$250k grant ignites St Helens social enterprise project

EXCITING TIMES: St Helens Neighbourhood House manager Trish O'Duffy says a new building project will help address a number of needs in the Break O'Day region.

EXCITING TIMES: St Helens Neighbourhood House manager Trish O'Duffy says a new building project will help address a number of needs in the Break O'Day region.

St Helens Neighbourhood House will begin a bold new social enterprise program in January after receiving a $250,000 grant from the Department of State Growth's Training and Work Pathways Program.

The program will give a team of six unemployed young people the chance to participate in the construction of two social housing studios from recycled shipping containers, and in the process gain a Certificate II in construction.

During the 18-month project the team will work alongside a project supervisor and another young person from the Break O’Day region, who will be beginning a four-year apprenticeship in carpentry.

The project is the latest in a series of THRIVE initiatives started by the neighbourhood house in 2016, with a school mentorship program and a community garden project already under way. 

St Helens Neighbourhood House manager Trish O’Duffy said the grant would kick-start the project and help improve the lives of disadvantaged young people. 

As a result of an extensive community consultation undertaken in 2015 by THRIVE, the partnership identified issues such as unemployment and we’ve worked together to see how we can address those issues,” Mrs O’Duffy said.

“We're addressing things across the social determinants of health spectrum, like helping the long-term unemployed, building peoples’ skills and personal development.”

Mrs O’Duffy said the THRIVE partnership was planning for the enterprise to continue long after the startup period covered by the grant. 

“We'd like to think that in 18 months when the grant is expended that we've got a successful social enterprise project where people from around the state will buy locally-converted containers for high quality living accommodation rather than buying from interstate.

“If it's the case that we do make this a viable entity it will increase jobs in our region and that's what we're aiming for.”

The six workers will receive wrap-around support during the 18-month period, including access to literacy mentors, health professionals and social workers. 

THRIVE is an acronym for Transforming Health Relationships Innovation Vocation and Education.

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