The title ‘Property Industry Foundation’ (PIF) is not a surprising name for a company in this industry. In fact, it’s not even unusual. What is unusual though, is the work that they do, with their latest half a million-dollar project gaining industry and government admiration alike.
PIF are in fact industry members with a focus on social justice. Formed in 1996 as a charitable industry group, they have since raised more than $12 million to support homeless and troubled youths. Perhaps the Foundation’s crowning glory is their Rebuild-a-Young-Life (RYL) program, started in 2007, which uses their industry expertise to place disadvantaged youths in construction jobs.
While an incredible support in itself, PIF National Board Member Brendan Crotty admits that in a young homeless person’s life, there is another more demanding priority – that is a home. Without which, work just becomes another challenge.
“The one thing that we?ve learned is that providing a job just isn’t enough. You need additional collateral to stabilise their private lives, by providing good semi-permanent accommodation” says Crotty, “Jobs and shelter, one underpins the other”.
In light of this, a joint venture between the City of Sydney and PIF, headed by Crotty and with the strong support of Lord Mayor Clover Moore, was created which would see the redevelopment of a City of Sydney owned home in Sydney’s Redfern for the use of up to eight youths and two Salvation Army appointed house parents.
Crotty calls the PIF House project the “last missing piece in the jigsaw” in a mission that is so much more than bricks and mortar.
The aged house is currently in the process of being completely refurbished, with a revamp of interiors, replacement of the roof and windows, and a total repaint of all interior and exterior walls.
Further work will include the demolition and relocation of steel stud and plasterboard walls, cupboards and the kitchen, with additional major work towards bringing the plumbing and electricals up to standard.
In terms of the layout of the house, an annex will be built as accommodation for the house parents; with seven bedrooms inside the main building of the house acting as separate rooms for the youths, with the largest room acting as a double. All of the wet areas will also be completely renewed.
Crotty says that while the build will remain straightforward, there will continue to be an emphasis on the two large communal spaces, and a separate-yet-near relationship to the house parents in order to create a familial, supportive home.
“Having house parents will help to restore an atmosphere of family life. We’ve got two large common rooms, so we’re replicating a family atmosphere as much as possible” says Crotty, “Some of these kids have never had anything that resembles normal family life as we know it. That is probably the most important element in getting participants in the RYL programme back to mainstream living”.
The difference between this project and other industry ventures is that the project’s completion date is in fact the beginning for the team. As of March 2013, cohorts of eight youths will enter the home for periods of up to twelve months, or however long it takes them to get on their feet, with the support of the PIF.
“It usually takes them twelve months to get their life in general stabilised. After they’re on their feet, with the ongoing assistance of their employer and life coach, they will move to independent living” says Crotty.
This project will act as a model for the PIF, as they continue to allocate $250,000 of their overall $1.5 million program donations per year to create homes for troubled youths in both Western Sydney and Melbourne.
In an industry that is so strong economically, it is so positive to see an initiative that promotes the industry to the disadvantaged, while also offering to help fill a skills shortage, that Crotty sums up as a win-win situation.