Haven secures future in city

SECURE: Haven; Home, Safe chief executive Ken Marchingo is looking to the future.

SECURE: Haven; Home, Safe chief executive Ken Marchingo is looking to the future.

HAVEN; Home, Safe chief executive Ken Marchingo says a merger with a Melbourne-based housing service is part of the organisation's long term strategy to expand its footprint and offering.

The Bendigo organisation announced the merger with North East Housing Services to staff yesterday.

Mr Marchingo said it was an exciting time in “an environment where small services are deeply concerned about the impacts of government change both federal and state’’.

“In an environment where small services are looking around seeing who they can partner with and in an environment where the changes the Department of Human Services wish to bring in by some might be seen as threatening and by others might be seen as opportunity, we’re just forging ahead,’’ he said.

“We’re not waiting around for someone to dictate our future – we’ve looked out over the last good number of years at where we can extend our service model and our footprint.’’

Before agreeing to the merger, North East Housing Services underwent a ‘betterment test’ – asking the question ‘if we go down a merger path, how do we know it’s going to be better for our clients, our staff and our community?’.

The answer was a resounding yes. But Mr Marchingo says while North East will become part of the Bendigo-based organisation, they could each learn from the other.

“One of the things North East do is they have a social enterprise that delivers maintenance and other services called HIVE, as in a hive of activity, we’re really interested in seeing how we can grow that particular idea,’’ he said.

“With a base and presence in Melbourne, we now have the opportunity to continue to do what we do here and that is build really good relationships with other external service providers.’’

The merger will see Haven; Home Safe increase staff numbers to more than 150, have offices in Bendigo, Preston, Geelong, Mildura, Robinvale, Echuca and Kyabram, manage more than $275 million in assets and more than 1600 long-term and transitional housing properties from Melbourne to Mildura.

“The operating platform we have put together here in the Loddon Mallee region is unlike anything in Australia and those in the know say it’s unlike anything in the western world,’’ Mr Marchingo said.

“The vast majority of homelessness or housing services are just that, they’re a homelessness service, they do personal support, they do great work, or they do crisis housing but not support, or they do long term housing but not short term housing or not support  - we do it all.

“So when someone walks in the door here, to the extent we have resources available, they have access to a whole range of personal support issues that are all targeted about homelessness and housing crisis and access to housing and housing support – right through the continuum to long term housing.

“It’s the ability to blend all of the components of the homelessness service system into a single door, that’s what makes us unique.

“This merger should make no difference to the people here in Bendigo, but it will change the way we operate in the city and because we will now be able to bring capital and redevelopment to the north east, we expect to be able to expand the amount of housing they have available for the people who walk in their door.’’

The Concierge model, that has staff on the client side of the front counter, de-escalates people’s concerns form the moment they walk in the door – is something that HHS aims to replicate in Preston.

Also for the large number of HHS tenants in Melbourne, they now have a specific office they can go to for services and contact.

“There's nothing quite like being able to pick up the phone and speak to someone who’s in the town you’re in, or at least the city you’re in and that’s been something we wanted to fix in the metro area,'' Mr Marchingo said.

"Overall It delivers better services for clients and more resources, a single operating platform and a stronger service, everybody wins.''


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