VincentCare’s new Ozanam House in North Melbourne will be a world-class, modern and safe location where people experiencing homelessness are given every opportunity to access housing, health and social support services relevant to their individual needs.
Flexible accommodation options will provide different floor plans suitable for short, medium and long-term placements. All will include separate bathroom facilities and storage facilities, and some will include separate kitchenettes allowing for privacy and self-sufficiency.
The facility will also include a Homeless Resource Centre to meet the immediate physical and psychological needs of men and women experiencing homelessness, including:
- A homeless drop-in program
- Health services
- Case management and counselling
- Client participation programs
Due for completion in March 2019, the new facility will provide integrated housing and support to people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne.
Designed to reconnect
When VincentCare approached MGS Architects to redevelop its Ozanam House site, Joshua Wheeler immediately connected with the ambition.
Joshua, a director at MGS, remembers thinking of it as “a one-off, landmark building and a landmark program”. He wanted it to “become part of Flemington Road’s gateway to Melbourne”.
He knew 179-191 Flemington Road, North Melbourne, was already well known as the site where the original Ozanam House was established in 1953 as a shelter for men in crisis.
But that building, once hidden behind a high wall, was no longer enough to serve its purpose. It needed to be razed.
In its place now stands an 11-storey building that will become a $44 million, world-class homeless hub and resource centre. The aim for this innovative building is to integrate with the community and neighbouring environment.
“We put the resource centre at the front of the space on the ground floor to create a place of welcome for people facing homelessness and the wider community, to both promote the services and connect the centre with the city,” Joshua says.
Inside the centre is a secure central courtyard, landscaped to create respite. A vertical garden climbs up seven storeys.
“We created a relationship between the green spaces on the site and adjacent Royal Park and other large green park assets that are close by.”
Inside, there are 60 crisis accommodation rooms, 48 transitional rooms and on the top floors, with their own separate entry, are 26 self-contained apartments.
“It was very important to VincentCare that the residential apartments had their own street address,” Joshua says. “We didn’t want the residents feeling that they were living above a resource centre, so the centre has a green roof to the rear of the building. This ensures that if you are in an apartment you will look down on green spaces and tree canopies, and then across to parkland.”
On the Flemington Road frontage, to the north of the site, a café offers easy access to the general public and people who work at, stay at or are visiting the site. Through the public entry are the health clinics, activity areas and various multipurpose rooms.
Joshua says the building’s innovative approach is not necessarily in each individual component but in the various and sometimes competing elements.
“There were no examples we could take from,” he said. “It was a challenging building to put together. There is a commercial kitchen in the basement to use the natural slope of the land, there is office space, short, medium and long-term accommodation, programs on offer and health care, and everything has quite different functional requirements.”
It is expected that 250 people will come through the doors every day.
“We need to make a robust building that is also welcoming, and will stand the test of time.”
MGS Architects had a further challenge ahead of them. They needed to put a large accommodation facility and resource centre on a small footprint that fitted neatly on Flemington Road with the Children’s Hospital on the opposite side of the road and Chapman Street to the rear, which is small-scale residential.
There was also limited vehicle access, so the phasing of the building work had to be meticulous.
That was not the end of the challenges. Security and accommodation amenity for the short and medium-term accommodation floors also had to be considered.
“The layering of security in the building had to not be too evident,” Joshua says.
One of the requirements was to have a single-corridor interface in the short and medium-term accommodation floors. There were to be no hidden nooks and no long institutional-style floorplan. The building’s five lifts service separate areas and some have been used to break up the floors, along with communal lounges.
“We have created neighbourhoods,” Joshua says. “Understanding how many people it is appropriate to have on a floor, we have again created smaller cohorts.
“Each floor is like a small city with two little streets on either side of the lift. Each street is a neighbourhood that has light-filled, semi-shaded communal areas that look out through the green wall into the courtyard”
Not surprisingly, MGS and VincentCare have created a five-green-star building with a high level of insulation, double glazing, solar panels on the roof, an air filtration system that ensures thermal comfort and rainwater re-use systems.
It was not only the building costs that were put to the test but also the future running costs.
“We worked through the green-star assessment process to inform operation costs. The detailed building management systems will make sure clients and staff can watch the energy use and make sure it is all finely tuned,” Joshua says.
All apartments also have mechanical ventilation with heat exchange, so air quality and temperature control are very high, providing a high level of care.
“Many people coming into the centre will require respite so they don’t need the extremes of temperature to be a factor. It is a well-being element that is hidden in the building.”
The façade, however, will be far from hidden. As the scaffolding comes down in the next few months, those entering the city from Bolte Bridge or passing by on Flemington Road will see a big difference.
“The green is bold,” Joshua says. “It is shrouded by a big, bronze, perforated screen shaped like dragon scales. The hooded screen has a level of translucency that allows the green to seep through differently at different times of the day.
“It quite literally continues that green language.”
Joshua say the MGS team has worked hard on this “legacy project”.
“This is why our team come to work each day. They are strong advocates for social and community housing and this project will create a social uplift and a building that is truly unique.”
How can I get involved?
Whilst we have secured the funding needed to complete the accommodation components of the Ozanam House Redevelopment, financial support is still needed from the community to enable the full fitout of our co-located Homeless Resource Centre in North Melbourne.
We are proactively seeking individuals, schools and organisations to donate or to help us raise the additional funds we need to bring our complete vision of integrated housing and support services to life.
With an estimated 1300 people currently experiencing homelessness in Melbourne’s CBD, and more than 200 of these people sleeping rough on Melbourne streets each night, the need for additional accommodation options, and innovation in the provision of homelessness support services has never been more urgent.
You can raise funds in your workplace, at school or through a local community event, or you can make an online donation here.
All financial gifts of $1,000 or more will be listed on a plaque in the main entrance of our new facility.
VincentCare Victoria would like to acknowledge our major funding partners that are generously supporting the Ozanam House Redevelopment.