Patricia Goldfinch is the Manager of Mareeba Community Housing Company in Far North Queensland.
As the Atherton Tablelands faces a rise in homelessness and overcrowding, Patricia and her team are focused on getting more people into affordable housing and providing support services.
“If you take someone directly from homelessness and put them into a house, it doesn’t always work, so you need to form a relationship with your client and help connect them with other services to provide them with ongoing support,” Patricia says.
“We have sporadic rough sleeping in some of our riverbanks and in the national parks, but the major issue is overcrowding in households across the region.”
Patricia says the organisation’s work covers a broad spectrum, including managing properties for the Department of Housing and running employment and training programs and workshops on topics like budgeting and yard maintenance.
“We all know social housing is not a commodity that will be expanded rapidly, so if we’re able to upskill our tenants to help them gain meaningful employment, they then have the opportunity to start looking at moving out of public or social housing,” Patricia says.
“Giving back to the community and listening to what they need is very important for us.
“We just finished a community engagement program where we were able to build a half-size basketball court, because it was identified as something the tenants wanted for their kids as a lot of them had been playing on the streets.”
The Mareeba Community Housing Company try out the basketball court they recently built after engaging with tenants
While COVID-19 has caused challenges for the sector, Patricia says she was proud of how the team managed to continue supporting their clients.
“When COVID first hit, a lot of services closed down and started working from home, but as frontline support officers, that’s just not possible,” Patricia says.
“We did make minor changes to our workplace and moved our interviews and meetings outside, but you cannot continue to provide that level of support to someone who is homeless if you’re not meeting with them in person.”