Lloyd Hopkins, Moss Vale
When Lloyd first came to his (then) NSW Housing Commission home in Moss Vale in 1993, he found very hard clay soil full of rock rubble. Not ideal to make a great garden. But Lloyd illustrates that with persistence, lots of work and a swag of resilience, even the most unproductive soil can bloom.
Lloyd’s garden is a work of art with 64 rose bushes, 20 eriostemons (for the bees), trees such as a magnolia, winding pathways, and interesting artworks and statues.
Why has he done this? I asked him, and his reply is that it makes his house a home. He has found that investing his labour into a beautiful garden also lifts the whole surrounding area. He has now been here 27 years, gardening from day one, and it shows.
To create his garden, Lloyd first needed to create places to plant. With a mattock, he dug out the large holes, about 50cm deep, where his roses would go and filled them with horse manure obtained free from a neighbouring farm. These deep, enriched spots were perfect for his first rose plants. Lloyd does not use any chemical fertilisers or pesticides, preferring to rely on nature. He notes that when aphids come in to partake of succulent new growth on the roses, it is not long before the ladybirds turn up to eat the aphids as nature intends.
If you want to grow roses, Lloyd says that they are generally a hardy plant, that thrives on neglect. Except in winter, they will bloom, with flowers in many colours including white, yellow, apricot and wonderful shades of palest pink to brilliant crimson. Buy them at your local garden centre (but not supermarkets). Speak to the nursery worker who will be able to recommend the most suitable plants for your situation, and, more to the point, they know what won’t do well in your location.
Roses are frost hardy and cope with winter by becoming dormant. Pruning them back to the older wood keeps them from becoming straggly. Drought conditions have been tough however, and Lloyd has lost a few from a high of 78. The reason for this is that the soil becomes too hot on the extremely warm days we have had, which causes the roots to bake. In such a prolonged period of heat, only the hardiest and most resilient survive.
Lloyd most values his scented roses and has a ‘Mr Lincoln’ growing near his front door so that its scent wafts into the house. He is not choosy about breeds but buys what he likes on the grounds that a rose is a rose. In fact, he so loves roses that he has been known to rescue a rose growing in a public place by giving it a good prune!
As well as the roses, Lloyd’s garden features a beautiful weeping acacia which has a tale behind it. Apparently, Lloyd decided to develop a frog pond and built a sandstone structure to fill with water. Alas, it was not a great triumph as a water feature, so Lloyd filled it with good soil and planted a tiny sprig of wattle. This flexible approach has paid off to the extent that he now has an amazing green waterfall effect in the middle of the garden.
There is also an eclectic collection of garden ornaments placed around the garden to delight the eye. Everything from children’s toys and a number of weathered Buddhas to a lovely angel statue can be found. Lloyd is given these spontaneously by people who want to add something to his garden. Though this may sound twee, I think these things add a spirit to the garden that lifts it beyond a manicured display towards the mystical.
I asked if anyone helps with his garden but Lloyd says not with the physical work. However, he gets given lots of advice, which he always listens to because you can always learn something new. He is also fond of gardening programs such as Gardening Australia on ABC TV, which is a great source of ideas. He brought in the eriostemons after watching David Attenborough’s program, ‘Life of Bees’, and he is delighted by the way the bees congregate when the flowers are ready.
Argyle Housing tenant
Alicia loves her home
When we welcome new tenants into Argyle Housing, we visit them at the six-week mark into their tenancy to see how they are fitting into their new home and to see if we can help them in any way. Alicia is one of our new residents and was visited by our Tenancy Officer and Tenancy Action Worker who found her story and achievements so inspirational they asked Alicia if they could share her story.
My time with Argyle Housing so far has been incredible! I love my home, I love having a garden and I especially love the freedom of being out of the private rental market.
I absolutely love my new neighbourhood! I’ve moved into an area full of families, children and loads of parks from a heavily built up area. My neighbours are so friendly and kind, and I feel incredibly safe. I can safely go for walks alone or with my son because the sense of community in my new neighbourhood is so strong. Everyone looks after everyone.
Through moving to Argyle Housing, it has given me financial stability and resilience, which is so much more than I ever thought a housing agency could provide. I’ve been able to pursue career and personal development opportunities that I previously couldn’t afford. I bought my son a bike and presents for Christmas this year. Before moving into my new home I didn’t know if there’d be any presents under the tree at all.
Knowing that my rent is paid and I can pay for food and necessities without needing help from my parents has been a blessing. I’ve been able to spend more time with my son and more time on my career.
