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GreenLight - we support people make a house a home

Celeste Brittain explains how GreenLight supports people make a house a home

3 August 2020

By Celeste Brittain, Supportive Housing Worker at GreenLight

‘Everybody needs a home’, is this year’s Homelessness Week theme. But what is a home? It’s, “the place where one lives, belongs or was born,” says my dictionary*. The key element of this definition to me is: belonging.

It’s not enough we have a place to live. What we need is to feel we belong where we live.

This element of belonging invites us to move beyond the common understanding housing support is solely about providing access to housing. What’s equally important is assisting community members to make a house, a home.

At SHM, we offer both these levels of support to community members: support to access housing AND to make that house a home, or as one community member put it - their ‘castle’.

What makes a house a home?

We all have definitions of what ‘home’ means based on the differing modalities that make up our identities. Some community members I have worked with say, home is a place where they can relax. It is where they can cook for relatives who visit them, as well as where their pet companion - their buddy who has been through many of life’s struggles with them - lives too.

It is a place they can decorate, make their own, as well as feel settled and secure in, and where they get along with neighbours and not feel the need to look over their shoulder and be worried about what may happen.

These factors are the difference of what makes somewhere you live, a place you call home.

Those in the community who have slept rough or who have moved from one insecure, unsafe and/or inappropriate dwelling to another (what is otherwise termed chronic homelessness) haven’t always had these essential living needs met and subsequently may have looked for belonging else-where.

That belonging may have been found in the friendships formed on the street and in the accompanying communities there or through Sacred Heart Mission’s Engagement Hubs.

For such community members it can be a transition to create a sense of home in newly accessed housing, when for so long or for some time, that sense of home had been formed elsewhere.

GreenLight provides flexible support tailored to individual needs

At the GreenLight Supportive Housing Program, we assist community members to make that transition from house to home.

We support community members to adapt to the spaces of their newly accessed housing; spaces that until then didn’t feel like home, because they were too big or too small depending on past housing experiences.

We also provide emotional and social support as community members come to understand themselves as no longer ‘homeless’.

We offer practical support such as white goods and furniture, and help set up utility connections. We also help iron out any issues with rent, maintenance, or neighbour differences (just to name a few).

We inform community members of supports they can access and if needed, help them connect to those supports. Some community members may have lost touch with their interests and passions due to past day-to-day living, so we also assist community members to reconnect back into those.

At times, not all of the housing accessed can become a home, as community members may feel unsafe where they live or within the estate, or it may not have what they need. This may be because community members felt pressured to accept any housing, or didn’t feel informed of all options, or thought they could make it work but can’t because of issues outside of their control. What this points to is larger systematic issues and we support community members through that too.

Many community members we support have experienced big traumas (such as assaults or accidents) and little traumas (like relationship breakdowns or financial adversities) and this may have had an effect on people’s wellbeing, the way they relate to others and how they have coped.

As a multidisciplinary team of peer settlement support, mental health and supportive housing workers at GreenLight we help community members move on from a housing crisis and the circumstances that may have precipitated it.

People experiencing homelessness are resourceful and resilient

And while community members may have experienced multiple traumas, it is important to recognise that post-traumatic growth may occur. I have seen community members draw meaning from what they have experienced and grow from it.

Therefore, it is important not to see community members with a lived experience of homelessness as solely ‘vulnerable’ or ‘disadvantaged’. People are resourceful and resilient. They are mentors, musicians, artists, advocates, volunteers and so on.

I have learnt so much from fellow community members, especially about the importance of hope and the value to slow down. And I have seen people display persistence, courage, tenacity, kindness, wisdom and compassion.

This Homelessness Week I invite you to sign the Everybody’s Home Campaign petition to send a clear message to the Federal Government we need more social housing in Australia - and a national action plan to end homelessness by 2030.

I also invite you to think about what home means to you. You may find some similarities in your definition to those cited above; and while you may find some differences too, something that is universal is that everybody needs a home.

* The quote is from the Heinemann Australian Dictionary.

Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.


Sacred Heart Mission believes that the diversity of abilities, genders, sexualities, relationship identities, bodies and cultures in our community enriches us all and should be celebrated. Everyone is welcome at our table.