The Support and Housing Initiative for Families in Transition, or SHIFT, is essentially an interface between people requiring transitional housing and humanitarian-minded property owners who can offer accommodation on a sublease through Anglicare. It is specifically for those seeking refuge from traumatic situations who require a lease of 6-18 months in order to get back on their feet.
“There’s been a real desire in churches to want to help those in need, particularly refugees, but many churches are unsure about how they can actually help,” says the manager of SHIFT. Belinda Burn.
“On the other hand, there are all sorts of people – including refugees, but also people fleeing domestic violence or leaving behind various traumatic situations – who have nowhere to go and don’t even begin to know where to look. A big part of this program is about creating pathways connecting those property and social resources with the people who need them.”
The program operates with individuals and churches who lease their property to Anglicare. Anglicare then subleases to clients who pay as little as 40 per cent of the market rate, with Anglicare subsidising any gap through donations between this amount and the rate negotiated with the landlord.
One church providing such a property is Gymea Anglican, which has already entered a lease agreement with Anglicare and is awaiting a family to move into a house on church property.
“We have a house that had been used as a youth hangout, but we thought maybe it was being underused,” says Gymea’s rector the Rev Graham Crew. “So we heard this call from the Refugee Response, and also from SHIFT, and thought maybe this was something we could help with.
“We also asked our young people about this because they’d renovated the place and made it their own, and they immediately said, ‘Well, other people need it more than we do,’ and got behind it. The response from the congregation as a whole has been great.”
The house has already been prepared and furnished for an expected refugee family, with the whole church pitching in to make it happen.
While the provision of secure property is the defining aspect of SHIFT, Ms Burn says there is more to it than that. “Families will also have access to all sorts of services from Anglicare to help them transition, including a case worker, financial and trauma counselling, vocational or educational guidance – all kinds of services to help them begin a new stage of life on a secure footing,” she says.
“A really unique aspect of the program is that it presents an opportunity for churches to directly assist by providing a home, furnishing it and so on, while also providing a local community for families if they want that – one that can be welcoming and caring.”
Adds Mr Crew: “We’ve come to realise through our kids and ESL programs that even in the Shire, a relatively wealthy area, so many people are struggling in all sorts of ways. There’s an awareness and desire that has grown here to care for the vulnerable, the refugee, the afflicted, as Jesus would want us to do, and I think helping in this way sits with that.”
Anglicare plans to have 12 SHIFT properties by the end of the next financial year throughout Sydney and the Illawarra.
Image: Gymea Youth, sourced from http://gymeaanglican.org.au/