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Social Enterprise Spotlight: HoMie

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Photo of staff and trainees from HoMie - A Social Enterprise

HomeGround Real Estate is proud to be a social enterprise real estate agency. This interview is part of a new series celebrating our fellow social enterprises across Melbourne. Here, we’ve interviewed Nick Pearce, Co-Founder & CEO of Homie to share his thoughts.

Q – Nick, tell us about Homie.

A – Our north star is we support young people affected by homelessness through supporting their readiness for their futures. What we’re finding is we can instil immense confidence within people and help develop skills, but there’s also a key benefit in being able to obtain a Cert III, something tangible.

Our focal point is largely skewed toward young people and there’s an intentionality behind it, with the prevalence of homelessness with young people and the stigmas that exist there. We’re trying to champion that component of the homelessness spectrum to make sure those voices are heard and captured.

Q – What drove you to start your organisation? Why social enterprise?

A – The biggest realisation we had was when young people came in on a VIP day looking for work, many didn’t have referrals or anything on their resume. They were passionate, they just needed that start. That was the penny drop moment: we have a workplace that has capacity to employ, and there’s an underutilised talent pool.

The retail industry itself is the biggest employer of young people, and youth homelessness is so overrepresented with so much stigma, so it made sense to keep down this path.

[Social enterprise] made the most sense in terms of accessibility. It provides a livelihood and a lifestyle, but obviously what you are you doing with the bottom line feels better for people knowing it’s not going to shareholders’ pockets. Having the medium of streetwear clothing was also a really engaging way to connect with young people on top of having a cause.

Q – Do you think consumer interest in social enterprises has grown in recent years? If so, why?

A – Yes, especially in recent years, a lot of people have developed a greater sense of empathy. You certainly found people having conversations about seeking more purpose in their lives, whether personal or consumerism change.

A lot of people who weren’t previously in a compromised situation found themselves there. We know homelessness has gone up exponentially because of the unfortunate reality of family breakdowns, loss of income and work. But to reframe it, it’s a real positive that people are now starting to seek out how to make a difference, whether by supporting different causes or making lifestyle changes that are more purposeful.

Q – What do you think the future has in store for Victorian social enterprises?

A – I definitely think we’ll see more and more sprout up. I really hope and think there will be more cohesion in terms of entities linking up to find those commonalities where they can amplify impact. You’ll find with social enterprises there’s lots of spirit and strength of collaboration so that’s empowering.

Q – What’s coming up for Homie?

A – We’ve had the Hoodies 4 Homelessness campaign recently. It’s been really cool to do our first iteration of that. Advocacy for young people and youth homelessness, and improving understanding in the general community about it, is an exciting piece we’re keen to tackle. Hopefully we can really make some gains in ultimately breaking that cycle. I’m buoyed by our campaign and mentality.

More broadly we’ve got some exciting brand collaborations coming up, so keep an eye out for those.

Social Enterprise Spotlight: For Change Co

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HomeGround Real Estate is proud to be a social enterprise real estate agency. This interview is part of a new series celebrating our fellow social enterprises across Melbourne. Here, we’ve interviewed Tenille Gilbert, Co-founder and Managing Director of For Change Co., to share her thoughts.


Q – Tenille, tell us about your organisation.

A – We’re a not-for-profit social enterprise that exists to create pathways out of homelessness for young people. We do that through running our hospitality venues that act as training and employment spaces as well as profit generators for our impact. We strongly believe in employment, community, and confidence as the key pillars of supporting a young person to exit homelessness. Creating those opportunities for young people is what we’re all about.

Q – What drove you to start your organisation? Why social enterprise?

A – Being able to start and guide your own thing is pretty exciting. It means that we’re not going along with the way things have always been done.

The education, employment, and empowerment of our beneficiaries is essential for the whole system. Young people in particular for me: it is about supporting everybody’s right to create their own future, live up to their potential and do what they want to do. I’m very lucky that I didn’t end up in a pathway of homelessness, but it’s only a couple steps away for most people. We don’t have to have young people suffering injustice just because of what they were born into.

It’s also about the community. That choice of where your money goes is another form of empowerment.

And finally it’s the sustainability of it. Entering the market allows us to have a unique selling point and to be directly involved in creating a sustainable future for our own organisation and the impact we can have rather than relying on things that are outside our control.

Q – Do you think consumer interest in social enterprises has grown in recent years? If so, why?

A – Generationally [young people are] really interested in what they can do for each other and what we can do for the community, so there’s a real understanding of that shift in consumerism that has to happen for social and environmental change.

