The House of Welcome was established in 2001 to provide support for Temporary Protection Visa (TPVs) holders. Following the abolition of TPVs in 2007, the organisation’s focus shifted towards providing support to people seeking asylum living in the community on bridging visas. Its ‘Safe Place’ Transitional Housing Program aims to prevent destitution and homelessness among people seeking asylum by providing transitional shelter to families and individuals, coupled with casework and community support programs.
“The strategy is to provide a place where they feel that they are safe, they feel that they are stable and they are able to concentrate on submitting their claim,” explains Paul Bottrill, the House of Welcome’s Executive Officer.
Key to the success of the transitional housing program has been the additional support provided to people seeking asylum by the House of Welcome’s casework team, which ensures that their needs can be addressed in a more holistic way. “There needs to be so much support around it,” says Paul.
You can’t just stick someone in a house and say ‘off you go!’. For that person to be able to sustain a tenancy and to sustain themselves mentally, they just have to have that wrap-around support. It’s not just a matter of saying, here’s a house, now you’re stable. It’s everything else that goes with it.”
The House of Welcome currently maintains 25 properties, some provided free of charge by Catholic congregations and some leased at a nominal rate from social housing providers. The organisation enters into short-term occupancy agreements with each client, which are regularly reviewed to respond to clients’ changing circumstances.
Accommodation is usually provided for free, although people seeking asylum who have some form of income pay a small amount of rent to contribute to the running costs of the program.
The ‘Safe Place’ program has provided stable accommodation to hundreds of people seeking asylum who may otherwise have faced homelessness. However, the program is resource-intensive. “Most of our properties are rent free or very low rent and there’s an extreme limit on those sorts of properties,” says Paul.
But it’s also a matter of limited resources. As a small organisation we can’t really go up to more properties, even if we could find them, as we don’t have the money to hire more staff to administer them.