The GROW Project – or Giving Real Opportunities Within – aims to end the homelessness epidemic through the provision of work opportunities and continued support.
Following the airing of the SBS Series Filthy Rich and Homeless, Acacia Founder, Greg Kentish was compelled to ignite change in the area of homelessness. He recognised the worth of supporting people experiencing homelessness and aiding them in their journey to employment would be worth it. Greg extrapolated the figures and realised if just 1 in every 11 Australian organisations relieved just one individual from homelessness, the homeless epidemic will be significantly improved.
This idea sparked the formation of Australia’s first GROW Project to end homelessness in Australia. GROW stands for Giving Real Opportunities Within and forms the vision of this movement.
After introducing the idea of the GROW Project, Acacia reached out to two customers, Sharp & Carter and Brisbane Housing Company, to assist us with providing the best support possible to applicants. Brisbane Housing Company provides subsidised housing to eligible applicants in the Brisbane area. Acacia partnered with them to advertise our employment opportunity to their residents and shortlist six applicants who were suited for the opportunity.
We recognise that for individuals who have or are experiencing periods of homelessness, the provision of work alone is not enough to prevent people from falling back into homelessness. As a result, Acacia also partnered with Sharp & Carter, a recruitment agency and vocational training provider to support the applicants’ reintegration into the workforce. Acacia offered coaching to all shortlisted applicants to allow them to perform at their best during the interview process.
Acacia also offered GROW Project employees counselling to enable them to work through any pre-existing concerns and facilitate the best transition back into the workforce. We recognise the importance of self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-care, and particularly, the depletion of these skills in individuals experiencing homelessness.
Acacia has successfully hired three employees across the Acacia Connections Group, tailoring the position requirements to the individual’s capacity and current skillset. All employees have the opportunity to grow within our team. GROW Project employees at our head office have a mentor that provides advice and guidance through the reintegration process.
We pledge to stay with applicants who were unsuccessful in the hiring process until they find employment. Acacia continues to provide support to build the skillset and confidence of these individuals for future employment. We have also targeted the issue of lack of resources for individuals who were not offered employment through the provision of clothing vouchers and covering travel expenses.
Following our successful launch, we hope to roll out the GROW Project to our customers. We hope to continue reducing the stigma surrounding homelessness and emphasise the critical value of a helping hand for individuals in need.
Brisbane Housing Company
Brisbane Housing Company (BHC) is incredibly grateful to be involved in the GROW Program run by Acacia. This program has been both a professional and empowering experience for participants, providing opportunities for both employment and personal growth. Of the seven BHC residents who engaged in the program, three were able to achieve part-time employment and the remaining four were offered continued support until they can gain employment. BHC has been impressed by the genuine care and support offered by the GROW Program and we are excited to see the participants continue to flourish with this additional support.
At BHC, we understand there can be many barriers to employment for people who have experienced disadvantages and adversity in their life. Whether it’s a lack of suitable opportunities, past trauma or history influencing an application, or even something as simple as transportation issues, seeking sustainable employment can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. Through the GROW Program, everyday corporates are able to offer real, long-term employment opportunities to people who are motivated to work. We hope to see the GROW Program continue to excel and offer even more opportunities for people to access meaningful employment in the future.
Sharp & Carter
Sharp & Carter Specialist Recruitment in Brisbane partnered with Acacia to support our GROW Program to combat homelessness through assistance in gaining employment. Various experienced recruitment specialists volunteered their time to meet with numerous candidates to provide expertise and advice to help them further their careers.
The partnership aligned strongly with the Sharp & Carter guiding principles: care, generosity, trust, and humility, and we look forward to working on similar projects with to help make a difference.
“Homelessness was an unexpected outcome following the disintegration of my marriage. As a victim of years of emotional and financial abuse, I made the hardest decision to leave my husband and all my possessions and move to Brisbane from Sydney. The decision was made even more challenging as I have a 12-year-old daughter. With no money (due to my husband removing all money from our joint bank account), I was unable to find a home to rent and forced to couch surf with a relative.
I learnt quickly that while there were many agencies available to help me, accessing them and understanding how they could assist me was a challenge. Homelessness eroded my confidence. I went from being a confident working woman to feeling completely helpless.
I am slowly building my life through tenacity and persistence. I found a place to live through Brisbane Housing Company. The opportunity for employment arrived in my letterbox via a leaflet at our new address. This job particularly appealed to me as the role is supported and I was keen to build my administration skills. My circumstances meant that I could only work school hours and the 30 hours a week suited me perfectly.
During my interview with the company director, I was made to feel at ease. I let my guard down and told him my history around DV and homelessness. I was extremely happy to have been offered the role at Acacia Group. I started at Acacia in September 2019 with the Intake Team. Due to the fantastic training and supportive staff, I was moved onto the Engagement Team in December.
My confidence has been restored with my job at Acacia. I love my job and working here has been beyond my expectations. I am now able to provide for my daughter who started high school this year. We are planning a holiday with my eldest daughter (who lives overseas) for Christmas. The best outcome for me is being a good example for my daughter, who often asks when can I get a job?”
Rachel, Acacia GROW Team Member (name changed for privacy)
“This program has been just so supportive for me. I have been very isolated due to ill health for about six years and this work opportunity has allowed me to regain my skills and self-worth. This opportunity has engaged me in work that I enjoy and find challenging and rewarding. I also work with people with extraordinary insight motivation and compassion for the wellbeing of others.”
Penny, Acacia GROW Team Member (name changed for privacy)
How many of us have faced unimaginable trauma in our lives? Then had the audacity to blame ourselves, with guilt and fear following us around like punishment, interfering with every step and every decision we make in our lives. Luckily for me, the Brisbane Housing Company (BHC) provided me with affordable housing after four years of being homeless. The fears of not being able to provide for myself, not only because of where I was emotionally and mentally but also physically, slowly started lifting. One day I emptied my mailbox, which of course, was filled with junk mail that I rarely read. Imagine my scepticism when a small trivial flyer dropped on the floor, forcing me to pick it up. I put it aside, for several days before I actually read it. There are moments that mark our lives. This was mine.
Working with Acacia has been like a gift to me. I have greater balance in my life, and more confidence and fulfilment. My communication skills have improved.
The work ethic of all coworkers is amazing. All staff have a wonderful sense of integrity. Their intuition and knowledge are unsurpassable. I am so, so grateful for where I am today. Businesses that get involved with the GROW program really can help people to stop only seeing what they haven’t achieved and have more confidence in themselves.
Laura, Acacia GROW Team Member (name changed for privacy)