Reality trumps reality TV in Br Harry's reno blitz

Br Barry Prout fms (champagnat.org)

Move over Jamie Durie and Scott Cam — meet the non-celebrity but crack team of builders, plumbers and gardeners whose renovations have given 14 disadvantaged people a place to stay. Source: The Age.

Taking their cue from reality TV, the no-nonsense citizens of Heidelberg West, and supporters, have staged their own renovation rescue of four houses earmarked for demolition.

The ringmaster is Marist Brother Harry Prout, a community worker for 18 years who has built such goodwill that the reply to his calls for help most often was: ‘‘No worries, I’ll be there’’.

On Friday, single mother Micaela*, 24, and her daughter Harper*, 20 months, will move into a two-bedroom house, with central heating and backyard, after spending Harper’s life in a women’s refuge and then at a friend's house.

Two other houses are going to single mothers with children, and the fourth will house five asylum-seeker and homeless adults.

More than 60 volunteers worked on the houses, or donated goods.

The project started a year ago following a state government plan to demolish a housing estate of more than 80 flats to build four, 10-storey public housing blocks.

Owners of four houses adjoining the blocks who didn’t want to live near the huge development sold them to Banyule council.

The council planned to bulldoze the four and sell them to private developers.

But no one took up the construction tender on the 10-storey public housing, and some tenants of the old estate are yet to be re-housed.

Br Harry realised the latter project could take years, and he enthusiastically supported Banyule councillor Craig Langdon’s idea to postpone razing the four houses, to turn them into temporary accommodation.

He said the houses might be available for only a few years, but would be a boon to people in urgent need.

Fourteen people ‘‘now have a secure and safe place to be, and just seeing the joy and relief on their faces, is great’’, he said.

*Names have been changed.

FULL STORY

Better than reality TV: community rallies to house the homeless (The Age)

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