AHI Member: Shari McPhail, Community Housing (Vic) Limited

Name:  Shari McPhail

Title:  State Manager Victoria, Community Housing (Vic) Limited

Joined AHI: August 2018

Residence: Melbourne

Years in housing: 16

Current project or activity:

“Community Housing Victoria Limited (CHVL) has a number of projects on the go at the moment across the state that will deliver an additional 230 properties. These are a combination of large and small scale and various designs and styles.”

“Our Homelessness Services are active participants in reforming the current service system, and are helping to shape aspects of homeless service delivery to be implemented across the state. We’re also working towards producing a social impact framework that will assist us to understand how the provision of housing is creating change in the lives of the people we are housing. This is very exciting work – we’re looking forward to engaging with our customers on this level, and using the data we collect to ensure that we focus our efforts appropriately across the life domains that were identified as important by a range of stakeholders.”

What made you choose a housing career? 

“I started my career in youth work, and it was during my time as a case manager in a refuge that the problem of housing came to the fore for me. Without stable, affordable, appropriate accommodation, it was very difficult to work with young people or even consider addressing the issues that led to, or indeed had been exacerbated by, their period of homelessness.”

“This was also the time that I discovered the great disparity in access to housing for people experiencing poverty and disadvantage. For the next 14 years, I worked in various roles in the homeless service system before taking on the role at CHVL. It was time to move from homelessness to housing, and play a part in increasing supply.”

What are you particularly proud of having accomplished? 

“Not surprisingly, the provision of safe, stable and affordable housing was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and I am very proud that, as a result of our successful bid, we were able to supply 40 units of accommodation to women and their children in this insidious situation. It gives me great satisfaction to know that, as a result of our work, an additional 40 families now have the opportunity to begin to rebuild their lives in an environment free from violence.”

What makes you motivated or inspired in your career?

“A fair go for all and equity of access keep me going every day, really. Every person that we provide a safe, affordable housing outcome to is another person that has the platform from which to live a regular life.”

What attributes make a great housing or advocacy worker?

“Persistence and resilience are two of the key attributes. There are so many barriers that we are faced with daily – structural issues such as lack of supply of social and affordable housing, social issues such as the negative public perceptions of people experiencing homelessness and/or living in social housing, and the emotional issues of working every day with people experiencing disadvantage.”

“The workplace can do much to provide the professional and practical tools required to undertake the work; however, these attributes will greatly assist in a housing or advocacy role.”

What are the biggest challenges facing housing professionals today? 

“The lack of a national housing strategy is quite a problem – as well as being caught up in these short political cycles that can produce near-sighted policy that fails to address the lack of social and affordable housing. We could achieve amazing outcomes in Australia if we had a bipartisan long-term plan for increasing housing supply.”

“I’m a strong advocate that housing needs to be seen as infrastructure, just as we see roads, hospitals and schools. Housing is fundamental to well-functioning and well-serviced communities. This isn’t likely, though, while policy continues to underpin housing as a wealth creation tool.”

What do you believe are the future directions for the housing profession? 

“The intersection between the provision of housing and the social support that some people require to maintain their housing is becoming more and more important as the problems that people face are seemingly becoming more complex than ever.”

“Productive, pragmatic partnerships are required with a range of community supports to assist to sustain tenancies. This is even more important as the NDIS rolls out in various locations across the state, and we’re finding that some people are missing out on services. This will ultimately impact on their housing and it’s in all our best interests to create an environment that sustains tenancies.”

 What do you hope to achieve from your AHI membership?

“I’m looking forward to connecting with a broad range of housing professionals, both in Australia and New Zealand, as I seek to increase my knowledge and continue to develop in the sector.”

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