Baptcare’s House of Hope provides transitional low to no rent transitional housing, case work and practical support to people seeking asylum. The programme that works particularly well in partnership with Baptist churches:
- Provides transitional housing for people seeking asylum who are unable to afford private rental.
- Offers professional outreach and casework support to residents.
- Links residents to services for their material wellbeing, health and social participation.
- Offers participation in activities to support transition into the community.
As of March 31, 2021 there were 12,194 people seeking asylum on bridging visas in Australia, (5483 of them in Victoria alone)1. With many of those people not qualifying for government support, homelessness has become a major issue. In addition, high rent costs mean that basic items such as food, clothing and travel for work can be unaffordable.
Seeing the need and knowing that they have the capabilities to make a difference, in early 2016 Ashburton Baptist Church became one of the first Baptist churches to be involved in the program. The church decided to act because:
- They wanted people seeking asylum who are living in our community to be treated with respect and compassion.
- Jesus asks [us] to care for strangers in need.
- They have a long history of supporting migrants and refugees.
- They wanted their church to show leadership and compassion in the community.
Apart from funding the rental component of the properties, the church also provides practical support. These include welcome packs and hampers; providing sufficient furniture and household goods prior to families moving in; minor maintenance and repairs and connecting them with services in the community such as medical services, daycare, shops, food banks and employment services.
One of the most integral services that the church offers to these families is being able to walk alongside them” through friendship and genuine care and love as Jesus commands us to do.
“It’s been an enriching-two way experience,” says Bernie Pigdon from Ashburton Baptist Church. “We don’t come with special skills, but for the whole church, it’s helped us become more ‘outward looking’ into the community. [The church] has become more aware of issues outside of us which have created a ripple effect into our wider local community. Just being able to be involved with people with real needs and working and walking with them on their journey has been a great experience for our church. It’s absolutely worth it for churches to be involved.”
Collins St Baptist Church has partnered with Baptcare’s Sanctuary program for about three years now and are continually seeking ways to provide sanctuary for those who are vulnerable. Sherry Maddock, the Collins St Baptist Church neighbourhood engagement coordinator, says “Our congregation is committed to this justice call that we read straight from Scripture as a mandate – to welcome the widow, the orphan and the stranger,”
One of the unique ways that CSBC provides sanctuary is through gathering in a shared space where residents and volunteers form relationships with each other through nature. “I’ve helped to create relationships with people and plants, teaching them basic plant care. The company and presence of just one indoor plant cannot be overstated. These plants become friends and companions, something to care for and love.”
Receiving regular photos and video updates from people thanking her for the plants creates “beautiful testimonies from people in social isolation.”
Other churches that host a House of Hope include Diamond Valley, St Kilda and Elsternwick Baptist Church and Westgate Baptist Church.
Diamond Valley Baptist Church currently has committed to funding and supporting a four bedroom House of Hope since 2017. Led by a team of committed volunteers, members of the community “paint walls, source furniture and household items, scrub floors and [create] warm, safe and inviting homes for families in need.”
St Kilda and Elsternwick Baptist Church has had a long history of working with the local community, and it was no question that partnering with Baptcare through Houses of Hope was the next step in their mission. The church has committed two flats that currently house two single mothers. “It’s been quite a journey. They’ve been wanting to do this for quite a while but the bequest through the House of Gentle Bunyip finally allowed us to join Baptcare.”
There are 3 ways Baptist churches or any individual can partner with Baptcare in the Houses of Hope programme, showing love and providing welcome to people seeking asylum who are experiencing insecure housing status:
- Supply housing – if your church has a property available, you could consider offering this to be used as a House of Hope to provide housing for asylum seekers in your community – usually this would mean offering the property for zero or low rent on a 2 year residential lease contract,
- Volunteer assistance – your church could provide volunteer neighbourly practical support to residents of a House of Hope (all volunteers are provided with training by Baptcare)
- Financial Assistance – Baptcare can only run this programme because of generous donors who put faith into action. Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible
To find more information about Baptcare Houses of Hope and the opportunities to partner click here.
A moving story…
Farad 2 has been able to settle into regular school attendance through the stable housing and support of volunteers. Without any form of income, the family had moved from one temporary ‘home’ to another over several years. The constant moving made consistent school attendance impossible. This was further exacerbated during the period when schooling at home was compulsory. Through Houses of Hope, the family now have stable housing and support through community volunteers. While Farad has missed much of the essential learning and social opportunities of the early years of school due to the family’s financial hardship, Farad is now able to form friendships and build on his learning in a supportive new local school.
Find more information about Houses of Hope and opportunities to partner here.
1) Source: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/illegal-maritime-arrivals-bve-31-mar-2021.pdf
2) Names and images have been changed to protect the identity of individuals using the Houses of Hope services