Imminent homelessness tale has unexpected fairytale ending for Norman Court residents

The Gazette front page detailing the 12 residents' plight back in August.

The Gazette front page detailing the 12 residents' plight back in August.

After the Gazette’s August 30 front page detailing the imminent homelessness of the residents of Norman Court in Richmond, (here) four people managed to make other arrangements.

The 14-unit complex on March Street was due to be bulldozed by owner Richmond Club before Christmas to build a long-planned extension to its adjacent nursing home, Hawkesbury Living.

However eight people were still without anywhere to move to as the November 20 deadline approached, despite much searching. Wentworth Housing interviewed them all soon after the Gazette story to assess their individual situations and see what it could do for the residents, and Richmond Club agreed to hold off as long as it could. Finally this week Wentworth was able to offer all eight residents brand new units in a block it has just finished building at St Marys.

Wentworth took the residents on Council’s Peppercorn bus to see the units on Wednesday, December 6 and also show them around St Marys to see the community’s facilities to enable them to decide quickly whether they wanted to take up the offer.

Following their story, the Gazette was there on Wednesday to view the units held for them. Rajadurai and wife Maureen’s new flat was on the ground floor, with a pretty pale green kitchen, leading out onto a  large outdoor courtyard. 

The block was so new the lifts still weren’t commissioned yet, so we took the stairwell, with its new duck-egg blue paint still redolent, up to the third floor to see May’s new unit. As we walked in, she was excited to see the same green kitchen, and the living area giving on to a balcony with fabulous views to the Blue Mountains (see our video of her joyful inspection).

As she checked out the unit she said she’d brought up five children and had “never had anything new”. Her delight was infectious.

After their inspections of their prospective new homes there was an elevated mood amongst the residents. As they gather on the unit block’s driveway, one of the Wentworth Housing representatives called out “how does everyone feel?” and there was an instant chorus of “Yay!”.

May checks out her new kitchen.

May checks out her new kitchen.

Norman Court resident Denise said to the Wentworth rep “you’ve done wonderful, lovie.” All the residents said they would like to take up the offer. Wentworth reps said they had the offer forms with them, and sitting on the fence of the driveway, the Norman Courters eagerly took them and signed them on the spot. They were told they would get a lease to sign very soon and should have the keys by the end of next week. 

While May has lived in Richmond for 25 years and will have to leave the community she loves, she still couldn’t believe her luck. “I’m absolutely as happy as can be,” she said. “It’s beautiful and I’m very grateful and thankful.”

Denise agreed. “I’m very grateful and I thank Wentworth heaps. It’s perfect and I’m very happy,” she said.

Norman Court residents being rehoused in this new Wentworth Housing block of units at St Marys.

Norman Court residents being rehoused in this new Wentworth Housing block of units at St Marys.

Rajadurai said “it’s wonderful”. “Toni and the team have done a great job. We were trying to find a place but couldn’t.”

Wentworth Housing’s Melissa Grah-McIntosh said the Norman Court people were on their priority list which was why they all got a spot in the new block. She said the 49 units in the block were a blend of 18 social and 31 affordable housing.

The social units cost the tenants about a third of the market rate, and affordable units cost the tenants 75 per cent of the market rate. While the social units are now all allocated, there are still some affordable units left in the block.

One bedroom units are available from $191 and two bedroom units from $270. There is an open house for inspections this Saturday, December 9 from 9-11am at 11 Phillip Street. Prospects must meet income criteria to be eligible. See criteria at http://wentworth.org.au/affordable-housing.html.

There will be a second open house on Thursday, December 14 from 4.30-6.30pm. Enquiries to 4777 8001.