Homes for the homeless on Common Ground

CONSTRUCTION has commenced on the 40-unit “Common Ground” housing complex, half of which is earmarked for homeless people, with the other half to be rented out at reduced rates as affordable housing.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury officially kicked off the building works this morning at the site near the Gungahlin town centre, on the corner of Hinder Street and The Valley Way Avenue.

The Government hopes the development will be completed by December 2014.

Common Ground map

“Common Ground is a housing model that provides permanent homes and the support to help individuals achieve stability and improvement in their lives,” Ms Gallagher said.

“Using a Housing First approach, Common Ground takes people direct from homelessness and follows through with the support they require to stay housed, improve their health and live independently.”

Mr Rattenbury explained the Common Ground model had been pioneered in New York City, and said it had proven to be an effective way of responding to homelessness in many other cities across Australia, including Melbourne and Adelaide, and elsewhere in the world.

The project was a a key item in the Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement.

“Being homeless or sleeping rough can be a dangerous and traumatising experience, especially in Canberra’s harsh climate,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“This initiative aims to not only provide permanent housing, but also support formerly homeless people achieve a stable lifestyle through a range of services, including  support for medical and mental illnesses through to linking people with training, education and employment opportunities.

“The Common Ground model recognises that stability is more likely to be achieved if an individual has somewhere permanent and safe to live.”

The original Common Ground organisation “has created 3,200 units of affordable permanent and transitional housing in the northeastern United States and enabled more than 5,000 people to overcome homelessness”, according to its website.

Mr Rattenbury said the development at Gungahlin would not have been possible without cross-community support for the project, particularly the advocacy of the Common Ground Canberra group.

“The ACT Government, with support of the Federal Government, will be investing $17 million for the project,” he added. “The Snow Foundation has made a generous contribution of $500,000 and we have also received a number of community donations.”

Argyle Community Housing will act as the tenancy manager at Common Ground and Northside Community Services will provide social services to occupants.

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