Green light for supported housing

LENGTHY bureaucratic delays threatening a proposal for Latrobe Valley-based supported ac com modation for people with a mental illness were finally resolved last week.

State Health Minister David Davis, during a whirlwind visit to the region, announced he had negotiated a lease transfer for land in Traralgon’s Hyde Park Road, removing a “stumbling block” to plans for six new long-term accommodation units for people with chronic mental illness on the site.

The proposal is a collaboration between local mental health advocacy group Barrier Breakers, Eastcoast Housing, the Department of Human Services and Mind Australia.

Mr Davis said Eastcoast Housing would build and manage the units while Mind Australia, with $348,000 in State Government funds over four years, would provide ongoing home-based outreach services for the tenants.

Barrier Breakers chief executive Derek Amos told The Express the imminent pilot project had secured about $70,000 in public donations so far – towards a goal of $150,000 – while Eastcoast Housing had contributed $600,000 and the Department of Housing had earmarked $450,000 subject to confirmation of leasing arrangements. The overall capital cost would be $1.2 million, he said.

While Barrier Breakers, which intensely lobbied for months to see the lease arranged on a “peppercorn” basis, was “tremendously grateful” it had finally been negotiated, Mr Amos said “it has been quite a long time coming”.

Mr Amos said just three weeks ago he warned all local state MPs the delay “was putting us in a very difficult position”, adding “we are raising money from the public and they want to see some result”.

Mr Amos praised the efforts of State Member for Morwell Russell Northe in helping to secure the lease, saying “he really worked his bottom off for us”.

It is hoped construction on the units can commence early in 2013, helping the region to address what Mr Amos has called “one of our biggest unmet needs”.