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Home is where the heart is

”My son has never been able to go to the sink and wash his hands…in his whole life.” ~Tracey

Joshua smiles over the edge of the couch, interested to meet his guests. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

Buying a home is an aspiration for many and is usually the largest financial investment a person will make in their lifetime.

 

For single mum Tracey and her three sons Nathan, Daniel and Joshua that enormous moment is about to become a reality. It is something she long thought impossible. Now, through a program run by not-for-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity Victoria, Tracey is building her dream family home.

 

Ensuring Australians have access to stable and secure housing is the focus of Habitat for Humanity, Victoria. The group aims to increase the supply of affordable housing to help low-income families secure a place to call home.

Tracey and her boys: Daniel, Nathan and Josh. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

Tracey’s sons are, for the most part, typical young men: Nathan is working, Daniel has finished Year 12 and is ready to head off to university. Joshua, the youngest, is obsessed with sport (so obsessed, he is watching the tennis on TV while playing a game of cricket on his iPad). Joshua also has cerebral palsy.

 

Josh plays a game of cricket on his iPad. Photo: Jun Sawa

Joshua is one of approximately 34,000 people living with cerebral palsy in Australia. Care for an Australian with cerebral palsy is estimated to cost an average of AU$43,431 per person per year. Around 37 per cent of this cost is borne by the individual or their family.

 

Living in a rental property with Joshua in a wheelchair is logistically challenging for Tracey and her boys. Simply finding a rental property that accommodates Joshua’s wheelchair is an ordeal in itself.

 

Joshua needs assistance in his daily routine. Above, Joshua’s brother Daniel helps him into his wheelchair so he can have mobility. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

When I first met Tracey and her sons I was reminded of the lack of affordable, accessible housing - especially in the rental market. Tracey, understandably, was keen to have a permanent home for her boys, preferably one that catered for her youngest son’s disability and could provide him a sense of independence.

 

“Most people go into a bathroom without a second thought,” Tracey says. “But my son has never been able to go to the sink and wash his hands - in a house - in his whole life.”

 

 

All that’s about to change. On the table in Tracey’s kitchen are the final plans for her new home. The design has been customised for Tracey and her son’s needs, including accessibility for Joshua’s wheelchair. He will finally be able to brush his teeth and wash his hands easily at home.

 

Tracey still finds it surreal but she can imagine how her new house, her house, will bring some permanence and security for her family.

 

It's pretty unbelievable,” Tracey says. “There are things I haven't been able to do in a rental. You're always worried about damaging stuff.”

 

Tracey shares the plans for her new home with ANZ District Manager, Rob Lichtendonk and I. Habitat for Humanity has worked with Tracey to make it accessible for her family. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

Tracey has big plans to make the home really her own.

 

“I've had a dream all my life to own a family home and one of my biggest dreams is to foster care children,” Tracey continues. “This house will allow me to do that, to give back to a lot of kids.”

 

Tracey explains what a permanent home means for her: independence for Joshua and an opportunity for Tracey to take in a foster child. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

Tracey’s desire to give back to the community is something Habitat for Humanity sees in many of its partner families.

Phil Wright, Business Development Manager, Habitat for Humanity Victoria, says a safe and secure home helps partner families in many ways.

 

“Access to housing is transformative for the whole family” he says. “But is especially so for Josh. Having their own home can bring strength, stability and enormous self-reliance for them as individuals and as a family.

 

“And because home ownership is so empowering, we see the flow on benefits in terms of educational, social and educational outcomes. We often find families are so grateful they enter a community with a lot of goodwill and they want to get involved and contribute.”  

 

Phil Wright, Business Development Manager, Habitat for Humanity Victoria, looks forward to the moment the house keys are handed to a new family. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

How it works

 

Habitat for Humanity in Victoria is focused on building affordable housing for low income families in housing stress. It purchases affordable plots of land which are subdivided for safe, decent and affordable homes to be built.

 

"For our projects, there is a range of requirements to meet and clearly a significant one is the cost of land and that has become a lot more difficult in the last few years,” Phil says. “We have to find land we can afford, because it’s a big part of our model.”

 

Habitat for Humanity bought the Yea Heights subdivision to help many of the families and individuals impacted by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. They’ve been able to help some of those families and many others in the years that have followed.

 

The Yea Heights Estate development has its origins in Habitat for Humanity’s response to assist families affected by the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires. After developing the site and connecting all required services, they’ve built 15 affordable houses on this estate. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

Habitat works to keep the cost of each building down without reducing quality. Construction is a joint effort with partner families, Habitat for Humanity and volunteers all contributing to the build. Anyone who can swing a hammer or set a block in place is welcomed with open arms.

 

Over the years, I’ve volunteered with Habitat for Humanity on a number of its constructions. I’ve regularly been joined by a team of ANZ employees who enjoy giving back to the community.

 

Rob and I chat with Phil about the building schedule for Tracey’s house. After the foundations have been laid we can start to organise volunteers. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

It takes a lot of hands to build a house and I’ve always been proud of the number of my colleagues who demonstrate they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and have a go. Seeing a house become a home for these families is an experience I’m unable to forget. It’s nice to know we can make a difference for people.

 

ANZ has a long history of supporting the communities in which we live and work through our workplace giving program, employee volunteering and the ANZ Community Foundation.

 

The ANZ Community Foundation is funded by regular contributions made by ANZ employees, which is double matched by ANZ. The Foundation aims to support projects run by charitable organisations which offer a direct and tangible benefit to local communities.

 

Each year, the Foundation provides small grants up to $30,000 to charities throughout Australia. In 2019 we donated AU$25,000 to Habitat for Humanity Victoria, to assist with the modifications to Tracey’s house to make it accessible for Joshua.

 

Fully customisable: Habitat for Humanity encourages families to personalise the colours and textures of their homes as much as possible. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

Phil’s favourite part of working for Habitat for Humanity Victoria isn’t building the house, it’s when the keys are handed over.

 

“When a family like Tracey’s gets to own their own home is it's very empowering,” says Phil. “There's enormous benefit for the family for years to come.”

 

Tracey and Josh look forward to moving into their new home. Photo: Jun Sawa

 

Watch the video above to find out more.

 

 

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