynh

QUARTER 2 Josie Noonan Noel Watts Anthony O’Donnell Jason Steele Abdurahman Apdi

QUARTER 3 Heidi Preradovic Naomi Serpell Alexander Brown Noel Margan Louise Margeret Oxton

QUARTER 4 Laurel Burns Vera Talevska Brendan Parsons John Cleary Arnold Alsemgeest


Your resident satisfaction feedback: what we’re doing with it Housing Choices conducted a survey of resident satisfaction for 2017 and it was pleasing to see more residents taking part this year. The 2017 survey continued to measure satisfaction in five keys areas:

Community matters Community Development Ongoing Support Provided to Resident Community Groups

• Craft and Chat (Preston, Fortnightly)

• High St Garden Group (Preston, bimonthly)

• St John’s Garden Group (Chetwynd North Melbourne, monthly)

• Victoria Square Precinct Committee (Convened by Drill Hall Residents Association, bi-monthly)

• Mary Street Community Garden Committee (Preston, bimonthly)

• Satisfaction with property

Support in the form of attendance, assistance with materials, catering and promotion of groups and events. In 2017, the Resident Community Fund supported and helped deliver four community projects requested by residents in this financial year totalling approximately $8000 over 5 community projects.

• Satisfaction with location

• Satisfaction with maintenance

• Satisfaction with customer service

• Overall satisfaction

The key purpose in conducting the survey is to obtain information that will help us improve our housing and services for our existing and our future residents. The survey also ensures that Housing Choices meets the requirements of the Housing Registrars. 2017 saw a slight decrease (1-3%) across the board in all service areas, with the exception of Maintenance which remained the same at 80%. Despite this decrease, results remain high for resident satisfaction with overall service delivery of 82%.

Of which, completed projects include:

• Planting bee and BBQ project in Boronia

• Installation of community garden and outdoor seating at a transitional property for young people

• A disability challenge (Bobby Bajram Everest Climb)

• Installation of an irrigation system in an existing community garden

We are focusing on improving service in the following key areas during 2018:

• Christmas Day lunch (on Christmas Day) for elderly residents (Ebsworth House)

• Customer service

Projects which are yet to be completed, but funds have been approved:

• Resident contact with contractors

• Recreational equipment for a group home

• Improving maintenance and in particular, response times, reducing the number of multiple reports and improving the quality of repair works

• Screening fence for a community garden

• Common area beautification project in an inner city supported accommodation complex

• Develop a clear strategy on the way Housing Choices takes our residents’ views into account

• Improved partner relationships

We look forward to sharing with you what we have implemented to improve our service delivery in the coming months.

We highly value your feedback and thanks to all those that took the time to complete the survey.


Good Shepherd Microfinance: Good Money financial counselling program Through our partnership with Good Shepherd Microfinance, Housing Choices residents can access free, confidential, financial counselling in a respectful and non-judgmental environment.

Good Money Financial Counsellors can assist you if you are:

• Unable to pay debts

• Worried about eviction due to rental arrears

• Locked into a contract/rental agreement that you can’t pay

• Worried about repossessions of cars and other goods

• Worried about disconnection of gas, water, electricity and other services

• Worried about unpaid fines

• Worried about bankruptcy

• Looking to buy an essential household item, such as a fridge or washing machine

Call 1300 148 028 to book a phone or face-to-face appointment with a Good Money Financial Counsellor today. Alternatively, you can contact your Housing Officer on 1300 312 447 and they can make an arrange on your behalf that suits you.

We still have futures scholarships available for 2018! Don’t miss out!

E va was a successful scholarship applicant during semester 2 in 2017. Eva is a low income mother, studying a Cert III in Individual Support and was afraid that she might have to forfeit her place in the course due to the cost, when she applied for the scholarship. Housing Choices was able to support Eva with $500 towards her course fees and she has now successfully completed her studies. Eva is seeking a rewarding career in the disability sector where she can help others and has recently started her first job in the field! Congratulations Eva on you studies and your new role!


The Victorian resident Christmas party was another fantastic event for residents and staff. Held on Saturday the 9th December at the Fitzroy Town Hall, over 200 residents plus many staff and helpers celebrated another great year of working together.

Special thanks to our Resident Advisory Committee and all of our dedicated staff for ma king this year’s event such a huge success. We’ve received some great feedback about this party being the best yet! Hopefully we can make 2018 even more special for everyone.

