St. Vincent de Paul - home to bright ideas

St. Vincent de Paul - home to bright ideas

Helping people challenged by homelessness involves more than providing accommodation. Increasing utility costs continue to place pressure on the finances of those with little or no income. It’s a reality that has led St. Vincent de Paul to take assertive steps in trying to reduce living costs for vulnerable tenants residing at transitional-accommodation units. Through CCI’s Small Grants program, the organisation has received funding towards the cost of installing 7 solar-power panels on the Matthew Talbot Centre. The Centre is a place that provides immediate support and accommodation for some 35,000 men facing crisis each year.

Olga Yoldi of St. Vincent de Paul says reducing living costs not only improves their residents’ ability to pay the bills that form part of their overall rent costs, it paves the way for opportunities to make positive changes to long-term circumstances.

Tenants are already seeing the benefits from solar power through lower living costs. It’s not as difficult for residents to pay their bills and St. Vincent de Paul uses the savings in electricity bills at Matthew Talbot Hostel to invest in other meaningful support.

The average annual electricity cost for the units is $9,000 plus $5,388 for the Matthew Talbot Building. Solar panels offer a 40% saving for units and 58% for the building.

“There’s a significant saving of about $6,725 per year.”

She explained that cost savings at the Matthew Talbot Centre will fund valuable Life-Skills programs as well, to assist men experiencing homelessness to move into housing and prevent the likelihood of a descent into chronic homelessness.

The organisation offers a Life Skills course, material aid to help with the transition into permanent housing, education and employment, and links people to various support services. It’s a vital pathway for people to reintegrate with their communities before their situation worsens. For many, there is a risk of descent into chronic homelessness when personal struggles intensify, and when people find themselves part of the 'homeless culture'.

“It’s more difficult to assist them effectively when that happens,” she says.

Energus has completed installation of the panels for St Vincent de Paul Society in New South Wales. The project aims to provide long-term benefits for the organisation and help vulnerable families in the future. Measuring the annual savings and the benefits for everyone is the next important step in what is considered a visionary journey.

CCI Giving Foundation Officer, Lauren Clair is pleased to see innovation and long-term planning in Small Grants submissions.

“Solar panels support efforts towards a more sustainable and cleaner environment, and the vision of the organisation demonstrates a departure from many assistance-related projects that we’ve had before.”

St Vincent de Paul plans to roll out the solar program across 90 of their buildings in the state.

“This program has acted as a pilot or trial, creating a model to be emulated. It’s proved to be innovative and a smart use of funding. It represents a powerful new way of doing things for St Vincent de Paul. It signals an extremely positive change in the way that organisations think about philanthropy and has a meaningful long-term impact.

For Olga Yoldi, the Small Grant has offered multiple benefits.

“The grant not only provided a cleaner, cheaper and more sustainable energy source, but will generate significant savings in electricity bills now and in years to come, that will be reinvested in the assistance programs to help the most vulnerable in our community. So the grant represents a long-term investment in the community. These grants generate social, economic and environmental outcomes in the short and long term.”