By Margaret Maccoll
Setting aside 10 per cent of their income, collecting furniture and helping with rental applications are some of the ways real estate agents Janzey and John Pratt are assisting people in need to find accommodation but they say the problem is way beyond the capabilities of one couple.
Since moving from the Northern Territory to the Sunshine Coast four years ago Janzey and John Pratt have both sold houses for a living and helped people in housing crisis.
The Sunshine Coast real estate agents set aside 10 per cent of their income from their One Agency business and put it in a kitty for people who need assistance. Through their Property with Purpose project they also manage a storage unit rented at a heavily discounted rate thanks to Fort Knox Storage and with donations from the public it continues to be filled with furniture and white goods for people who need it.
“There’s a misconception homelessness is about people sleeping rough,” Janzey said.”You can’t make assumptions about how people become homeless. We have to dispel some myths around it. It can happen to anyone through no fault of their own.”
Just last week Janzey was helping a lady who has been sleeping in her car behind the storage shed.
Having moved to the area to assist her daughter the women who is 65 years old and on Newstart has struggled to afford somewhere to live.
Janzey, a former police officer working in domestic violence and child protection has been on the frontline of services and seen the damage it can do to families and kids.
“We get four to five referrals a week. The majority are mums escaping domestic violence. We get them into short term accommodation. We help them with their rental applications so they’re not discriminated against. Before they had to stay in a camper trailer in a caravan park,” she said.
“When people need certain things – we have fridges, furniture. If they need something special we put posts on Facebook. Sunshine Coasters are amazingly generous.”
Having worked in real estate for more than a decade Janzey said she is confronted with different faces of the property market from the haves to the have-nots.
“Now everyone’s making trillions of dollars. We know because we work in it,” she said. Janzey said while it was good to see people making money from real estate with prices going up and up people can no longer afford to rent.
The Pratt’s came back from NT after living there for 12 years, moving first to Tewantin then to the Sunshine Coast.
The Property with Purpose project began when the owners of a property they were selling wanted to get rid of all their furniture and asked the Pratt’s if they knew someone who would want it.
“It’s just snowballed from there,” Janzey said with the couple now advocating for people and working as a go between for people in need and services available.
“In the past four years there’s been over 50 incidences of helping people with references from Vinnies and Facebook,” she said.
“There’s never enough housing or finances. People go round and round from temporary to crisis, not permanent.
“We just do what we can. There’s no point having a business if you can’t do some good.”Janzey has a “big dream” of establishing a big place on land to accommodate people long term and convincing government to make it compulsory for developments to set aside part of their development for affordable housing.
“It was compulsory in the NT to set aside 15 per cent for affordable housing,” she said.
Janzey believes the issue needs a whole of community response and action is needed now for an issue that continues to grow.
“The cost of someone being homeless is about $30,000-$40,000 a year and more if you multiply that with housing, health, education, justice. There has to be collaboration and legislative changes.”