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Gardens and friendships have blossomed this year, as our valued industry partners assisted The Salvation Army in four garden workerbees.

At The Salvation Army youth centres in Collingwood and St Kilda, volunteers from AVID, JLL, Mirvac and Knight Frank cleared and rejuvenated vital outdoor areas. These ongoing workerbees provide tangible benefits to the young people The Salvation Army supports. “Firstly, they provide an important opportunity for us to interact with people from a different sector and provide insight into the issues experienced by both young people experiencing homelessness but also by staff and programs that operate within the sector,” says Salvation Army Upton Road Program Manager Claire Edmanson. “The second big benefit is to the physical spaces. Corporate working bees are critical because they assist us to get done in one day what would usually take us months!”

Collingwood Youth Centre Garden Clean Up

In March, a team of enthusiastic Mirvac volunteers buzzed around the garden of the Salvation Army Youth Centre in Melbourne’s inner-city Collingwood, clearing the overgrown area for redevelopment. “Mirvac’s team were the hardest workers in town,” says Rob Ellis, Salvation Army’s State Manager, Youth Services – Victoria | Tasmania. “Our objective was to get the physical space back to a blank slate, to enable us to work with the young people on the planning and design of the new garden and outdoor areas and incorporate the office space into this design. The effort and enthusiasm from the Mirvac crew was extraordinary, we achieved well beyond my wildest imaginings. This would’ve taken months utilising our own staff, we also had a quote for the clearing of the site through contractors which came in at $10K … these funds can be better used for development of the garden program.”

The Collingwood Youth Centre is now operational, running youth programs from the space, including Youth L2P / Drive for Life learner driver programs. “We also have a First Nations drop in and yarning space, weekly life and living skills activities having recently put some work into refurbishing inside the building including installing new kitchen and youth hub spaces and a small music studio.”

Big plans are ahead for the Collingwood site. “We have also now started the process of involving architects and property consultants to assist in the development of youth housing and education hub,” says Rob. “This is an amazing 1000m2 + parcel of land in the inner city and is ideally located to develop long term affordable housing solutions for young people. The opportunity to partner with the Property Industry Foundation in the long term, advances our commitment to developing a multitude of housing options for young people as a pathway out of crisis.”

Market Ready at Upton Road

Workerbees with JLL and AVID were held at The Salvation Army’s Upton Road centre in St Kilda in the second half of the year. This vibrant centre supports 400+ young people each year who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. They offer  crisis accommodation, case management, outreach support and education. Part of their program is the healing space of their community garden, which encourages young people to get involved with growing their own food.

In August, JLL volunteers cleaned up the gardens and outdoor spaces at the centre. In September, volunteers from AVID Property Group rejuvenated garden beds which are used to grow produce for their onsite meals program and community market.

Upton Road’s popular social enterprise market stall allows young people at the centre to connect with the wider community, gain job training and feel a sense of purpose. “It was great spending time in the garden with the groups from JLL and AVID,” says Claire. “They were all so enthusiastic and tackled every task we put in front of them, which meant we achieved so much in a short period of time.”

Knight Frank lent a hand in late September to complete the final Upton Road workerbee for 2023. “There was plenty of shovelling and wheelbarrowing for this group!” says Claire. “We also did some spring planting of veggie seedlings and some weeding … which always needs to be done.”

This trio of workerbees contributed to a more welcoming and productive garden space for the young people at Upton Road. “We know physical space has a strong correlation with positive mental health and therefore it’s critical to us that we operate within an environment that is calm, healthy, and also full of delicious produce that can be used in our onsite meals program,” says Claire. “We love providing young people with the opportunity to learn about gardening and to be able to watch produce grow. For us, giving young people the chance to develop a love or interest in plants and gardening and take skills with them is something we really enjoy.”

Bridging the Gap

For The Salvation Army, workerbees are just one way the Foundation bridges the gap between the corporate and homeless sectors. “The Property Industry Foundation bridges the gap between services within the homelessness sector and corporate property and construction sector,” says Claire. “We cannot rely on government funded interventions to end the housing and homelessness crisis so the Foundation’s focus on connecting with the private sector and engaging them around issues of youth homelessness is critical.”

Join a workerbee in 2024! CLICK HERE to enquire about workerbees in your state or arrange your own.