Homeless shelter Harcourts
Harcourts Packham and Toward Home have joined forces to transform a former backpacker’s hostel into short-term accommodation for South Australians vulnerable to homelessness. Image – Canva
  • Harcourts Packham have transformed the 11-bedroom former hostel into a short-term homelessness solution
  • The initiative was launched in partnership with Toward Home, and is currently at full capacity
  • The project provides support to over 45's with a maximum tenure of 12 weeks and ability to keep pets

Real estate agency Harcourts Packham has collaborated with homelessness alliance Toward Home to transform a former backpacker’s hostel into short-term accommodation for at-risk South Australians.

Harcourts Packham purchased the backpacker’s hostel in early 2021, and identified the need for a homelessness support site in the Adelaide CBD.

The hostel was already well-designed for shared living, with an industrial kitchen, 11 individual bedrooms, a balcony, electric locks on each room and wet areas.

The newly modified building has been re-named ‘Terra Firma’, meaning ‘solid ground’ in Latin, and is now ready to accept vulnerable members of the community.

Leveraging connections to establish long-term solutions

Stu Costello, CEO of Harcourts South Australia, expressed his pride for the Packham team that spearheaded the initiative.

“This is a true reflection of the charitable and community-based values James Packham and Harcourts Packham live by and an extremely worthy cause supporting South Australians,” said Mr Costello.

James Packham, Managing Director of Harcourts Packham, said the Terra Firma project plays a pivotal role in Harcourts mission to respond to homelessness.

“For us, this project speaks to ‘Doing the Right Thing’ and ‘People First’, core Harcourts values. This is an issue that, once you have an appreciation for and experience with, it’s hard for any right-thinking person to walk past.”

James Packham, Harcourts Packham

“We’re chiefly a service industry, and that ethos of putting people first and ensuring the journey is as good as possible, can be applied here,” Mr Packham explained.

Mr Packham added that Harcourts’ expertise and reputation will assist them in transitioning Terra Firma residents into long-term accommodation, the end goal of their stay.

Harcourts will be able to provide residents with references, as well as leverage their investor database to set up leasing options between investors and residents.

“The competencies and efficiency which allow us to run a successful real estate business are transferable and will add massive value in tackling this problem,” said Mr Packham.

Finding their feet at Terra Firma

The Toward Home alliance has been joined by multiple experienced service providers on a mission to solve homelessness, including Lutheran Care, Baptist Care, Salvation Army, Sonder, and Mission Australia.

According to Mr Packham, Harcourts Packham utilised personal networks to approach Toward Home with the idea of converting the old backpacker’s hostel.

“Toward Home were excited by what we and the building had to offer, and as a result, we entered a partnership to provide the building for use as accommodation experiencing or at-risk of homelessness,” he said.

Terra Firma was established to assist South Australian at risk of, or experiencing homelessness in getting back on their feet and finding stable, long-term accommodation.

Terra Firma Harcourts Packham
Harcourts Packham Director James Packham with other partners in the Terra Firm project. Image supplied.

The project offers support to singles and couples aged 45 and over, allowing a tenure of up to 12 weeks and even providing accommodations for pets.

“If utilised effectively we have the resources to provide for everyone’s wellbeing. Helping someone achieve a baseline can mean providing a safe place to sleep, to shower, clean their clothes and prepare a meal.

“Until these basic needs are satisfied it is unrealistic that they will be able to advance their position and re-join their peers as a productive contributor in society. Helping people find their feet is more than good form; it improves lives and delivers a strong net benefit to society,” added Mr Packham.

Support for vulnerable South Australians

While Terra Firma is still in its early stages, the project already has a few wins under its belt, currently operating at full capacity and having assisted several residents in transitioning to other accommodation.

“Homelessness in our state is a large and growing problem and we have chosen to pick a fight with it! Some have asked us why we chose to launch this initiative, but for us, it has never required over-justification,” Mr Packham said.

“There are South Australians who don’t have a place to sleep tonight. These are someone’s child or someone’s parent, any of us could find ourselves in a similar position.”

James Packham, Harcourts Packham

In the future, Terra Firma plans to facilitate regular community events and create space for arts and music, as well as provide staff to assist residents in applying for rentals.

Harcourts Packham Business Operations Manager Jacob Kinsman acknowledged that homelessness doesn’t discriminate, and many vulnerable South Australians can fall victim.

“Most people are only one broken relationship, ill family member, job loss or financial setback away from it. It’s so important to have robust support networks and services for people to access when the road gets tough, and Harcourts Packham is immensely proud to be making an impact here,” Mr Kinsman concluded.

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