The Mirror News

Housing crisis open letter draws quick community response

• Manna Gum Community House social and affordable housing appeal letter volunteer coordinator Jeanette Pierce is “delighted” by the speed and number of responses already received to the open letter sent to Corner Inlet district residents by Manna Gum and Monash MHR Russell Broadbent. “We look forward to hearing from many more local people by Sunday October 31, 2021,” she said.

AN open letter sent recently to every Corner Inlet household appealing for ideas on how to fix the district’s “growing housing crisis” has already drawn a quick response from the local community.

Nearly a dozen comments, suggestions and offers of building-related skills have been received so far in reply to the letter, signed jointly by Foster’s Manna Gum Community House secretary Lisa Poynton, and Monash MHR Russell Broadbent.

The letter was issued “to alert you to a growing housing crisis in the Corner Inlet area and to ask for your support in providing information to help find a solution.”

Originally drafted by former Manna Gum management committee president Jeannette Pierce and Mr Broadbent’s chief of staff Tanya Dannock, the letter describes how some local people are “reaching desperation point as the shortage of housing worsens”.

The letter also stated that the lack of both “affordable and secure rental” properties and “adequate short-term and emergency accommodation, especially for those fleeing family violence” can and does “affect everyone in a community.”

Ms Pierce has volunteered to coordinate the community’s replies to the open letter and to collate the information to provide real-time data to the South Gippsland Shire Council’s currently developing Social and Affordable Housing Strategy.

“The need for more safe and affordable housing is something we’ve ben talking about at Manna Gum for a very long time,” she said.

“The letters were sent to residents in the Corner Inlet district because that’s Manna Gum’s footprint, and where our services and those of other local charities are directed.”

Ms Pierce said “a collaborative whole-of-government response with community input is required to find ways of solving this critical issue.

“We welcomed Mr Broadbent’s offer of his letterhead to be combined with Manna Gum’s to ask the members of our community what they think and what resources might be available to help,” she said.

“We’re absolutely delighted by the level of interest we’ve been given since the letter went out, and we certainly didn’t expect such response so quickly.”

Ms Pierce said among the responses has been a range of offers including potential dwellings, rooms in people’s homes, blocks of land, and handyman skills to “freshen buildings and make them fit-for-purpose.

“It’s very encouraging that the community is engaged in this issue, and obviously people feel [the housing shortfall] is something that affects the community as a whole,” she said.

“It’s clear that local people are prepared to help, and we’ll be making sure this community’s ideas and solutions are included in the Shire’s Social and Affordable Housing Strategy.”

Mr Broadbent said “desperate times call for desperate measures and I commend Manna Gum for leading this grassroots initiative to identify solutions.

“It is a shameful indictment on us as a society, that older women are now the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia, and it’s heartbreaking to hear the many stories of mothers and children fleeing domestic violence who have no choice but to live in their car. 

“As I said in the parliament in May, how can people go about their daily lives of work, schooling, and caring if they don’t have a roof over their head? How can you even sleep, shower, wash clothes, cook a meal and stay warm and safe? 

“It’s great to hear that many Corner Inlet residents have already responded to the survey and reached out to Manna Gum in response to their call for assistance,” Mr Broadbent said.

“I’m most thankful to everyone who is helping to address this nation-wide problem and look forward to seeing what community action can deliver.”

South Gippsland Shire Council CEO Kerryn Ellis said “Council is in the process of developing a Social and Affordable Housing Strategy that the future Council will consider.

“The development process will include consultation and engagement with the community and relevant stakeholders, which will help to determine the recommendations in the strategy,” she said.

“Council appreciates the work that Manna Gum and Russell Broadbent are doing to obtain community feedback and is keen to see the results of the survey which will be used to help to inform the Social and Affordable Housing Strategy.”

Please refer to the survey on the back of the open letter and send replies and any housing information and offers by post to Manna Gum Community House, PO Box 176 Foster 3960 or via email to housingresearch@
mgch.org.au by Sunday October 31, 2021.

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