Innovative scheme combines art and shelter
Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor has visited an innovative homelessness project in Berlin which is providing housing and support to some of Germany’s most vulnerable people.
Mr O’Connor said the Haus Schoneweide project, also known as Reichtum 2, has taken a unique approach to addressing homelessness by incorporating conceptual art to create a beautiful place to call home.
“Tackling the complex challenges of homelessness requires innovative thinking,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Breaking the cycle involves understanding why people become homeless in the first place.
“The idea behind Reichtum 2 is to restore a sense of dignity and pride to men who are homeless and have struggled with alcohol by giving them not just a home, but a beautiful one to enjoy and look after.
“Homelessness is everyone’s problem and we all have to work together to find solutions. This is an example of the not-for-profit sector working with philanthropists and the community to build treat the causes of homelessness.”
Designed by conceptual artist Miriam Kilali, Reichtum 2 provides a permanent home for up to 21 men at any one time. The residents were actively involved in renovating the dilapidated former hotel.
Residents are also provided with support, advice and access to healthcare to help them transition into long-term, stable accommodation.
It is the second Reichtum – or Wealth – project of its kind for Kilali. The first project, Hotel Marfino in Moscow, also aimed to create a beautiful place for homeless people to live and has been a great success.
Work is underway on a third project in New York to create the world’s most beautiful soup kitchen.
“The underlying philosophy behind the projects is that aesthetically beautiful places have a positive effect on people and help develop a sense of respect and dignity,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We know that homeless people face multiple challenges and have complex needs, which can sometimes include substance misuse and mental health issues, which is why projects like Reichtum 2 are so important.
“The Australian Government has made homelessness a national priority, with two ambitious goals – to halve the rate of homelessness and offer supported accommodation for all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020.
“The $1.1 billion National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness is only one, albeit important, component of this strategy.
“We are also building 50,000 affordable homes under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). Many of these homes are being built to six-star energy ratings, cutting utilities bills and making it easier for tenants to afford their homes.”
Under the NPAH, the Commonwealth is providing $550 million to the States and Territories to deliver more than 180 initiatives to reduce and prevent homelessness, including funding for 15 initiatives specifically targeted at people with mental health or substance misuse issues.
The Australian Government is also providing over $1 billion a year to States and Territories for social housing and homelessness, through the National Affordable Housing Specific Purpose Payment.
The funding is part of the Government’s unprecedented $20 billion investment in affordable housing and homelessness projects through schemes including the Social Housing Initiative, the Housing Affordability Fund and the Building Better Regional Cities initiative.
“We know that to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to ensure that there are affordable homes for people to live in,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Through our programs, the Australian Government has made a direct financial contribution to one in every 20 homes built since 2008.
“This is in stark contrast to the decade of neglect under the former government, which ripped $3 billion out of public housing.”
August 6-12 is National Homeless Persons Week in Australia. For more information, visit http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/site/HPW%202012.php