There are also changes on the corporate level in terms of understanding what consumers want and on the government level in terms of social procurement. You have it both ways: people are pushing and big organisations are responding.

[Moving forward,] I hope that people really understand the power of social enterprise and the power of every time they shop, thinking about where they’re putting their money because everyone can literally make a contribution.



Q – Do you feel like Victoria is a unique place to run a social enterprise?

A – We have a lot of support for start-ups here and…Melbourne does attract that kind of creative, entrepreneurial spirit as well as people who want to do good. I feel like we’re very lucky to run [our social enterprise] here.

I do question how viable it is to keep starting new ones. We actually need to be working together because not many of us are big enough to fulfil the needs that are out there.

Q – What’s coming up for For Change Co?

A – We’ve got our Middle Park cafe opening soon which will give us an opportunity to get into the south and work with young people in the St Kilda/South Melbourne area and really increase our impact and reach there.

Our other Cafe for Change Bellfield will be opening around June which takes us into another area. We’ll be working very closely with Launch Housing and the new Bellfield social housing project there so that’s really exciting for us.

Toni finds values alignment with HomeGround Real Estate

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Toni Bentley first heard about HomeGround Real Estate through her work in the social sector around 2014, when social enterprises were starting to gain momentum.

She was a long-time renter and did not own property at the time, but remembers thinking: “Wow, what a great concept: using money from real estate that works to help people who don’t have a home and are in need of it. It fitted my own values and sense of social justice.”

A couple years later she purchased an apartment of her own in Northcote and later chose HomeGround to manage it on her behalf.

“As someone who’s been a long-term renter and who’s had some challenging experiences with commercial real estate as a tenant, I wanted to go with an organisation that was ethical and cared about the vulnerable and marginalised in our society,” she says.

“Having a home is the most basic of human needs. If you don’t have a home, you can barely survive let alone thrive. Knowing there’s a real estate agent like HomeGround that put all profits toward ending homelessness was really important.”

Toni, a rental provider, smiling toward the camera.

Toni has spent 14 years in her current rental property but for many years before that, she had to move almost as many times, dealing with an onslaught of rent increases, lack of maintenance, and a slew of other rental issues.

“I felt uncomfortable with the idea of being a landlord given my own experience. Knowing I could do my little bit by working with HomeGround makes me feel really comfortable. Where people are renting is their home, it doesn’t matter how long they’re there.”

She says her experience listing her property with HomeGround Real Estate has been smooth and easy.

“The communication has always been super clear and quick, I feel kept in the loop, and I get a good sense of people who’d like to move in. I know what it’s like as a renter and with maintenance, things have been addressed straight away,” she says.

“I hope my tenants are getting a good experience. I feel confident in Nina (my property manager) and the team who’s working with my tenants. The team is very personable, warm and professional which is important. I’d imagine they’d be the same with my tenants as they are with me.”

Read about Toni’s renters’ experience here.

Students Sascha and Angelica find creative joy in new apartment

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Renters Sacha and Angelica, smiling toward the camera.

Sascha and Angelica recently moved into their new Northcote rental apartment, which is managed by HomeGround Real Estate where all profits are reinvested back into the community. Read about their experience to-date:

Q: Had you heard of HomeGround Real Estate before?
A: We had not heard of HomeGround before! It’s important to us to have great real estate to connect with, so we did some research into HomeGround and were very pleased with the reviews we read, the goals they’re working towards, and the warm and welcoming vibe of their website and staff.

Q: How has your stay in the unit been so far?
A: The leasing process was easy and non-confronting. As Sascha and I are students and part time workers, we often find house hunting to be quite daunting. We worry we will be judged by how we look on paper, but HomeGround made us feel comfortable from the start.

They asked some further questions to confirm our application, and within only a couple of days we were approved for the property. Since being approved, we have mostly dealt with Nina who has been an absolute pleasure to liaise with.

This is the first time we have felt so comfortable and friendly with our real estate agent.

Q: What has it meant to you to live in this unit?
A: Our previous rental was quite unpleasant to live in – both in terms of condition of the property, and a disrespectful relationship with the landlord and real estate agent. For this reason, it was important to us to find somewhere we felt comfortable and seen as the nurturing, trustworthy and open-minded people we are, without judgements purely on our monetary value.

To live in this apartment has been a breath of fresh air for us. We finally feel comfortable in our own home, and we’re excited to bring the place to life. We feel sparks of creativity that we haven’t felt in a long time, and to be surrounded by the wonderful community in Northcote has been a bonus. We are able to explore Melbourne with a fresh pair of eyes, riding our bikes and enjoying what Melbourne has to offer!

