Reid’s Guest House – Ministerial Response

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Original adjournment matter from Juliana Addison MP to Parliament –

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Housing, and the action that I seek is for the minister to provide me with an update about the temporary closure of Reid’s Guest House in Ballarat and what steps have been taken to support displaced guests.

Reid’s Guest House is one of Ballarat’s largest accommodation facilities for people who are experiencing homelessness. Reid’s is owned and operated by Uniting Vic.Tas, with guests typically offered an initial stay of up to 60 nights while staff provide support to find long-term housing during their stay.

On the evening of 10 February this year a fire broke out in the lower floor of the facility and caused significant structural and electrical damage to the residence hall of the building. This led to the evacuation of 50 guests and staff from the building to Uniting’s BreezeWay facility. This very important facility and team of dedicated staff usually provide meals to Ballarat’s most vulnerable people. On the night of the fire at Reid’s Guest House, BreezeWay again stepped up for these people and provided emergency relief accommodation for those 50 displaced guests.

I would like to acknowledge the devoted staff at Uniting for their tremendous work in supporting these guests through the challenges of relocation while the facility is being repaired and made safe. I would like to recognise the advocacy of Abbey Cutler and the team from CatholicCare Ballarat in providing information about this acute issue to my office. Many other providers, such as Anglicare, have also been supportive by providing meals for displaced guests.

Reid’s Guest House is such an important refuge for the most vulnerable members of our community. This was acknowledged with an extensive $1.2 million renovation funded through the state government’s Living Heritage program. This investment was allocated for works on both the inside and the outside of the building. I would again like to thank the minister for his strong and compassionate leadership in Victoria’s largest ever investment in social and affordable housing. At least $80 million has been allocated specifically to Ballarat as a part of the transformative Big Housing Build, which will not only create housing for vulnerable community members but boost employment in construction.

I look forward to hearing from the minister and receiving an update about this very important issue to the people of Ballarat.


Response from the Hon Richard Wynne MP, Minister for Housing (27 April 2022) –

I was sorry to hear about the devastating fire at Reid’s Guesthouse in Ballarat resulting in its temporary closure and the displacement of 50 guests. I appreciate the hard work by all involved in securing alternative accommodation for these people. Uniting worked to urgently relocate all residents into emergency accommodation across Ballarat and the Central Highlands Area and metropolitan Melbourne. Guests are unable to return to the building until safety and building works are completed and the site is considered habitable.

Uniting sourced and funded the emergency alternative accommodation for all displaced guests from 11 February to 3 March 2022, and have covered the cost of some living and transport expenses.

I am pleased to advise that the Department of Families, Fairness & Housing (the department) has also approved additional funding of $149,000 to assist Uniting to cover the costs of the alternative accommodation already paid, and to continue to sustain the temporary accommodation for displaced guests.

I acknowledge the difficulties services in the Ballarat area now face with the loss of this low-cost accommodation facility that provided an option for people experiencing homelessness. This is part of a broader picture in which low-cost, long term accommodation options are dwindling in communities across Victoria.

I can assure you the department is working directly with Uniting in Ballarat to ensure temporary accommodation can be sustained for the displaced guests until Reid’s Guesthouse reopens. I am advised that the work to repair the fire damage is progressing and we are looking forward to the facility becoming operational in the near future.

The projected date for Reid’s to reopen was originally late May 2022, however advice on 6 April 2022 from Uniting indicates 1 August 2022 is now more likely due to the works required at the property.

While people have remained in relatively stable accommodation since the incident, additional support has been provided by Uniting, linking in additional services and outreach responses as required by the individuals. Uniting is also working closely with a number of therapeutic support agencies to provide an in-reach service at Reid’s to assist guests with the trauma and mental health challenges from the incident and subsequent relocation.