I’m currently studying my Certificate III in Individual Support, specialising in Disabilities. This will allow me to work as an AIN in a 1-on-1 setting, with people with disabilities.
I’ve always wanted to be a positive light in people’s lives, love to help others, educate them and help them achieve their goals. This course allows me to do that on a professional level for people who often can’t speak up for themselves or demand their human rights be protected.
I have found the biggest challenge has been balancing my course with my personal life. I struggled finding a location, time and delivery method that I could match with how many days of daycare I could afford. I chose to study through my Parents Next provider, Wesley Mission, as they offered tailored courses for parents trying to access study.
My five year goal is to be financially secure, with savings and an income that allows me to send my son to a Steiner School. As long as my son and I are happy, safe and comfortable, I will be content.
Outside of my study, I am currently gathering donations to give to fire-ravaged communities on NSW South Coast. I grew up on the South Coast, and over the course of the Christmas/New Year’s period I was watching more and more of my childhood burn to the ground. I was obsessively watching the news and checking social media to make sure my friends and family were still alive. I felt incredibly powerless but knew I had to do something to help the communities that gave me such a beautiful childhood. I started contacting everyone I could get onto, I emailed the MP for the South Coast and called countless evacuation centres, and started collecting donations for babies and children. I’ve been organising these into family-specific packs. Using social media I’ve been able to directly contact victims who have lost everything and take care of what their children need. My main goal is to help parents make things as normal as possible for their little ones in this dark time. I’ve so far delivered five packs, supplying 17 children with clothing and toys, along with some toiletries and sanitary items that have been kindly passed on to me by Argyle Housing. Everyone needs a bit of help sometimes and the bushfire crisis has really shown how willing Australians are to pitch in and help out their neighbours.
Alicia, Argyle Housing tenant
Little by little, one travels far: Phil’s journey
By Pema Sedon
Phillip Rowe is a musician and an engineer by profession. He moved to Australia some years ago from England and started living in Ainslie Village in 2013.
Phillip has always been open about his drug use and his experience of mental illness. He had a 30 plus year history of drug use, however, he has now been clean for more than two years.
Phil has been working alongside Argyle Housing staff who have helped him create an Individual Housing Support Plan. During the planning, Phillip stated that he would like to get some support to apply for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), start volunteering outside Ainslie Village, to upskill and grow his knowledge and to find accommodation outside the Village. Phillip agreed to take a single step at a time, slowly but steadily. Today, Phillip has grown in self-confidence and resilience and has achieved almost all of the goals he wanted to fulfil within a year.
Less than a year ago, Phillip was supported to apply for the NDIS and to attend his first planning meeting with the agency. His plan is now coordinated by one of the NDIS service providers in ACT. This service provider is working with Phillip to transition into supported accommodation out of Ainslie Village.
Phillip has also started volunteering two days in a week with CAHMA. He has been volunteering for almost six months now.
Phil is now looking forward to upgrading his skills and knowledge in technology with Canberra Institute of Technology later this year. Argyle Housing staff will be supporting Phillip with planning around this goal.
We are so proud of Phil’s achievements in such a short period of time.
“You don’t get this lucky everyday”
Frank, Wagga Wagga
Throughout Wagga Wagga, there are a number of people that are on the Social Housing waiting list who have specific needs and who have been waiting for the right home.
Argyle Housing has been aware of this need and has completed building four new properties in Kooringal. They are free standing units that have been designed from the ground up with the needs of the Wagga Wagga tenants in mind.
Frank is just one person that has been waiting for his new home.
Frank is an older Italian man who has been living in a 107-year-old property through a local real estate that is in desperate need of some in-depth renovations and maintenance. Unfortunately, Frank’s wishes to have some of the issues with the property fixed were not heard and nothing was being done. Frank has been stuck without the basic needs such as heating and cooling and has had varying periods without hot water whilst still paying a very large amount of private rent. Due to Frank’s current financial situation, he was unable to afford a property of a better quality. With this in mind, Argyle Housing was able to offer Frank a viewing of the newly completed homes in Kooringal.
Frank was brought to view the property for the first time by his ex-wife. She explained to our Tenancy Officer, Corina that Frank has had an extremely hard life as a child and again as an immigrant here in Australia. Even the last few years had been a terrible time in his life as their relationship had broken down and they had separated. Not long after the separation, Frank lost a son and recently lost family members in Italy as a result of COVID-19. Through all of this hardship, Frank has built upon each experience learning new ways to become resilient and focus on bouncing back after each hurdle.
