Planned western Sydney ‘foyer’ to give homeless or at risk youth a place to live while studying

IN A first for the region, Wentworth Community Housing (WCH) plans to start up a ‘youth foyer’.

CEO Stephen McIntyre spoke about the non-profit organisation’s recent work and future plans at Penrith Council on Monday night.

“It is a model that brings at-risk or homeless young people who’ve got a commitment to ongoing education into a place like a student-style accommodation on an education facility or land,” Mr McIntyre said.

The idea, based on similar projects in the UK and Victoria, is in its early stages.

Mr McIntyre said if approved and funded, the joint venture between WCH, Platform Youth Services, Brotherhood of St Laurence and Western Sydney Institute of TAFE would see the foyer built on a TAFE Kingswood site offering 45 units.

Wentworth Community Housing provides accommodation in areas including Penrith, the Blue Mountains, and Parramatta. CEO Stephen McIntyre is pictured with new housing at Rouse Hill. Picture: Peter Kelly

“Once we have secured funding, it will take two-and- a-half years to complete detailed planning, design and construction,” he said.

With a preliminary estimated capital cost of $9.5 million, the “transitional” foyer will give people aged 16-24 somewhere to live for 18-24 months while learning life skills and studying.

Councillor Greg Davies congratulated WCH on going beyond housing and “giving (people) ideas, ways they can improve their life”.

“It’s not about giving them a front door, it’s about teaching them how to open the door themselves,” he said.

WCH chair Keith Bryant said research shows “80 per cent of kids from this go out and find jobs”.

Mr McIntyre said the next step was to secure support from philanthropists and Penrith businesses and then approach higher tiers of government for funding later this year.

The NSW Government this month pledged $10 million in funding for 2016-17 for youth homelessness.

WCH’s CEO Stephen McIntyre and communities officer Lisa Eggers with Penrith state Liberal MP Stuart Ayres in Cranebrook in April, where they announced a NSW Government grant to transform a parcel of land into a new gathering space for the community.