How one Perth pensioner set out to eradicate homelessness through social enterprise.

Barry Green, a former homeless man, aged pensioner and founder of Sesteem will be partnering with a Mandurah based homeless support group to eradicate homelessness through a unique, low cost housing model aimed at providing employment as well as a pathway to home ownership for the underprivileged.

Prominent architectural firm, Archiplan generously donated pro bono services and worked with Sesteem and WestAus to develop a scheme for 26 high quality, low cost units built entirely from recycled sea containers and plan to build on a property provided by the Mandurah city council subject to grant funding.

Of significant interest is that we can provide a fully furnished home unit for around $50k, whereas a current conventional unit costs over $300k.” said Barry Green

The design for the three-storey complex will include both one and two bedroom units to accommodate a varied resident mix. Each unit would also have a balcony and have access to a rooftop garden and bbq area.

 

In addition to sustainable housing, the project aims to create jobs for the homeless and disadvantaged by establishing a high tech vegetable growing social enterprise business nearby in Pinjarra.

“What we aim to do with this project is address the long term cycle of homelessness by giving people a home, access to the services they need, employment opportunities and even the potential for home ownership.” Said Danielle Petersen- Sesteem

The reasons for homelessness are varied, however the increasing lack of affordable housing is putting more and more pressure on low-income earners, Centrelink benefit recipients and aged pensioners than ever before. People from these marginalised groups in society simply have no options when it comes to finding a home they can afford and many face the prospect of ending up on the streets.

At 70, Barry found himself in this very situation after his share accommodation of six years came to an end. Living on a meagre fortnightly aged pension he soon realised just how difficult it would be finding alternative accommodation.

When moving date came round, he still had not found anything and ended up staying in a backpacker hostel. This too became more than he could afford and before long he was forced to rely on homeless support services bouncing from one transitional home to another.

“I talked with various organisations. Some were full and some had some quite bizarre entry requirements. At one place in Freo, they only considered four applications per day. You had to line up at the locked front door of the building at 8.00 in the morning and the first four in the line got an interview. Not in the first four? Come back the next day – rain, shine, whatever.” Said Barry

According to recent research it costs the government almost $50,000 a year in support services when someone is chronically homeless. This amount reduces by $13,100 when a homeless person is given permanent supportive housing. Sesteem has a viable solution to provide long-term housing and employment, effectively saving the government thousands. Sesteem has held extensive discussions with the WA Housing Authority and is hopeful they will form a partnership to fund the project.

“We aggressively support the idea that government must actively participate in our programs because we will ultimately save them so much money. We are not just seeking a handout to build a few units. We are seeking to form a long-term partnership where we can work together to find practical ways to genuinely eradicate homelessness.” Said Barry Green.

It’s estimated that the Mandurah housing project would amount to savings of $535,000 per year to government, with the potential of a $665,000 per year much needed cash injection to the Mandurah community via local job creation, not withstanding the $2 million construction cost that will all be carried out by local contractors.

“This model represents a simple, innovative way of providing a sustainable housing solution for homeless and other disadvantaged people.” Said Barry Green.

Barry hopes to bring seismic change to the delivery of social services through the power of Social Enterprise, and after experiencing homelessness himself, has only strengthened his resolve to tackle the issue.