In a ground breaking initiative, the Make Room project is currently underway in Melbourne, poised to change the lives of the city’s most vulnerable community members by providing them with a safe and secure roof over their heads.
The endeavour, driven by a collaborative effort between the City of Melbourne, the Victorian Government, Unison Housing, and philanthropic and corporate sectors, promises to be a game-changer in the fight against homelessness in the municipality.
At the heart of the Make Room project is the transformation of a Council-owned building at 602 Little Bourke Street into transitional supported accommodation. Builder Harris HMC has been entrusted with this crucial task, which involves repurposing the structure into 50 studio apartments designed to offer shelter and support to those in need. Registered housing provider Unison Housing will deliver these accommodations, along with vital homeless services and wraparound support to assist residents during their journey towards finding long-term secure housing.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said, “Every Melburnian deserves to have a safe and secure place to call home – and that’s what we’re delivering with our life-changing Make Room project.” Capp continues, “We’re setting a new standard for transitional supported accommodation in Victoria and showing how safe spaces with integrated support services can be created.”
The project’s early works on site have already been completed, including the removal of internal non-structural elements, ceilings, partitions, and existing services such as fire, electrical, and hydraulic systems. Each studio apartment will provide a private and self-contained living space, featuring a bedroom, kitchenette, and ensuite bathroom. With 10 units per floor across five levels, the Make Room project maximizes the available space to accommodate as many individuals as possible.
What sets the Make Room project apart is its holistic approach to supporting residents. The complex will include a rooftop garden and communal areas to foster a sense of community, along with indigenous plants and artwork that pay homage to the traditional owners of the land. The design and service model have been crafted with input from individuals with lived experience, ensuring that the diverse needs of residents from various backgrounds are met.
Moreover, Make Room will offer a range of on-site care and support services, with specialist health, housing, and support staff stationed within the facility. A dedicated floor will be reserved for the safe and secure accommodation of women experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Health, Wellbeing and Belonging portfolio lead Councillor Dr Olivia Ball said, “We have to work at every level of government to solve the housing crisis – including treating housing as a human right and as essential public infrastructure. With Make Room, we’re also acting on the Housing First principle: recognising that people need to be housed before they can address the causes of their homelessness.”
One unique aspect of the project is the installation of creative hoardings. These visually striking hoardings, featuring artwork by John Patton, depict images of traditional owners who played a pivotal role in the early civil rights movement in Australia, emphasizing the project’s commitment to inclusivity and recognition of Australia’s indigenous history.
The Make Room project is scheduled for completion by mid-2024, and it holds the promise of transforming the lives of Melbourne’s homeless and vulnerable population. By providing not just shelter but comprehensive support and a welcoming environment, Make Room stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors come together to address the critical issue of homelessness. Unison Housing CEO James King explains, “The Make Room Project will deliver place-based care that aims to improve the health, wellbeing, housing and social outcomes of people who are experiencing primary homelessness in the City of Melbourne.”
Images via The City of Melbourne
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