His journey so far has seen him travel around the world with the navy, brought him within 22kms of a nuclear test site and in more recent years overcome a debilitating case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through the discovery of a hidden talent for art. “I applied to the Navy in 1967 when I was fifteen years old,” George said.
“I was accepted and travelled to Fremantle W.A. for my training in seamanship and more scholastic lessons. One year later I was in HMAS Sydney. We sailed for Vietnam 12 days after my 17th birthday.”
As you would expect, George’s service in Vietnam left its mark, but he looks back fondly on much of his navy career which included stints in exotic locales throughout South East Asia including Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines as well as trips to the United States, Africa and the South Pacific.
The Compass Housing Youth Accommodation project provides supported housing for people aged 16-25. The program operates from a brand new complex of studio and one bedroom apartments at Islington and is targeted towards youth and young adults who are studying or working and require the services of a support provider to assist them to sustain their tenancy, improve their living skills and to sustain their study or employment.
The project is Compass’ response to the recent closure of a number of shelters and refuges in the Newcastle area and the attendant gap in services available to at-risk youth.
Tenants at the Islington complex must be engaged with a support partner and either working or studying throughout their tenancy. Tenants are supported by a local service provider who works in partnership with Compass to sustain the tenancy. While the bulk of tenants are in the 16-25 age bracket, the complex also features two modified apartments on each floor which are reserved for older tenants with disabilities or complex needs.
Supported Disability Housing
During the year Compass delivered a brand new boarding house in Adamstown funded under the New South Wales Government’s New Generation Boarding House Program. This boarding house provides a home to people with a disability and operates through a partnership agreement between Compass and disability support agency The House with No Steps.
The program is designed to provide stable accommodation for people with a disability as they work with House with No Steps to learn the skills required to move towards independent living.
Under Compass’ Tenancy Specialist Model, support officers work in collaboration with our tenancy management staff as well as referral and support agencies to help vulnerable tenants sustain their tenancies.
14 months ago in an open trial pilot on the Central Coast, two Compass support and property specialists started doing what they felt Compass tenants needed, offering two person visits that simultaneously offered tenant support and property inspections.
This Way Home Project
This Way Home Project continues to operate as a specialised supported housing model, providing assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The This Way Home Project collaborates with a number of support providers including The Samaritans Foundation, Mission Australia, the Salvation Army, Nova Women’s Accommodation and Support, Baptist Community Services, Catholic Care Hunter Manning and Wesley Mission.
Compass operates a boarding house in Waratah catering for men experiencing or at risk of homelessness including those experiencing mental health issues and people exiting the criminal justice system.
The complex is managed in a similar manner to the This Way Home project. Lease terms are for a maximum two years and are reviewed every three months, at which time tenants must demonstrate that they are actively engaged with their service provider.
Hunter Homeless Connect Day
Compass was proud to once again sponsor the Hunter Homeless Connect Day held on Tuesday 4 August.
Over 10 staff members from Compass volunteered their time to help coordinate and run the event this year. With just over 900 in attendance, we experienced a greater increase in the number of attendees in greater need and older people accessing services.
Compass was also on the ground throughout the day to help attendees with applications for housing and referrals to support services.
This year’s event saw a record number of organisations with 81 service providers in attendance linking people experiencing homelessness with a range of services including legal and financial advice, family programs and services, crisis and long term accommodation options, health information, indigenous services, as well as youth study and employment options.
The event would not have been possible without the work of Compass' Housing Pathways Coordinator, Lucy Andrews, who served as the event’s coordinator for the second year in a row.
Once a fortnight, one of our Housing Pathways officers attends Soul Café located in Newcastle and provides information to people who need help applying for social housing. Soul Cafe, which is run by Life Church, has become a one-stop-shop, serving approximately 800 free hot meals a week, offering a GP clinic as well as Centrelink and Legal Aid services to highly disadvantaged members of our community.
Rent It Keep It
Our Housing Pathways team run quarterly sessions for people who are homeless or in transitional properties with little experience in the private rental market or who have had problems sustaining tenancies in the past. The sessions are designed to educate people about all aspects of the rental process and cover topics including applying for housing, property care and cleaning and managing expenses.
CONNECTIONS THROUGH HOMELESSNESS
A COMPASS CASE STUDY
Becoming homeless for the first time at the age of 40 isn’t something you see coming.
Before being housed with Compass, Jason had been sleeping rough for over two years.
“Things at my previous rental weren’t working out and everything just snowballed and fell apart from there. I lost my job and my house. I had no support network and all of a sudden I was on the street. It’s not a situation I ever expected to be in.”
Jason ’s health deteriorated during his time on the street and he was hospitalised multiple times.
“Over the two years I was homeless, I probably ended up in hospital three times due to chronic asthma and other health problems,” he said.
As well as suffering ill health, Jason said his biggest concerns on the street were the lack of security and electricity.
“I had a tent and a few things but you never feel completely safe and I was always worried about stuff getting stolen.
“Simple things like charging your phone or getting a shower start to become hard. I was using bottles of water I’d heated up in the sun just to have a shower.”
Jason’s fortunes began to turn around after being connected with Partners in Recovery who referred him on to Compass.
Compass was able to provide me with an affordable apartment in a good area and I haven’t looked back since,” he said.
“The first night in the new unit was surreal. I remember having a 45 minute shower and cooking myself a hot meal. These are things people take for granted but after two years being homeless it was absolute heaven for me.”
In July 2007, at the height of the second Iraq War, Mazin was struck down by gunfire while standing outside the Catholic Church where he studied theology.
He suffered serious injuries to his liver, spleen, diaphragm and lung, spent 12 days in hospital and was lucky to escape with his life.
Incredibly, the shooting wasn’t his first near death experience. In 1987, during the Iran-Iraq War, Mazin lost the lower part of his left arm in an explosion as he and his fellow conscripts patrolled the mountainous border region separating Iraq and Iran.
Shortly after being released from hospital after the church shooting, Mazin and his family fled Iraq for Syria, where they spent the next six years living as refugees in Damascus.
“When we first arrived, Syria was OK, but as time went by it became very dangerous.
“I had applied for refugee status but without family in a host country, it takes a long time. A nice lady from the UN was helping arrange my paperwork and then one day with no warning I got a call from the Australian Embassy in Jordan, telling me that we could go to Australia.”
“When we first arrived here I spent a year living in Woodridge, but then went through a family breakdown and had to move. I lived in a share house for a while but I didn’t like it. I had nowhere else to go and was expecting to be homeless when I was put in touch with Compass.”
They helped find me an affordable apartment, and put me in touch with people who could help with things like furniture and a fridge.
Since linking up with the Compass Settlement Grants Program (SGP) Mazin has not only secured stable accommodation in a Compass housing complex, but also reconnected with the Church, joined a local choir and is now focused on improving his English skills at TAFE. He worries about his family in Baghdad, and tries to stay in contact on Skype.
For a man who has experienced so much tragedy, happiness comes remarkably easily to Mazin. Despite having experienced great suffering, his sunny disposition remains undefeated.