Studio Purpose: Four homes open for vulnerable youth in Murray Bridge

A volunteer project led by AC Care and Habitat for Humanity is about to change four young people’s lives.

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Four young women’s lives are about to change course.

Next week, they will move into four units in Murray Bridge’s southwest, purpose-built in the shell of an old SA Housing Authority duplex.

The homes will be available to people aged 15 to 21 who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness, and who will be linked with health, education and other local services during their time there.

Officially, AC Care and Habitat for Humanity led the Studio Purpose project, believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in Australia.

But it would not have been possible without the efforts of 78 volunteers, more than 2000 hours of their labour, $145,000 worth of cash donations from around Australia, and another $100,000 worth of materials provided free of charge by local tradies, service clubs and businesses.

Draftsman Steve Bown, who played a leading role in the units’ reconstruction, said the project had brought out the best in the local community.

“This is the stuff that makes Murray Bridge what it is,” he said at an official opening on Thursday.

“It’s an amazing place to live, it’s an amazing place to work and it’s an amazing place to volunteer.”

He and a few friends from local churches first began dreaming about the project five years ago.

“As a Christian, this is just the sort of stuff we do: you help the poor and you help the strugglers,” he said.

“I get a buzz out of doing something useful.”

AC Care homelessness services manager Thanuja Hiripitiyage was another key figure in the homes’ construction.

Mayor Brenton Lewis said she had brought the idea to his attention three years ago.

He admitted thinking it was a tall order at first.

“It is, without a doubt, a very proud moment to be here today,” he said.

“Four young people will get an opportunity for safety and protection, to nestle into a nice neighbourhood and to get on with their lives.

“They’re kids that would have been quite vulnerable, and still probably are … but the wrap-around network of support is there, and there’s a soft landing if things get tough.”

Now that the building work was over, the work of helping the new residents rebuild their lives could begin, AC Care’s Shane Maddocks said.

That was something the community could help with, too.

“We’re really hopeful that (the four young people) will make this their home, they’ll commit to their future and be supported by our staff and the whole community,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people that have come to bring these houses together with their particular skills and trades; now we need a lot of other people with different skills and trades to support these people with jobs, with education, with mental health support.”

Mr Lewis, the mayor, was confident that it would be possible.

“There’s a strength … that runs through this community, it pulls us together,” Mr Lewis said.

“Give us a job to do, ask us if we can help and you’ll find people will stand up.”