Certified Housing Professional: Amanda Donohoe

Name: Amanda Donohoe

Occupation: CEO, Servants Community Housing

Certification Level: Level 3

Years in Housing: 11

Why did you seek accreditation?

“A few years ago, I completed a Graduate Diploma in Housing Management at Swinburne where I heard that my study could contribute to the AHI Certified Housing Professional Accreditation. When I investigated, I was surprised at how much experience I had – the self-appraisal was a confidence booster.”

“I need a framework to keep on learning and, by becoming an accredited housing professional, I am reminded every year to reflect on my own professional development. I think it’s important for both our organisations and ourselves to stay abreast of current information to remain relevant. We need to understand the context in which we operate, and stay informed so we can make good decisions at whatever level we are working at. Networking, reading and contributing are all ways we can learn from others and they can learn from us.”

What does a day in your life look like? Do you have a routine?

“I’d have to say that no two days are ever the same, a phrase I often hear from housing professionals. Perhaps it’s the nature of the industry we’re working in, where people are in a constant state of flux themselves – our residents – and, if something happens to them on that day, it can impact on three or four other people within the organisation.”

“I pay attention to the literature that suggests we need to look after both our physical and mental health so I swim three mornings a week and go to gym three mornings a week. I swim with a squad because I’m not good at swimming alone. I lose motivation very quickly but, when someone’s standing at the edge of the pool telling me I’ve got to do another 500 metres of freestyle, I do it!”

“After swimming is my coffee time, and the time I do a brain game on my phone. At work, I try to have the first hour or two email-free to work on projects when I’m feeling fresh and focused, and leave the emails to later in the morning.”

 How do you think you can personally contribute to the housing industry as a CHP?

“I work for Servants Community Housing and we manage rooming houses. Rooming houses have a notoriously bad reputation, not helped by the recent documentary on SBS, Filthy Rich and Homeless, that showed footage of vandalised properties and fearful tenants.”

“Over the last 30 years, Servants has established a unique housing model and learnt how to build community by keeping people connected and feeling like they belong. Our model includes the provision of on-site, live-in managers. I actually began my career at Servants by living in the manager’s flat of a 38-bed rooming house. Four years living on-site provides a very clear understanding of what life is like in a rooming house. There is a vested interest in making sure the place is quiet and peaceful because it is the manager who will have a broken night’s sleep if there is a disturbance!”

“I am often approached by local organisations to talk about the work of Servants, and I attempt to allay the fears and prejudices of community members that all rooming houses are filled with ‘undesirables’. Most of the people we house have mental health issues and are searching for a safe, secure, affordable place to live. The sense of belonging and having a place to call ‘home’ is vital for a person’s mental health. Most of our residents enjoy the community side of it – they feel safe – and people can relax because they feel cared for and loved. You can have large groups of people living under one roof in a safe, harmonious environment.”

“Advocating for different forms of housing for people with mental health is something that I feel passionate about. I believe that people should have choice and the community housing industry should allow flexible models to be used.”

How do you think the housing industry compares to other industries in terms of recognising its professionals?

“Community housing is an emerging discipline and profession. I think, among our peers, we identify and recognise best-practice, and this is often highlighted in housing publications and industry forums. We are less known outside the industry and I think the AHI Professional Excellence in Housing Awards are a means of showcasing and publicising what we do well. The number of people attending the awards has increased, and there were some great entries at the Victorian Awards I attended recently.”

“It is motivating to see what others are doing and to see them receive recognition for what they’ve done. It’s a challenge for me – and for everybody else in the room – to excel, and to also strive and do better.”

What do you hope this accreditation will mean to you and others in the future?

“Becoming accredited raises the bar. I think the CHP accreditation is a recognition that community housing has become a specialist field that requires a specific set of skills and experience, which is a mix of community development, property management and tenancy management. The sector needs that mix of skillsets and I hope that others in the industry will join us.”

If you were to make a desert island your home, what five things would you take with you and why?

“I’d take my five adult children. Some have partners so I couldn’t take my children without taking their partners too. I’d also take my iPad loaded with books. I’d take my goggles and my swim cap, and I’d take an aero-press [coffee plunger] with lots of coffee so I never run out. A desert island surrounded by sea to swim in and coffee afterwards… idyllic!”

For more information about becoming a Certified Housing Professional, visit www.housinginstitute.org/CHP