Making a fresh start upon release from prison can be challenging. For many, finding stable housing can be one of the hardest aspects of this transition. The lack of affordable housing options can lead to people ending up in short term accommodation, rooming houses or, as is often the case, grappling with homelessness.
Established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maribyrnong Community Residential Facility is a pilot initiative funded by the Department of Justice and Community Safety. Situated on the site of the former immigration detention centre, the facility houses men exiting prison who are at high risk of homelessness. Jesuit Social Services has been engaged to deliver the transitional support to the men.
Tess Roberts-Hook, Coordinator of the Transitional Support Pilot, says the initiative offers a crucial step down from prison back into the community. “This facility gives participants those couple of months that they need to find work and create a bit of stability so that they can get a job and then find housing,” says Tess.
“A member of our team has been working to support one of our residents to get his license back because it had been suspended. Since he got it back, he’s been applying for lots of jobs, had an interview this week and has been offered casual work. He’s getting up at five in the morning to go, every day. He is working with our housing worker here. He’s looking into things like the national rental affordability scheme and the private rental assistance programs.”
Tess says being able to access the wrap around supports offered at the facility are vital for the men to successfully re-establish themselves in the community. “You can’t just get out of prison and have housing and a job as you walk out the door. It’s still very early days, but from what I’m observing, (this program is) definitely giving them that leg up.”
Manager of Adult Justice Programs, Suzi James-Nevell sees a range of benefits to this supported approach. “It makes sense to spend money to assist people to make a successful transition back into the community. This sets them up so they do not return to custody,” she says. “If you’re interested in the actual people who are in custody and what’s happened to them, then giving them another chance makes sense. But it also makes sense in terms of community safety.
“These people are being provided support to reintegrate back into the community, which lowers their risk of getting into trouble in the future. We’re offering them clear pathways out of offending and supporting them to find jobs and houses because that’s the future they want.”