Q: What do you believe is the value of a social enterprise real estate agency like us?
A: As a student currently studying Social Work at RMIT (Angelica), I understand the importance of giving back to the community, and having a progressive and creative outlook when it comes to helping others. Homelessness is a huge concern in Melbourne, and it’s inspiring to know that HomeGround is not-for-profit, with all their profits reinvested back into the community through Launch Housing.

I appreciate that their values are not only centred on creating a comfortable living environment for their tenants, but they go beyond in acknowledging those unable to obtain stable housing. I’ve never experienced another real estate with such passion and drive, and it’s super inspiring and comforting to know that I’m supporting such progressive business endeavours.

Q: How does it make you feel to know the property management fees your property owner is paying goes right back into the community?
A: Really wonderful. This shows that not only HomeGround has the right idea – but the property owner also! We actually feel more at home knowing that there are greater goals at work. Thank you HomeGround for the inspiring and forward thinking goals you’re working towards. It’s wonderful to feel a part of this community and agency that is willing to make a difference. Thank you property owner for choosing HomeGround, and thank you HomeGround for making us feel at home.

Read their rental provider’s story here.

Refugee making a new home in Melbourne

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Picture of Sayed Burhani standing in front of his new home

Sayed Burhani and his wife Roya have made a new home in Australia after fleeing Afghanistan. Picture: Eugene Hyland


Sayed and Roya Burhani went through a hugely traumatic time leaving their family and escaping Kabul to get to Australia last year. Because of the generosity of one of our rental providers Phil Endersbee, who offered one of his properties for free while they got back on their feet, they now have a place to call home and a job to support them, with a baby on the way.

“A lot of good things happened – the pregnancy, meeting such kind people like Philip. A lot of kind things happened. We were not expecting it,” Mr Burhani said.

Read the Burhani’s complete story here.

Why Cath made the switch

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Cath* is a property owner and investor with a young family in Melbourne who believes everyone should have access to affordable and stable housing. With strong social awareness and concern for people experiencing disadvantage, Cath was interested in finding a way to help families like her own.

“I’ve read quite a lot about impacts particularly for older women in terms of rental access and affordability and for young families. I reflected on how being in that situation would impact on me and therefore what can I do to help?”

Cath and her partner weren’t in a position to make significant financial donations, so began to consider alternative ways to contribute. She wondered if there was some way her existing investment, managed by a for-profit real estate agency, could generate value beyond a passive financial income for her family.

“I came across HGRE and realised that if I just made the shift to a for-purpose agent, I could continue to do what I was already doing but that the outcome of that could have more meaning,” she said.

A family with two young children smile towards the camera, with a quote from their testimonial to the right.

Since making the simple transition to HGRE in 2019, Cath says she’s received highly attentive service that is of even higher quality than the commercial real estate agencies she’d used before.

“I must say the thing that probably surprised me most about HomeGround is that it operates just like a commercial agency. With HomeGround there’s a range of options for how your property can be used, including at full market rate.”

Cath says HomeGround provides landlords with an option that no other agencies can – a way to do social good with the management fees you’re already paying. She said it was just as easy as “changing the channel.”

“It still feels to me like I’m making a very small contribution as I’m really just diverting funds that were already going somewhere else. It’s helping me to deliver on some of my social values but within the limitations of what I can manage.”

Cath says she’s benefited from HomeGround’s expertise in more than just property management, with Manager Simone Curley providing a vendor advocacy service when Cath needed to sell one of her properties.

“HomeGround holds its own in the full commercial property market and should be considered by property owners. It gives a service option that aligns with personal values without having to sacrifice high quality service”.

“You’ll get good tenants, better service and good returns. I’m really proud that we’ve made the decision to go with HomeGround,” she said.

As Victoria’s first social enterprise real estate agency, HomeGround Real Estate provides a simple solution for socially conscious property owners.

*Name and image have been updated to protect privacy.

Shannon and Aaron help to support their local community

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In 2019, a for-profit real estate agency managed Shannon and Aaron’s Reservoir investment property. When they discovered HomeGround Real Estate’s profits went towards supporting people in their local community, they were keen to learn more.

“Simone explained that HomeGround Real Estate was professional and competitive, just like a regular real estate agency. She also explained that her team would handle the admin required to switch from our existing agency – so it was a real no-brainer!” Shannon said.

