Dianne Jensen reports on how the Glebe Road Uniting Church congregation in Ipswich is helping Queenslanders to keep a roof over their heads.
Whether you are a dab hand with a paint brush or more at home with gardening gloves, Habitat for Humanity can use your skills. The Glebe Road congregation has become the hub of the Ipswich chapter of this Christian organisation which has built 600 000 houses worldwide.
There are five Habitat houses in Ipswich and four in Gympie, plus a rented house in Kingston. Three of the homes were donated by the Gold Coast construction company Pearls MiiHome and erected by the Ipswich chapter at Bundamba and Moore’s Pocket for 2011 flood victims.
Volunteer coordinator Rev Trevor Foote and chairman Ken Fischer are both members of the Glebe Road congregation, which has nominated Habitat as a mission area.
“The biggest attraction with Habitat is that the home owners put in their 500 hours of sweat equity. Their sense of pride and ownership comes from the fact that they built their own house together with our volunteers,” says Trevor, a founding member. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2013 for services to the community and the Uniting Church in Australia.
When the 2011 floods inundated low-lying areas of Ipswich, Habitat put the building program on the back burner. Once the emergency passed, there was a new dilemma for many vulnerable residents. Who was going to clean up the muddy houses, destroyed fences and rubbish-strewn yards?
Brush with Kindness, a Habitat home preservation service, came to the fore. Volunteers took on nearly 30 household renovation projects in the first clean-up phase, helping with painting, landscaping and repairs.
Since 2011 the program has expanded to meet the needs of other vulnerable groups. Recent projects included a clean-up of a pensioner couple’s yard, with Habitat volunteers raising $1500 towards a new fence.
The “hand up, not a hand out” model is a key component, and residents are expected to help out where they can in terms of labour and a donation towards costs.
“There are a couple of areas of real need,” says Ken Fischer. “People like single mums who don’t have any family or anyone to help them. Often they will move into a house that’s been left in disrepair and they need a hand to clean that up, or they’ll have a partner who has left and wrecked everything. Another vulnerable group are people whose only income is the aged or disability pension but they’ve got a house or garden that they are no longer capable of maintaining.”
To find out more visit habitat.org.au