On Sunday 21 July, there was a busy hub of excitement, conversation and networking at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith as Citizen Action Penrith Affordable Housing (CAPAH) launched their Post Card Stories Project, ‘A Home 4 All.’
The project, in partnership with WestWords and the Diocese of Parramatta, highlighted the stories of three individuals in the Penrith Local Government Area, who shared their vulnerabilities through their housing experiences.
Penrith Councillor Tricia Hitchens represented the Mayor of Penrith City Council at the event.
I was especially excited to see the local community bring to action the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2018–19 ‘A Place to Call Home: Making a home for everyone in our land,’ which was launched by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta and Chairman for the Bishops Commission for Social Justice – Mission and Service, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, last September.
Carolyn D’Mello from CAPAH said “the main catalyst for the CAPAH Post Card Stories was having people affected by the issue from our community tell their stories really humanises the issue of housing stress and the lack of affordable and secure rental housing in our area. The stories put a human face, gives voice and an emotional connection to the experiences of people in our local communities. These stories highlight the tragedy and the urgency in the crisis that is happening right now with a lack of affordable and secure rental housing.”
The highlight of the event was of course the three stories of Arou, Steven and Rohan. As they shared their stories, we reflected on what touched us and how we might be called to act differently.
We learnt about the reason and process of crafting these stories with impact, through a dynamic and interactive panel facilitated by Victor and included members of CAPAH and WestWords.
We heard that according to Anglicare Australia’s Rental Affordability Snapshot (2019), and perhaps what was best understood, are the immediate impacts caused by unaffordable rents. Because the rent is immutable and income is fixed, families cut spending on other basic needs and damage their own health and prospects in life to maintain shelter. Put simply, people go hungry, and turn to emergency food relief if they can; go without heating in winter and cooling in summer; can’t afford essential transport, medical expenses or have to deny their kids involvement in school and recreational activities. For many, particularly in metropolitan areas like ours, and especially if they are receiving government income, payments are now so far below the real cost of living they are paying 50% or more of their income in rent.
Finally, we ensured that this was more than listening and talking about the issue of housing stress through mapping our assets and willingness to act through gathering in our interest areas to capture our ideas and action. The Call 2 Action encompassed strategic areas of action, which emerged from the stories, namely, Community Engagement, Practical Supports, Bank of Stories, Advocacy and Education and Awareness Raising.
Carolyn from CAPAH closed the event with a quote from her mentor Mike Green, which summed up the atmosphere of the day.
“When people discover what they have, they find power. When people join together in new connections and relationships, they build power. When people become more productive together, they exercise their power to address the problems and realise dreams.”