In a win-win for the church and disabled community, the parish of Frenchs Forest has begun to build three specialist disability homes on the site of an old Northern Beaches church.
“For a number of years we've had a church here,” says the rector, the Rev Dave Lanham, standing on the now-vacant block at Beacon Hill. “Over the last few years, Holy Trinity, Beacon Hill struggled in its impact on the local community and so we amalgamated a few years ago and we decided to stop gathering here.
“Since then, we have been trying to work through what's the best use of this land going forward.”
In partnership with the Anglican Church Growth Corporation (ACGC) and the Sustainable Development Group as part of the Urban Renewal Pilot Program, the parish decided to demolish the church and hall to build high-needs disability accommodation, which is in short supply in the middle and inner rings of Greater Sydney.
“We think the Diocese has an important offering in the area of specialist disability accommodation sector, where much of the supply of housing stock has occurred on the metropolitan urban fringes because of the high cost of land,” says ACGC CEO Ross Jones.
“We have land right across the Diocese, enabling us to provide SDA in areas relatively close to family support. We have more of these and other social infrastructure projects planned for integration on church land.”
Each of the houses will be home to three younger people – classified by the NDIS as high needs – some of whom are currently cared for in aged care facilities.
“That means that people will be living in these who are part of the NDIS,” Mr Lanham says. “We will receive some income which will help us in the development of the site up at Frenchs Forest.”
The sod-turning ceremony in early August was attended by the Mayor of Northern Beaches Council, Sue Heins, and the local State MP, who are both supportive of the development. The homes are expected to open next year.
Mr Lanham says despite the unfortunate aspect of a church closing, in God's kindness great good has come from the opportunity that will also facilitate ministry long term.
“So actually it remains something that contributes to the kingdom work because we haven't sold off the farm, we've continued to own it and actually we've repurposed it in a way that is really beneficial for us financially as well as contributing to the community wonderfully.”