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    The Victorian company building small houses for the homeless

    Kirsty Sier

    Earlier this year, the Victorian government announced their plan to combat the rising number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Melbourne. Called Towards Home, the program represents $9.8 million that will be allocated over two years of funding. Part of the program consists of the construction of 30 “modular and relocatable homes” to be built on public land; what the government has called “a guaranteed pathway to permanent supportive housing so that rough sleepers [can] gain stable housing as quickly as possible”.

    Force10 is the building company that has come on-board to put together the first round of these homes; a series of six “small units” to be built on a site in the Melbourne suburb of Preston. Of the six units, five will be one-bedroom homes equipped with all the bare necessities for a comfortable life. The six-by-six-metre units will each have their own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and lounge (this latter forming part of the kitchen area). The sixth unit will be a two-bedroom house to be used as designated office and counselling space.

    “Initially, our company – Force10, which I own in Victoria – came on-board [the program] in February. We’re hoping to go onto the next round [of building], but at this stage we’re doing the initial six units,” says Mark Evans, managing director of Force10 in Victoria.

    As Evans explains, Force10 is a national company with state arms that operate somewhat independently of one another. As a whole, the company has been heavily invested in social building initiatives, having to date erected their engineered building solution for affected populations in New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Fiji, to name a few. The Victorian government’s Towards Home program was a natural continuation of the company’s benevolent approach to building.

    “I have a bit of a soft spot for homeless people,” says Evans of his decision to support the Towards Home program. “I realise how easy it is to fall through the cracks. Sometimes people find it very hard to find their way back. You can be on top of the world one day, and homeless the next. I have a lot of sympathy for them.”

    The units Force10 is building for Towards Home might be small, but they are sturdy. All six units are to be made from the same engineered building system Force10 has used for cyclone-proof homes throughout the south pacific. Thanks to a steel framework and steel base, they are also termite-proof.

    “Even in a cyclone, the roof just won’t blow off,” says Evans.

    Each of the six units currently under construction in Preston are to be made using all-Australian materials, including Colourbond roofing and a fireproof panel system consisting of polyurethane interiors. All of the materials have been CSIRO-tested and approved.

    “We have very little materials we throw away,” says Evans. “We try to recycle as much as we can, and all of our materials come pre-made in the factory, so we have virtually no wastage. To give an example, we’re well-underway [with the construction of the Preston units], and we’ve fit [all of our wastage] into one four-metre bin.

    “As a parent company, Force10 has done a lot of similar work [to this],” he adds. “They’ve done lots and lots of work for Indigenous communities, lots of work for New Guinea, and in Vanuatu and Fiji. I like to bring that into my [own branch of] Force10 in Victoria.

    “We’d like to do more [projects] like this. We don’t really advertise much, but we’re always looking for more ways to help.”

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