A successful event was achieved with many smiles over an afternoon of food, festivities and much Christmas cheer! We were all entertained by the With One Voice Choir of Melbourne, who dazzled us with performances of our favourite Christmas carols, our talented staff even getting up to

join in with We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Children enjoyed the face painting activities and the adults joined them for photos in the special photo booth on site! Even Santa dropped in to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday break!




This year, Housing Choices is launching a new art competition, “Home is Where The Art Is”, open to all Victorian residents over the age of 16. The theme for the competition is “Home to me” – where we encourage all entrants to explore what home means to them in a visual representation. Works can include ceramics, painting, drawing, mixed media, sculpture and textiles.

There will five MAJOR prizes awarded under the following categories: • Youth Artist 16-25yrs • Best example of fine arts (Ceramic, Painting or Drawing) • Best example of mixed media • Best representation of “Home to me” (Public Poll - People’s Choice) • Mindful expressions – Exploring wellness through art. The winners will also have their works featured on the cover of Home Stories and the 2018 Housing Choices Annual Report. All competition entries will also have the opportunity to submit their works for an exhibition we hope to hold before the end of the year – where artists will be able to advertise their works for sale or auction to the community.

TO ENTER PLEASE SEND: • Your full name • Age • Contact Details • A photograph of your work • Title and Description of your work

TO: info@hcau.org.au or post to: Community Development Team

Housing Choices Australia Level 3, 350 Queen Street Melbourne VIC 3000



Ingredients: • Olive oil • 250g rump steak finely sliced • 1 teaspoon cornflour • 1/8 cup of hoisin sauce • 1 tablespoon soy sauce • 1 garlic clove crushed • 1 red onion, finely sliced

Preparation: • trim chicken • cut onion into thin wedges • crush garlic cloves • boil water • prepare seasoning, flour and herbs

PRESTON HUB GRUB CLUB Our fortnightly recipe and meal sharing group, The Preston Hub Grub Club, has been running at our Preston office for over 18 months. Each fortnight a resident shares a recipe with the group and everyone prepares, cooks, learns the recipe, enjoys the meal and washes up together. The group is free held on a Friday morning. If you are interested in attending please contact the community development team on 1300 322 447 or info@hcau.org.au One of the recipes that has been made in the group was shared by Brendan, one of our residents and we are sharing it with you all here!

• 150g snow peas • Capsicums sliced • Rice

Optional extras: baby corn, carrot sliced thin, broccoli cut into florets.

Cooking instructions: 1. Put your rice on to cook by your preferred method. 2. Heat the oil in a fry pan and add garlic and onion. Stir for one minute. 3.  Add beef to the pan, then the sauces and a teaspoon of cornflour. Keep stirring to coat beef in the sauces and flour. 4.  Add the remaining vegetables and stir to coat all with the sauces. 5. Serve on bed of your cooked rice.


Resident community fund

Farewell to our housing officer Dave December 2017 marked the end of an era, as we said farewell to our highly- respected housing officer Dave after 17 years with Housing Choices. Dave said “Thanks to everyone for the helpful and friendly place Housing Choices has been for the last 18 years. I don’t plan any regular on-going employment for the foreseeable future and an overseas trip is in the pipeline for next year” Residents who knew Dave will no doubt treasure fond memories of their interactions with him, and we wish him the very best in his next endeavour and thank him for all of his hard work and commitment.

Housing Choices will be opening the Resident Community Fund again in 2018, with the capacity to support up to six community projects. The Fund aims to provide people with the opportunity to turn their own ideas or vision for their community into reality. Open to residents and/or support agencies, the fund’s purpose is to finance communal projects for a group of Housing Choices Residents up to the value of $2500. Projects that demonstrate a benefit to the community or provide residents with opportunities to participate in recreational or educational activities will be considered. To apply, simply complete an application form describing the project idea and details. Forms are available on our website or you can request one by contacting the community development team on 1300 312 447 or info@hcau.org.au. Applications are reviewed every two months by our Victorian Resident Advisory Committee. Past examples include community garden projects, cooking or art classes, day outings and group recreational activities.

Don’t Forget to Follow us on Instagram! @HChoicesau

If you don't already follow Housing Choices on Instagram, make sure to head on over and check us out! Just another way you can stay connected with our resident stories, staff events, and happenings across Australia with new content every week. If you have stories or content you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you! Inbox us with your pics to start a conversation.

Melbourne Level 3, 350 Queen Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 Contact www.housingchoices.org.au Phone: 1300 312 447 Fax: 1300 312 737 Email: info@hcau.org.au


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