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Building community, one tenant at a time

If home is where the heart is, then the Wesley Community Housing team know how to put heart into providing people secure homes.

A typical day sees this team of ten specialists help match an applicant to an appropriate property, make connections for tenants to other Wesley Mission services, address repairs to properties, follow up on individual tenancy agreements and take an apartment block through a gardening program.

Their workspace is already a hive of activity, with conversations and phone calls being made, when one of the tenancy officers walks in with a huge, homegrown pumpkin gifted by a tenant. Amid laughter and the apparent success of the gardening program, it is clear that this team are far from being slick real estate agents.

Wesley Head of Community Housing, Lisa Ellis says, “We’re not the suits. We’re people and we provide a personalised approach to our tenants. We don’t just want to address people’s housing needs but, where we can, help people practically, emotionally and even spiritually. Whatever someone needs, we will find the links.”

Connecting people with the diverse range of wrap-around services that Wesley Mission offers helps to set Wesley Community Housing apart. In the last year, 65 per cent of tenants accessed additional services including disability support, vocational training, financial counselling and mental health services. And this is essential because over 90 per cent of housing applicants are living with disability or mental illness.

Wesley Mission CEO, the Rev Keith Garner feels strongly about the need to reduce social housing stigma, saying, “Negative depictions of people in social and affordable housing are over represented in the media and serve to reinforce unhelpful stereotypes. This bias shows up in the attitudes of average Australians and needs to be corrected in the media because no person should automatically be perceived as problematic and undeserving, particularly people who have experienced disadvantage or disability.”

Wesley Mission’s tenancy workers strive to get the tenant balance right for every property. The goal is to build community, connection and an essential sense of belonging. “We are thrilled when our tenants report improvements to their wellbeing and we see practical examples of this every day. It might be someone popping to their neighbour’s apartment for a cup of sugar or giving our office a call if they haven’t seen their elderly neighbour and they are concerned,” Lisa says.

Wesley Community Housing currently manages over 400 tenancies encompassing crisis, transitional, social and affordable housing and Specialist Disability Accommodation across Sydney, Central Coast and Newcastle.

“We’re looking to grow the number of properties that we have available,” says Mr Garner, “Because providing safe and stable housing helps to create the kind of community where we all have the chance to thrive.”

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