The couple said the process of switching agencies was incredibly simple due to the HomeGround team taking care of all the hard work in the process. Knowing their investment property’s management would contribute to a social enterprise that gives back to the community made the choice even simpler.

“HomeGround Real Estate gives socially conscious landlords like us the chance to do something meaningful but simple to address homelessness in Melbourne. We already needed a property manager, so it made perfect sense to let Home Ground manage our property, while at the same time supporting Launch Housing to continue its important work to end homelessness,” she said.

Shannon and Aaron smiling toward the camera, with a quote from their testimonial to the right.

Shannon says knowing the team care about both property owners and their tenants makes a big difference.

“Our property manager Nina is very warm and incredibly helpful. She communicates with us clearly and efficiently about any repairs or issues with our property and she keeps our tenants updated too. She does all the hard work for us. Thanks to her we know that our property and tenants are being very well looked after.

“Homelessness is such a heartbreaking and huge issue, and it’s only getting worse. It can be hard to know what to do to help. Knowing that Home Ground Real Estate and Launch Housing are using the property management fees we pay to continue their work, makes us feel like we’re helping address homelessness in some small way,” she said.

2021 Winner of REIV Awards For Excellence

HomeGround Real Estate wins big at the REIV Awards for Excellence!

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We are excited to share that we have won the REIV Awards for Excellence Community Service Award! The Award recognises the contribution of agencies or individuals to community service and actions that make a difference to the wider community.

At HomeGround Real Estate, we have community service embedded in our DNA. HomeGround was born out of the recognition that our community wants to make a difference, but is not always attracted to the traditional means of contribution to charity.

Manager of HomeGround Real Estate, Simone Curley, said the award was welcome recognition of the real impact HomeGround has made, with the help of a loyal community of rental providers and supporters.

“This recognition would not be possible without our clients – both rental providers and renters – and our amazing team that makes HomeGround the agency it has become today,” she said.

With the issue of homelessness becoming more prevalent during the pandemic, HomeGround’s growth in new rental providers and properties available, especially those offered at below market rates, is testament to a community that cares.

In the past year, HomeGround provided over $550,000 in contributions to Launch Housing’s operating income. While the bulk of this income was secured through property management fees, HomeGround’s generous, community minded rental providers have also made direct donations to Launch Housing’s fundraising efforts.

HomeGround Real Estate’s partnerships with major brands in the real estate sector have also assisted tenants in times of hardship, by making direct contributions to their rental payment to further ease financial pressures.

With HomeGround Real Estate, rental providers also have the opportunity to make a direct contribution to easing Melbourne’s housing crisis by offering their property at below market rent or adding to stock to the register of available social housing.

“I would like to thank our clients who entrust us to offer their property at reduced rent to those who would never be able to afford it,” Simone said.

Simone and HomeGround team are thrilled to have received this award, testament to the growing community of Melburnians who want a better, more compassionate approach to real estate and housing. HomeGround Real Estate are now in the running for the national award for Community Service as well!

“I’d like to thank the REIV for the recognition of HomeGround’s commitment to the Community. And to the other finalists – keep making a difference,” said Simone.

Want to find out more about joining a community that is making a difference every day? Contact us today!

State Government to spend $5.3 billion on more than 12,000 public housing homes

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Public housing numbers are set to increase

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews recently announced the largest investment in public housing by any state or territory across the country. The $5.3 billion announcement came ahead of the recent budget and includes 1,000 new units for Indigenous Australians, 1,000 for victims of domestic violence, and 2,000 for people with a mental illness.

The package will provide 12,000 total homes and over 43,000 jobs over the next four years in an effort to rebuild the Victorian economy following the nation’s longest coronavirus lockdown.

The announcement is welcome news given that Victoria has the lowest proportion of public housing per capita compared to other Australian states.

Read more about the announcement here.

Sleeping rough in the middle of a pandemic

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Colin Johnstone’s story of rough sleeping in Melbourne finally started to see some positive outcomes but it took a world-wide pandemic to begin the change.

At the beginning of the pandemic Colin was behind Federation Square when he noticed two women approaching him. His first instinct was to leave the area but he soon found that the women were from Launch Housing. They were there to make sure everyone had accommodation as COVID-19 began to take hold of the city.

A world of difference

When Colin checked in to his hotel accommodation he was over the moon. “To be honest, when I walked in I had a shower and it brought a tear to me eye,” he says.

The two women who offered Colin help at Federation Square started him on a new path that has brought hope and opportunity despite an enduring second lockdown.

Read more about Colin’s journey to secure housing here.

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