Spurred by the inability to sit by while homeless populations are growing around the Burleigh Heads, Tweed Heads, Byron and Gold Coast areas, Theresa Mitchell the founder of Agape Outreach Inc, that has been providing food and support for homeless in the area for over 13 years, has jumped into action with a plan to create Australia’s first Tiny House Community for the homeless.
With a spectrum of varied and inaccurate figures, it is hard to judge the impact of homelessness in Australia. While the 2016 census suggested there were approximately 400 homeless people in the Tweed and Gold Coast area, independent studies suggest there are considerably more. And with a waitlist in NSW of over 20 years for emergency housing and rent prices continuing to soar, it is increasingly unachievable for homeless or financially vulnerable people to find safe and empowering living situations. The current pandemic has exposed many more people to the fragile balance of ‘have and have not’ and has created further pressure on the already strained support services. Tweed Heads based Agape Outreach Inc. predicts the effects will be felt for years to come. Noticing a gaping hole in the plan to provide adequate housing and support, the project aims to provide dignity, self-worth and safe, healthy accommodation for homeless individuals and families.
Working towards the dream of a housing haven for financially distressed families and individuals, the initial goal is for 100 tiny houses with a unique outlook, planned around a range of communal spaces like BBQ areas, a community kitchen and living area with library, communal bathrooms and laundry, as well as spaces that encourage skills and passion projects. Beyond housing, the project is designed to inspire and empower individuals to reclaim control of their lives and learn new skills. By providing a men’s shed, chicken coup and community gardens, inhabitants can peacefully interact and form positive social connections. At the same time, they learn targeted life skills and are invited to take part in vocational courses. With the ongoing support of Agape, which provides meals, person-centred support, psychological support, NDIS support, life coaching, life skills training and drug and alcohol abuse support, the plan for Agape Housing is built on experience and knowledge of the needs and issues the local homeless community face.
To achieve this dream of providing dignity, self-worth and support for some of Australia’s most vulnerable, Agape is sending out a call to arms. The master plan requires at least 10 acres of developable land on which they hope to build 100 ‘tiny houses’ which will permanently house the chronic homeless. Able to comfortably house an individual or a couple, the homes offer fully supported living, security and counselling for anti-social behaviors. For families fleeing domestic abuse or the harsh reality of living on the streets with children, an additional 12 self-contained, two-bedroom homes will be built. Positioned in a separate area with restricted access, this accommodation will be temporary, short-term housing for families as they work with Agape to secure jobs, financial support and more permanent accommodation.
The team at Agape have a clear view of the effects of poverty on the physical and mental health of individuals, but they also understand the connection that healthy eating habits and empowering the impoverished have on environmental sustainability. By collecting rescued food from shopping centres, bakeries, restaurants and farms, they are able to ethically, affordably and sustainably provide over 700 hot meals every week and approximately 150 food hampers. This method of food collection will play a big part in the ‘Tiny Homes’ model.
Benefitting from corporate and private sponsorships and partnerships, the Tiny Homes program can only be achieved through generosity and education about the growing homeless community in Australia. With daily needs and diverse requirements, the clients of Agape are living proof that homelessness doesn’t discriminate and that the current economic climate is letting them down. Agape and their partners are inviting Australian businesses to help them offer a leg up, a place to call home and an open-minded safe community.
To contribute to this very worthy project please contact Theresa Mitchell on 0414 693 670
Find out more about Agape Outreach at www.agapeoutreachinc.com