To be able to give back to Frank by providing him with a new home is a small reward for a life well lived. Frank was absolutely overwhelmed and all he could tell Corina was “Thank you, thank you, how did I get to be such a lucky man”. He was so incredibly grateful to have been offered the property and to not only have his basic needs met but to go above and beyond and have such a beautiful home. After everything Frank has faced in his life and suffered through in the last few years, Corina was very happy to offer the property to Frank.
At a Glance
The Access & Allocations team is located in Bowral, Head Office. Our team of 4, assess all Applications for Social Housing, received by the Argyle local offices. When the Tenancy teams have a vacant property, it is the Access & Allocations team, who go onto the NSW Social Housing waiting list, to find a new tenant.
As you will see in the figures below, there has been a drop in the number of Applications for Social Housing received and processed by the team. This is due to clients now applying through the online application process and over the phone. There was push, earlier this year, to have clients apply digitally and over the phone directly to the Housing Contact Centre, in attempts to reduce the need for paper applications.
We have also noted less allocations being made, with fewer tenants requesting transfers and hence fewer properties becoming vacant. We believe this could be due to OVID-19 and wanting to stay in their current properties and surroundings.
Access and Allocations
Community Connections 2019-2020
Domestic Violence Awareness Walk
In November 2019 the Southern Highlands Domestic Violence Forum held the 2nd Awareness walk at Bradman Oval. On the day people from all backgrounds came together to walk the oval wearing white t-shirts in support of ‘Say no to Violence’. The Local Lions Club provided a BBQ breakfast. The day was showcased in the local paper and attended by numerous local organisations including police and local schools.
Other Service Meetings
Although there were fewer expos and events this past year due to COVID19, Access & Allocation were able to attend several service meetings and information sessions through social media interactions. Some of these occur on a regular basis, others are a one-off session arranged by a service provider for a specific reason.
- Southern Highland Domestic Violence Forum – Argyle Housing takes an active leading role in the DV Forum passing on knowledge , advice and joining in all activities the forum puts together to raise awareness of domestic violence throughout the Southern Highlands . Unfortunately all events this year have been postponed until early 2021 due to COVID-19. Access & Allocations team leader Julie Roberts, is the current president of the forum, as voted by the attending committee.
- Wingecarribee Aboriginal Networking Group – a staff member from Access & Allocations has been attending these meeting in Mittagong, joining other supports services that assist our Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander clients prior to COVID-19.
- Post COVID-19, the Access & Allocation Team Leader has been attending Virtual meetings monthly to network & share our housing knowledge with support providers still working closely with the local Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Communities.
Local Support Services – when approached by local service providers, Argyle Housing’s Access & Allocation staff attend staff meetings and presentations, to pass on knowledge of local housing issues, Social Housing information whilst always showcasing Argyle Housing values .
Premier’s Youth Initiative Program
The Premier’s Youth Initiative is a program that provides services to young people leaving statutory out-of-home care, who are identified as being vulnerable to experiencing homeless or at risk of homelessness on exit from care. The program aims to build the long-term capacity and resilience of young people in order to permanently divert them from the homelessness service system.
Young care leavers are given access to a personal advisor, education and employment mentoring as well as help in find long-term accommodation. The program assists them to develop strong personal networks and skills to navigate multiple adult support service systems and increase their capacity to manage crises and change as they transition to independence.
Argyle Housing works in partnership with Premier’s Youth Initiative to manage young people that come from the Department of Community and Justice Foster Care program and other referral agencies.
As a collaboration between Argyle Housing and Premier’s Youth Initiative, a contribution from PYI to the ongoing overheads for a staff member from Argyle Housing to work as a Tenancy Officer for PYI clients ensures that tenancy services offered to the young people are consistent and reflect the needs of the young people that come through the program.
Argyle Housing helps the nominations lease into a private rental and guides young people through the journey of sustaining their tenancies. It is a joint effort by support services and Argyle Housing to work with young people in need of safe and secure housing. The agencies work together to ensure that young people in the PYI program feel supported, and help them build resilience in dealing with everyday problems as they arise to ensure that they build on their confidence and sustain their tenancy.
PYI Case Study 1
Prior to entering the Premier’s Youth Initiative program (PYI), Meg was in an Alternative Care Agreement that was staffed 24 /7 and had a range of complex care needs including extensive ongoing mental health issues. In meetings with her care provider, we had discussions around the concerns we had for Meg moving into independent living in transitional accommodation, as she would no longer have access to staff for support. As part of Meg’s leaving care plan discussion, we had advocated for having post-care youth work support in place to assist Meg in her transition from her care provider and a wind down of support as Meg adjusted to her new setting.
