Habitat for Humanity - Stepping Stones for Murray Bridge

By Ben Sarre & Blair Badcock

Posted in News

The August issue of New Times featured two articles on homelessness by Rev Dr Tim Hodgson and Rev Sandy Boyce to coincide with Homelessness Week in 2021. The same issue also included three examples of advocacy as expressions of ‘our discipleship in Christ:’ advocacy as pastoral care; advocacy as funding; political advocacy. The writer, Rev Peter McDonald, explained that in the case of ‘funding advocacy’ a community group or congregation seeks to ‘bring financial resources to an issue that is missing out.’

In 2016 several members from local Christian churches in Murray Bridge got together to see what resources would be required to provide a ‘hand up’ for homeless youth in their community. The Murraylands Chapter of Habitat for Humanity in South Australia (HFHSA) was formed. In doing so, this concerned group of locals became part of a worldwide network that exists to ‘put God’s love into action.’ Habitat for Humanity International is a not-for-profit Christian ministry, and globally is the largest provider of shelter solutions to families and communities lacking adequate housing, water and sanitation.

Currently, members from Seeds and Pilgrim Uniting Churches serve on the Board and committees of HFHSA. Since its formation in 1990, building affordable homes has been a dominant part of the HFHSAs program and will remain so. Nine years ago, a home was built in Murray Bridge for a single Mum raising three children with little support. But with the SA Government now placing much greater emphasis on housing those at risk of homelessness, a proposal for the project in Murray Bridge that is now known as ‘Studio Purpose’ was developed.

A partnership was formed between not-for-profits HFHSA, ac.care, AnglicareSA and HeadSpace to provide suitable ‘stepping stone’ accommodation and ‘wrap around’ support for some of the young ‘rough sleepers’ in Murray Bridge. The outline of a business plan began to take shape: as a licensed builder, HFHSA would be responsible for the building work; ac.care has the expertise to manage tenants; AnglicareSA to manage the properties and HeadSpace the valuable community connection.

The South Australian Housing Authority was approached to see if one of their vacant ‘double units’ in Murray Bridge was available to convert into four separate studios. It would be a pilot project, certainly the first in regional Australia and possibly for the whole of Australia. Late in 2018 a property was identified and inspected. Design work, building approval, and fundraising began in earnest and the renovation cost was estimated at around $250,000. The refurbishment and landscaping of the double units finally began in December 2020. The four thermally efficient studios comply with all building standards. Internally, they are fully refurbished with completely new flooring, walls and ceilings, kitchenettes and wet areas. New life has been breathed into two run-down, vacant units. They were finished in early August and handed over on 12th August as part of Homelessness Week 2021. A week later four young women moved in.

Due to community wide support in Murray Bridge and the generosity of corporate sponsors and local trades, Studio Purpose cost little more than $150,000. Volunteers, many from local churches and service clubs, spent over 2,000 hours on site. Students from the local high school and neighbours pitched in. Local firms discounted or donated building materials. Others gifted kitchen ‘fit outs,’ appliances and insulation. Interstate support of $95,000 included NSW and Victorian-based grant providers, and one generous philanthropic family that personally donated over $20,000.

Such is the transformative power when a small group of dedicated ‘funding advocates’ at the community level come together with an organisation like Habitat for Humanity which has achieved great success mobilising volunteers globally in pursuit of ‘A world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.’

To support the work of Habitat for Humanity in providing much needed housing for South Australians in need please visit www.givenow.com.au/houseafamilyinneed or call (08) 8344 6009.

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Comments (3)

  1. Brian Ward 15 september 2021, 14:37 Link
    What a great example of Christ-in-action! Congratulations everyone.