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Providing vulnerable young people with a place to live that’s not just safe, but also homely, can contribute to a huge improvement in their sense of self.

“I want to ensure that every house we accommodate young people is somewhere I would live myself,” Burdekin Association chief executive Justene Gordon says. “The Property Industry Foundation is walking alongside us to support that vision.”

“In 2020-21 we took on a number of properties that were pretty run down, so it was wonderful to be able to work with Property Industry Foundation partners to refurbish and furnish a number of them,” Gordon says. “That support really helped us turn houses into homes”.

One property in the inner west was fully refurbished, including widening the driveway, painting, a new kitchen, flooring, and some furnishings.

“Previously, the house was looking pretty tired and needed work that we wouldn’t have had the time or money to do ourselves,” Gordon explains. “There was water damage and a cockroach problem things that sound small but that we otherwise might have struggled with for years.”

Another seemingly little thing that made a big difference was receiving new leather couches, that will be more tough wearing and easier to keep clean than a cheaper fabric sofa.

When a group of young people arrived to move in – having previously been accommodated in a motel – they were “pretty awestruck” by how nice it was.

Being settled in stable and secure accommodation provides a foundation from which young people can engage with the full suite of wrap-around support services the Burdekin Association provides. That might involve help with daily living skills, arranging family visits, coordinating with a case worker or education worker to address specific needs, connecting with counsellors or psychologists, or engaging with drug and alcohol services.

“When you provide a beautiful home for a young person in care, it has such a positive impact on the value they see in themselves,” Gordon says. “And that translates into their actions; encouraging them to respect the property and making it easier for them to settle in to a new routine at home and school.”

“Most of our residents have experienced trauma in childhood and aren’t used to feeling safe at home. Once they’ve experienced a safe and beautiful home we often see a reduction in aggressive behaviour.”

The Burdekin Association is a Sydney-based non-profit organisation dedicated to enabling young people aged 9 to 24 years who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to develop the skills and confidence to live independently within the wider community. The Property Industry Foundation has been a financial supporter of The Burdekin Association since 2011.