In assisting Meg further, we had discussions with her proposing that we would locate a transitional property that was close to the office so we could facilitate drop in support more effectively, and Meg could easily walk down to our office to chat or seek support from the team. Meg agreed to this plan moving forward.
An outcome of this advocacy and collaboration with Meg, her care provider and Department of Community and Justice, meant these supports were approved as part of her leaving care financial plan, and have been an integral part of supporting Meg in establishing a framework from which she can build resilience in herself and move into independent living.
Once Meg moved into her transitional accommodation, her engagement with the PYI team was inconsistent. Meg had started to struggle with her anxiety and other mental health concerns especially while she was sorting out family relationships and there was a delay in transfer of allied health services. During this time the PYI team remained consistent and transparent in our work with Meg, still dropping by her place to offer support even if she had not replied to our calls or messages, leaving our business cards in her door if she was not home to let her know that we were trying to meet with her.
After willingly engaging with PYI and accessing her approved post-care youth work support, Meg now shows high levels of independence. She is engaged and participates in therapeutic services, aftercare services, is actively seeking employment including arranging her own work trials and is currently searching for a rental property to move into in the Liverpool area. Meg calls PYI if she needs further advocacy and support in achieving her identified goals.
PYI Case Study 2
Stewie has been part of Premier’s Youth Initiative program (PYI) since July 2018 and moved into transitional accommodation in May 2019 after residing with his mother since turning 18 and disclosing to us that his mother was taking most of what he was earning from him and only leaving him with a small amount of money each week.
Once in secure accommodation, Stewie started to feel that he was in a safe and stable environment while looking for new employment opportunities. During this time, he started recalling past traumas from his childhood, as well as have difficulties with anger management / emotional regulation when having relationship difficulties with his girlfriend. In a very short time there was a downward spiral and he had smashed his belongings, caused property damage, was self-medicating with alcohol, self-harming / suicide attempts which resulted in two separate times being scheduled and spending as an inpatient at the local hospital and there has also been Police intervention resulting from a domestic violence incident between him and girlfriend.
During this time Stewie’s engagement was sporadic with PYI. As a team, they continued to make contact with him regularly contact, at times Stewie did not respond to their calls or messages, but when he did, they would book in face-to-face meetings and support services that gave Stewie the tools in order to build resilience, strength and confidence within himself. The PYI team would still show up to these planned home visits even if we had no confirmation on the day to see if he was home and open to meeting with the team. PYI would again leave business cards in his door if he was not home to know that we still had shown up, as we wanted to meet with him and offer support. At this time, PYI was the only service that Stewie was involved with.
It has taken about 12 months since these incidents for Stewie to be back on track with his goals, after ongoing conversations about what he wants to accomplish and planning the steps needed to not only achieve these goals but also maintain them. I do believe that it is because of the relationships Stewie has built with the PYI team due to our consistency in contact and offering support, even if he was not ready to accept it as well as our open and transparent communication that he had been willing to come to us and ask for help.
Now, Stewie’s engaged with Headspace to work on his anger management /mental health, which is also helping improve his relationships. Stewie is also linked in with Opportunity Pathways who have helped him obtain employment doing construction formwork, which he is enjoying immensely. He is now working on completing his driving lessons to go for his provisional licence (with help from PYI and ACE Aftercare) as his employer would like to give him further responsibilities / tasks once he is able to drive without supervision.
NB: Young person’s names were changed
Learning new financial literacy
Aaron, Queanbeyan tenant
Aaron has been an Argyle Housing tenant for a few years and up until recently was able to sustain his tenancy well. Unfortunately, due to a change in Aaron’s situation he was at risk of losing his tenancy due to rental arrears.
Renetta Miller, a Tenancy Officer from Goulburn, was assisting in the Argyle Housing Queanbeyan office and was made aware of a financial issue that Aaron had been going through. This issue made it extremely difficult for him to not only pay rent but support himself in any way with the basics like food and medicine.
The matter was brought to the attention of our Team Leader and Housing Services Manager and a referral was also made to the Tenancy Action Worker from Young to try to assist Aaron with his financial issues, and look at other ways in which Argyle Housing could help him – either with other support services or further advice. Aaron was subsequently referred to local service providers who assisted him with food hampers, financial support and advice to build on Aaron’s financial resilience and advocacy to have his financial situation resolved.
To further assist Aaron with his tenancy, initial discussions were had with BlueCHP around his circumstances and Argyle Housing advocated on the Aaron’s behalf to have hardship allowances applied to the rental amount, with conditions, to sustain his tenancy and support him.
The team has continued to advocate for financial assistance for Aaron through the local support agency, and he is going through the process of having his Centrelink decision reviewed, which will further assist him in his journey.