Published: 16 November 2016

Mission Australia housing calls for more 'Housing First' at Common Ground Sydney's five year anniversary

With more than 50 tenants, community members, staff and community groups, festivities included a tenant art exhibition, street art, information stalls, gift bags and a barbecue.

The official ceremony included speeches by Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, Tanya Plibersek MP, Member for Sydney, Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans, Mission Australia Housing Executive Chris Bratchford and two moving and powerful speeches by Common Ground Sydney tenants, Cheryl and Jody.

Both receiving standing ovations, Cheryl and Jody gave emotional and confronting accounts of their journey out of homelessness and into independence with the support of Common Ground Sydney staff.

A tenant of Common Ground Sydney since 2013, Cheryl spoke about her time of living on the streets, being addicted to heroin since the age of 8 and her day to day struggle for survival.

Jody, a tenant at Common Ground Sydney since March 2012 lived in Tasmania with his partner, 3 daughters and son. When his relationship broke down, he lost everything: home, family and friends. Jody spoke about moving to Sydney where he slept rough in and around Central Station for 10 years. His story was about rehabilitation and reconnection with his son and today he declares that he is ‘dry drunk and its good.’

Outcomes achieved by tenants since the building’s opening in November 2011 point to the need for more Housing First models to be built across Australia.

“We have more than 110 people who currently call Common Ground Sydney home and 10 staff operating at the facility. Celebrating five years is a momentous occasion that we are proud of, particularly as we reflect on some major achievements by our residents,” said Catherine Yeomans.

“Since opening, 108 people who were formerly long term homeless have been accommodated at Common Ground Sydney, with 93 per cent of tenants with high needs being able to sustain their tenancies for more than 12 months. Another fantastic outcome worth noting is that 30 tenants with high needs have lived here for more than four years. When you consider that tenants have formerly been homeless for an average of 13 years, this is a very significant achievement,” Catherine continued.

Catherine and Chris Bratchford advocated for more long-term Housing First models saying, “Common Ground Sydney operates under the Housing First model which is proven to be one of the successful ways we can address the growing number of people who are chronically homeless. Housing an individual or family in their own home first, and then providing wrap-around supports allows for any other issues to be addressed from the stable base of their own home.”

Offering intensive, wrap around supports tailored to people’s individual circumstances to assist them settle into their new homes and address their often entrenched and complex issues means tenants can overcome problems which can be enduring relating to chronic homelessness. It also helps them to achieve positive life changes and develop independent living skills.

The socially integrated six story residential building at Common Ground Sydney includes 104 units, 24/7 concierge service, proactive on-site tenancy and support services as well as a gym, community kitchen, art room, computer suite, clinical consultation rooms, roof garden, communal lounge, library, courtyard, BBQ area and secure bicycle storage.

Concluding the official ceremony, Rebecca a tenant of Common Ground Sydney since 2012 gave an outstanding singing performance of 'Rise like a Phoenix', originally performed by Conchita Wurst, the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner. Rebecca began singing, dancing and acting lessons at 7 years of age and got her first job performing at the age of 9 touring Australia in a pantomime.

Resonating with the day, the lyrics spoke of someone who has struggled and survived adversity, 'rising from the ashes', like the legendary Phoenix, to begin a new life, one where there is respect and tolerance.

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'

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Mission Australia Housing is a Tier 1 Registered Housing Provider through National Registration and is registered as a ‘Growth Provider’ with the WA Housing Authority. Mission Australia Housing is also a National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) Approved Participant.

Mission Australia Housing Victoria is a Registered Housing Provider with the Victorian Housing Registrar.