Tony Wells: on Carrical House and Servants Community Housing

Tony Wells from the Rotary Club of North Balwyn recently came to a Community Dinner at Carrical House. The following is his report to the club.

of Respect, Dignity and Hope…

An often used metaphor for seeking success is to aspire to the “Mansion on the Hill” and Carrical House in Hawthorn is one such place.

It was built in the 1860s and stands as a monument to Victoria’s prosperity following the gold rush of the mid-19th century. Today the veranda at Carrical House offers a platform on a wintry Saturday night for stunning views of the Melbourne CBD skyline (Manhattan re-visited) with misty rain swirling through the light from the towers at the MCG – the AFL season is in full swing.

Carrical House stands these days as a monument to a less prosperous group in our society. It provides affordable housing to men and women on low incomes.

Earlier this year the CEO, Matt Maudlin visited RC North Balwyn and spoke about Carrical and its work, which is run by an organisation known as Servants. This is a community housing program with a tag line – respect, dignity, hope.

Last Saturday twelve of us from the Club were invited for a reciprocal visit to a Community Dinner at Carrical House to meet the residents face to face and to chat with them to hear their stories.

We did this over an excellent and sustaining meal of pork and crackling and rhubarb pie.

Charlie and Conrad, Sarah and Fiona, and many more, had tales to tell of challenging and often harrowing circumstances that few of us experience at first hand. The residents represent a cross section of life not familiar to many of us.

There but for the Grace of God…

One striking theme to emerge was generally expressed support by the residents for Matt and his team, including Brian and Pat who prepared our meal and Amanda, all of whom are providing a chance in life which has eluded them previously, in many cases for many years.

Later Matt spoke to us over coffee about the work at Carrical House and at Hamer House, a similar facility run by Servants in Kew.

He and his team are enthusiastic and committed.

Matt spoke of the many challenges for management at Carrical House, which can be difficult in the circumstance that some of the residents find themselves. Discipline is important, and understood by the residents, and the first priority is the safety of everyone on the site.

Those that don’t measure up or don’t fit the culture of respect, dignity and hope that has been developed at Carrical House are not likely to remain for long.

The residents are required, at least in part, to pay their way and a proportion of any income they have, goes towards their accommodation. Some are in limited employment; some are supported through pension payments.
Matt acknowledges Servants is dealing with the “tip of the iceberg” in their efforts to assist low income earners. But to see their work at first hand is to begin to understand that people with commitment and compassion can and do make a difference.

A question is how we, or others, might help.
It is food for thought.

Republished with permission.

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