An innovative program for homeless young people, the biggest of its kind in Australia, was officially opened by Premier Colin Barnett at Central’s campus in Leederville today.
The multimillion dollar Foyer Oxford project will provide housing in an aspirational community of 98 young people, including 24 parents and their children, in a new purpose-built four-storey building on the Central campus. It is the first project of its kind in Western Australia.
The ambitious project – a partnership between Foundation Housing Limited; Central Institute of Technology and Anglicare WA – has been five years in planning and development. It is now part of an international movement of Foyer projects, providing a proven model of assisting young people at risk of homelessness to transition into independence.
Foyer Oxford has attracted around $35 million in financial support from the corporate and government sectors, with capital funding received through the WA Department of Housing and Lotterywest. In what is a unique partnership in Australia, BHP Billiton and the WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support will provide joint operation funding over the first five years of the project.
Foundation Housing CEO Kathleen Gregory said the Foyer program attended to the root cause of the complex problem of homelessness which affected thousands of young people in WA.
“Every night, there are about 6,000 young Western Australians without a bed of their own. Most of them bounce from place to place, ‘couch surfing’ with friends, or cycling through institutional care,” she said.
“The Foyer program is different, and successful, because it focuses on people’s strengths and capacities, rather than their problems and deficits. It gives them what they need to really thrive.”
Foyer Oxford is the first facility of its kind in WA and one of 1,000 Foyers across the world. The model is considered best practice because it provides at-risk young people, aged 16 to 25 years, with long-term transitional accommodation and comprehensive support, and ready access to education, training and employment opportunities.
Anglicare WA CEO Ian Carter AM said the Oxford Street project was founded on the success of significant overseas experience and the running of an Interim Foyer established in Mt Lawley, in 2011.
“The smaller-scale Foyer was the perfect testing ground. Fourteen young people, including four young parents and their children, were accommodated there and their success stories show that our approach has made a real impact,” he said.
“Many young people who came to the Interim Foyer from difficult circumstances, have now moved into their own home and are on their way to achieving really great things.”
Foyer Oxford provides multidimensional support for residents, facilitated by a skilled and committed professional team available 24/7. Assistance includes mentoring; links to recreational and community groups; workshops on every-day skills such as cooking and financial management; and assistance to find work in the local community.
“This is a great model that has been proved to succeed elsewhere around the world”, said Premier Colin Barnett.
“The facility brings with it a mutual obligation. An obligation to provide an affordable rental, new, modern, attractive accommodation with security and safety. With that, goes an obligation on residents to work on getting their lives in order, engaging in education or employment and then moving on to personal and social independence allowing another new group to come in here”, he said.
Education is a critical factor and Central has designed a specific course for Foyer residents, called Jumpstart, which concentrates on career development, independent living skills, personal development, literacy and numeracy.
It is the first time an educational institution has been closely integrated into a social project of this kind and the successful model is now being replicated in other states around Australia.
It has been a project close to the heart of Central’s Managing Director Neil Fernandes, who has been a key part of the not-for-profit consortium which has pursued the development for five years.
“When my old colleague Ian Carter, now CEO of Anglicare, approached me about Central becoming involved I was keen,” Mr Fernandes said.
“Actively engaging and contributing to the community has always been at the core of our strategic plan and here was an opportunity to do that like never before.
“We had the land, which was put aside for student accommodation, and Anglicare and Foundation Housing had the skills and expertise. It seemed like the perfect match.
“It is our unsaid motto in TAFE that we change people’s lives and to be prominent in a project that clearly transforms people’s circumstances resonates well with us. “
The Jumpstart training program residents undertake was particularly geared to support people who had previously struggled in the education system.
Campus services, including the library, gym and counselling support, are also available to Foyer tenants.
The architect-designed Foyer Oxford building, on land provided by Central, provides a secure, attractive and affordable living space comprising 98 self-contained bedsit-style apartments and communal facilities, including a common room with entertainment equipment; garden and courtyard; laundry; training room; and barbecue area with platform for music performances.
On the ground floor, which is integrated in the Leederville streetscape, is a café, Pilates studio and meeting space for the Youth Affairs Council of WA. There are also specialised support services and facilities to assist young parents take up work and education.
The sophisticated building features sustainable and energy-conserving design, 24-hour security and electronic surveillance systems to ensure residents feel safe.