‘Terra Firma’ – New Initiative in SA Between Harcourts Packham and Toward Home.
In early 2021, Harcourts Packham purchased an old backpacker’s hostel in the Adelaide CBD. The building was tooled for shared living, complete with industrial kitchen, 11 bedrooms, beautiful balcony, electronic locks on every room, and fantastic wet areas.
Being a civic minded as a company, Harcourts Packham could ‘read the need’ and determined there was a higher purpose for the building. The former backpacker’s hostel has been re-named “Terra Firma”, and transformed so it can provide new, short-term accommodation to support South Australians at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
Harcourts SA CEO Stu Costello is justifiably proud of the Packham Team. “For us, this project speaks to ‘Doing the Right Thing’ and ‘People First’, core Harcourts values. This is an issue that, once you have appreciation for and experience with, it’s hard for any right-thinking person to walk past. We’re chiefly a service industry, and that ethos of putting people first and ensuring the journey is as good as possible, can be applied here.”
“This is a true reflection of the charitable and community-based values James Packham and Harcourts Packham live by and an extremely worthy cause supporting South Australians.”
Harcourts Packham director James Packham said the Terra Firma project supported the organisation’s mission to respond to homelessness.
“Plus with our skillset and reputation, we can assist residents to transition to longer-term housing by providing them with references and utilising our investor database to garner interest in leasing property to residents. The competencies and efficiency which allow us to run a successful real estate business are transferable and will add massive value in tackling this problem.“
“We believe that Harcourts can contribute to addressing the issue of homelessness in SA. The approach of partnership between government, not-for-profit, non-government organisations and private sector participants represents our greatest opportunity to advance service delivery to this sector.”
Harcourts Packham Business Operations Manager Jacob Kinsman has been intimately involved with this project.
“If utilised effectively we have the resources to provide for everyone’s wellbeing. Helping someone achieve a baseline can mean providing a safe place to sleep, to shower, clean their clothes and prepare a meal. Until these basic needs are satisfied it is unrealistic that they will be able to advance their position and re-join their peers as a productive contributor in society. Helping people find their feet is more than good form; it improves lives and delivers strong net benefit to society.”
“Through our personal networks, we were able to engage Toward Home – an alliance of experienced service providers including Lutheran Care, Baptist Care, Salvation Army, Sonder and Mission Australia.” Continues Mr Kinsman. “Toward Home were excited by what we and the building had to offer, and as a result we entered a partnership to provide the building for use as accommodation experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.”
Terra Firma offers specialised support to both singles and couples aged 45 and over with a tenure of up to 12 weeks, with the aim of helping South Australians get back on track and into safe, stable and longer-term accommodation. Terra Firma also allows residents to have pets.
“Homelessness in our state is large and growing problem and we have chosen to pick a fight with it!” Says Mr Kinsman passionately. “Some have asked us why we chose to launch this initiative; but for us it has never required over-justification. There are South Australians who don’t have a place to sleep tonight. These are someone’s child or someone’s parent, any of us could find ourselves in a similar position.”
Terra Firma is still in its nascent stages, but some key milestones have been reached. The main milestone since opening being it is at full capacity, and several residents have transitioned from Terra Firma to other accommodation options.
Future Plans for Terra Firma include having staff volunteer to help residents with rental applications, as well as regular community events and creating facilities for art and music.
Mr Kinsman puts it plainly: “Homelessness is something that doesn’t discriminate – most people are only one broken relationship, ill family member, job loss or financial setback away from it. It’s so important to have robust support networks and services for people to access when the road gets tough, and Harcourts Packham are immensely proud to be making an impact here.“