Saturday, 7 May 2011

What is Ultimate Communities and How to Join

Ultimate Communities is a volunteer organization that conducts self-esteem and resilience building programs for marginalized youth and their families and assists people in maintaining their tenancies. Currently we only operate in Rockhampton Queensland but have a vision to model our group in other regional areas.We work from a strengths model to empower those who have been disempowered by systems, social agents and personal circumstances, so that they are able to access housing and education suitable to their needs. Assisting people to maintain their tenancy is a major role of Ultimate Communities, reducing the risk of homelessness. We do this by creating opportunities for personal growth, providing practical manual labour and assistance and advocacy. 
The community group was established by Danielle Vujovich and myself in 2010 due to the gaps in services in our town and already we have assisted four young people who had disengaged from education, to re-enroll in school, provided emotional and material support for two young people who were sentenced to Juvenile Detention, conducted weekly diversionary activities (music, games an fishing) and assisted nine families in either, gaining rental accommodation or maintain their tenancy through material assistance such as; mowing yards, repairing damaged property, linking them with support programs that suit their needs and advocating on their behalf with Queensland Housing. Danielle and I feel that, if we can achieve this in just 12 months, with a team of like minded volunteers we could significantly reduce the incidence of homelessness in our community. 
As the cost of living rises and Government processes become more bureaucratic, more and more people are seeking us out to advocate on their behalf. The agencies that are being funded for this support work are unable to do their job due to various restrictions, including funding and service agreement restrictions,  under resourced staff  or inadequately trained staff. Many employees do not even have the minimum Cert. ii in Community Service and this is evident in the lack of positive outcomes for people who are homeless and/or at risk of becoming homeless.  In our experience once people have lost their accommodation it is almost impossible to get them into suitable housing, mostly due to the barriers, that have lead them to homelessness in the first place. Some agencies place conditions on clients before they are given support, such as they must attend a specific program or they don't get the help. We believe that if you first make someone believe in themselves they will then do the work needed to make changes in their life.  It is our view that having a home to live in is a child's right not a privilege and just because your parent has addictions or mental health problems you should not be evicted from your home. As a community action group we advocate for people who are being evicted and help them maintain their property so that they wont be evicted, by maintaining their tenancies this will reduce the homelessness problem in our region. This requires us to put blame aside and work with people to provide solutions rather than judgements.  All of our work is voluntary so I envisage that a centre would be open only on Saturdays from 10am to 10pm. There would be three tiers of assistance and they would include:
  1. Maintaining Tenancy: People who are at risk of eviction or have been given eviction notices, will  register as Maintaining Tenancy Members, inviting us to work with them to identify their need and provide them with practical assistance. (We have a database of volunteers who contribute manual labour to Ultimate Communities and our members.)
  2. Feed and a Yarn: Homeless people could have morning tea and a place to share their feelings with friends. If they ask for our assistance for accommodation we can link them up with the agencies that will be able to work with them.
  3. Street Music Project: People can come and use the centre on a Saturday and Saturday evening, for: information and advice or join in our Street Music project which offers opportunity for personal development. Our aim is to develop people's internal supports (build confidence and develop self esteem and feel valued), social supports ( meeting new people, forming friendships, positive peer influence) and community supports (engaging with community members and agencies).
If you are in Rockhampton and think you may want to be pat of this volunteer community action group, please come tot he Kershaw Gardens near the Waterfall on Sat 10 14th may, 2011.

    If you are not in Rockhampton you may be able to help in other ways, such as writing letters to Housing departments, completing referal forms, or other administration work. We will endeavour to have a webcam at our meeting on Sat 14th May, so perhaps you can join us by SKYPE or MSM. 
    Membership forms will be up loaded as soon as I work out how to do that. Because the people we work with are families, all volunteers who work directly with people will need a Volunteer working with Children Blue card. We can assist with your application if you do not have one.
    Yours in Social Justice 
    President Ultimate Communities  
    Laine Harth-Barclay

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011


    Last year Danielle and I moved forward with our dream for a stronger more inclusive community. Life took us in directions we hadnt planned for and although we created a not for profit company and began vying for funding we began to realize that we didnt fit in to the community services sector. We struggled with the concept of fighting for funding and the popularity quest that was a part of the successful aquition of funds. We discovered that the politics of community service agencies made us uncomfortable and took us away from what we really loved doing, working with people to help them identify their own strengths and create for themselves a better life.
    We were trying to make a living out of what we were passionate about. (Well isnt that the definition of success.) However, what I discovered and I think Danielle feels the same way, is that, changing community attitudes about marginalised people and/or advocating for social justice is something we are obliged to do as part of the moral fabric that makes us Laine and Danielle and not as our paid employment. So we have decided to move forward with Ultimate Communities not as a, not for profit company, but as a Volunteer Community Action Group. We will work our normal jobs and look after our families and one day per week we will dedicate to creating a fairer community for all. We will hold our first AGM at Kershaw Gardens on Sat 14th MAy 10am. Near the waterfall. If you are interested in being part of a unique volunteer community action group, come along to the introduction meeting and hear our plans for Community action against homelessness in our region. See you there.