Wanted: Social housing partners for Aboriginal hostels

Since 1973, Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) has been providing safe, comfortable, culturally appropriate and affordable accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across its network of hostels in remote, regional and metropolitan Australia. This temporary accommodation services Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are travelling, relocating or who need to live away from home to access education, employment and health-related services.

But now, more than ever, AHL’s temporary accommodation is attracting people who are either homeless or requiring health- related accommodation, which is not in alignment with the organisation’s service offering. As a result, AHL is hoping to secure the partnership of a social housing provider to assist in suppling appropriate long-term accommodation for these Aboriginal people who have no permanent residence.

The organisation provides up to 1,800 beds each night through its 47 multipurpose, medical and education hostels. Residents are provided three meals a day in a culturally safe, secure and affordable hostel environment, and are charged a tariff rate that is affordable for recipients of Australian Government income support. AHL bridges the funding gap between tariff income and the cost of providing hostel services.

Employing more than 500 staff, AHL is also one of the largest providers of jobs and training for Indigenous people, with almost 70 percent of the organisation’s workforce identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Increasingly, AHL is seeing pressure points emerge in its hostel network, as shifts in demographics and socio-economic factors impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s accommodation requirements. The demand for medical-related accommodation is high and will remain so into the future, as is the unmet demand for stable, affordable housing.

AHL’s greatest pressure point is in its 24 multipurpose hostels where the burden of unmet demand for homelessness and health-related accommodation is played out. Many of AHL’s long-term residents are on state or territory government housing waiting lists. AHL client data indicates that, in many multipurpose hostels across Australia, over half of all clients are now indicating ‘housing/homelessness’ as their primary reason for stay, particularly in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and central Australia.

AHL may well be heading towards a crossroads, given that its traditional short-term accommodation model, as well as its nightly tariff structure and room con guration, are not conducive to medium or long-term housing solutions. As AHL considers its response to changing client needs, the organisation will increasingly look to the social housing sector for guidance in helping create new opportunities to better meet demand into the future.

Whether through leveraging current infrastructure, joint ventures, direct investment or shared continuum of care pathways, AHL will be actively seeking to engage with the social housing sector to ensure the organisation continues to meet the accommodation needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in decades to come.

If you are interested or want to know more about partnering with Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHI), contact Peter Perfrement at peter.perfrement@ahl.gov.au or by phoning +61 2 6212 2006.