Jessica Pearce has been so touched by the sight of Melbourne’s homeless people that she has decided to take matters into her own hands: she started buying houses for them.
Jessica was staying with her partner at a hotel in Flinders Street over the Christmas period when they got confronted with the city’s homeless problem.
“I guess we felt shocked and I suppose a bit guilty — we didn’t realise how bad the housing situation in Melbourne was,” Jessica told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s, Rafael Epstein.
“The streets were lined with people sleeping on mattresses or on the ground.”
“I guess it just touched me and I thought that maybe there was something that we could do.”
Jessica and her partner spent two nights walking the streets and handing out $20 and $50 notes to the homeless and talking with them about their circumstances.
One of those people was a homeless man who was sleeping on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.
“He had a two- and a three-year-old who were staying with his ex-partner and he wasn’t going to have access to them because he didn’t have somewhere to live,” Pearce said.
Ms. Pearce and her partner then invited the man back to their hotel for two nights, after which they put him up at a motel for a month.
“I wanted him to have stable accommodation for the children.”
Pearce had paid off her mortgage recently and was looking in inner Melbourne to buy an investment property.
Two weeks ago however she decided to buy houses in cheaper areas after her experience. She purchased four houses “all about three or four days apart from each other.”
“The price that I would have paid for one house in town was the same as buying four in cheaper areas,” Ms Pearce said.
The houses she bought in Lara, Morwell, Corio and Moe will provide a stable, long-term residence or either short-term crisis accommodation.
People with children who are on a waiting list for long-term accommodation will, for example, be provided with the house in Lara for up to three months.
“It’s quite a lovely house, it’s very much like you would imagine a grandmother’s house to be,” Ms Pearce said.
Ms. Pearce said she had spoken to government organizations and youth housing providers about how to best administer the properties.
“It’s very much a work in progress.”
You might ask why Ms. Pearce has taken such a generous step: this can be explained by her own history.
Three days before Ms. Pearce turned 16, her stepfather and mother asked her to leave home.
She eventually got a stable accommodation set up by her maths teacher, with whom she had a good relationship.
Mr. Pearce now has four children and a successful business.
(Previously posted at aranpost.com )