An innovative Aboriginal housing initiative

Based in Perth, Ruah Community Services assists disadvantaged individuals through housing solutions, mental health and family services. Ruah established the recent 50 Lives 50 Homes project which saw 160 of Perth’s most vulnerable rough sleepers housed within two years and supported with wrap around services to maintain housing security.

With recent funding from the Mercy Foundation, Ruah has embarked on a new research and support project, Wongi Mia (Strong Home), with the objective of breaking the cycle of intergenerational homelessness and poverty. The project involves one Ruah case worker supporting one Aboriginal man, “Robby”, who was identified as part of 50 Lives 50 Homes. Robby’s accommodation was subject to overcrowding and other antisocial behaviour as a result of pressure from extended family members also experiencing homelessness. This jeopardised Robby’s tenancy and long term housing.

By arranging regular “Yarning Sessions” with Robby and his extended family, the Wongi Mia case worker has been able to ascertain what hurdles are threatening access to housing and long term tenancies for his relatives.   High mortality rates and subsequent “sorry business” obligations coupled with poor literacy rates have been identified as two of the biggest issues that make access to housing and its associated administrative requirements difficult for Aboriginal people in this project group.

The Wongi Mia project outcomes will be assessed with an Action Research approach allowing learnings to be implemented in future housing solutions.

This project challenges the usual practice of housing individuals and instead looks at solutions that include extended family and family obligations. Ultimately, this project will result in more appropriate housing and successful long term housing outcomes for Aboriginal people experiencing homelessness.