Ending Homelessness Forum

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"Austen Burleigh and James Pullar did a fantastic job of getting real engagement with the very real and challenging problem of homelessness at the recent Multi-District conference. The forum was facilitated excellently by Marion Macleod, who had the audience actively participate in developing ways that they and their clubs could get involved. Past-president Quin Scalzo, not only spoke about his own personal involvement, but in his usual generous way, also provided a gift of almonds for everyone.

The forum was exceptionally well attended and the words of our conference opening speaker, Sally Capp, echoed clearly, ‘I won’t let what I can’t do, get in the way of what I can do’. With this resonating in everyone’s head, we focused on how each of us could make a difference.

Each of the speakers provided an individual perspective on how they had done something, and after each, presentation the group of 160 plus, reflected on the key message and what their club could do their own contribution before engaging in some animated discussions at their tables and posing some very interesting questions.

The group was challenged to view homelessness through a dfferent lens and explore the many ways you can they and their club could become involved.

Innovative ways like the “Magpie Nest” Housing Program, embraced by Rotary Waverley, were used as an example. This program operates through a partnership between the Collingwood Football Club Foundation and the Salvation Army and utilises private housing stock in a sustainable business model to provide housing for social needs. A very simple model. They contribute by providing 8 houses for 24 homeless so far, and are doing it in their own very special way.

RCM member Tony Nicholson, now retired CEO of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, took a big picture view of the problem with a ‘Capability and Opportunity; Educate and Empower’ view. Previously a front line social worker and a senior executive in the social services and policy sector he shared his 27 years’ experience and the complexity that he has seen in this area.

Robert Pradolin, Founding Chair of Housing All Australians who recently spoke at our club, presented an alternative view of social and affordable housing as economic infrastructure. Robert, re-thinks homelessness by focusing on the importance of increasing the supply of affordable rental housing for all Australians. His argument is that housing must be seen as vital national infrastructure, and he explains how the cost/benefit ratio of housing provision is actually much higher than most road and other infrastructure projects and the long term social costs of ignoring the affordability crisis are much higher than currently appreciated.

PP Quin Scalzo, then provided a very practical view of the problem. His personal involvement in how ‘Mentoring and employment provides a sense of purpose”, was supported by a challenge to the audience to get businesses and associates around the various Rotary clubs to engage practically and offer mentoring and employment locally.

The discussion was lively and the audience provided some valuable feedback on how they could personally get involved and engage their clubs.


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