In August 2020 LG Electronics Australia named Clare Urquhart of Tabulam, Northern New South Wales a LG Local Legend for her tireless efforts in helping provide affordable housing to those in need. Clare is the volunteer CEO of Container of Dreams, a not-for-profit organisation that finds innovative solutions to affordable housing and homelessness.
It has almost been a year since the Australian bushfires destroyed thousands of homes, leaving many homeless. On top of this, it has been close to eight months since COVID-19 hit our borders. As a result, Australia is in a recession for the first time in nearly 30 years, unemployment is officially at 6.8 percent and it could rise to close to 10 percent by year’s end. Ultimately, the events of 2020 have had a profound effect on the economy, and millions of Australians are trying to navigate through so much uncertainty. Unfortunately, a whole new wave of homelessness has and will occur as a result of these events.
Clare and her team at Container of Dreams have observed these impacts first-hand and have explored solutions to provide those without a home with some relief. Whilst tiny homes are popular accommodation for weekend getaways, Clare saw an opportunity to build these homes for those experiencing homelessness and other testing circumstances. The organisation aims at providing permanent, affordable housing to the disadvantaged through innovative micro-housing solutions.
Container of Dreams was conceived in 2014 and became a registered charity in 2019. Presently, the organisation has helped more than 100 people through donations of goods, toys for children, household items, generators, food vouchers, writing grants, providing work opportunities, and more. Clare and her team’s contributions also extend to supporting community organisations, such as gifting generators to The Nymboida Tool Library to help their members rebuild after losing their homes in the bushfires, and to Baryulgil Aboriginal Community to help supply power in emergencies.
Later this year 10 families will have homes thanks to Clare and her efforts. At the same time, the Container of Dreams volunteers will continue to research and develop plans to manufacture compact housing for deserving families.
We interviewed Clare to learn more about her initiative – how she got started, challenges thus far and what’s next for Container of Dreams:
LG: What prompted you to give back in your community?
CU: The saying, "I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that, then I realised I was somebody" sums it up nicely. When the bushfires swept through our community I couldn't sit back and watch it happen and do nothing. Our community was one of the first places hit and no one seemed to be doing anything to help. I was heartbroken by all the devastation and I wanted to help.
LG: How did you come up with the concept?
CU: I have always been passionate about housing affordability and access to safe shelter options. I devoted my PhD research to investigating solutions using micro-housing and then started the charity using the findings of my research. Our charity's aim is to help people into housing through innovative micro housing solutions. After the devastation caused by last summer’s bushfires, we adapted our program to include bushfire victims.
LG: Have you come up against any challenges?
CU: Of course. Funding is the biggest obstacle. But recently the coronavirus has impacted us hugely. We have received many donation pledges of building materials and other household items from businesses who have then had to withdraw due to the impact of the coronavirus shutdown measures. At the same time, social distancing meant we had to delay production.
LG: What results have you achieved so far?
CU: We are currently building 10 tiny house units to give to bushfire victims, thanks to some generous grants we secured. In addition to this we have donated items and goods, such as generators, to people who lost their homes to help them with their rebuilding process. We have also distributed food vouchers, clothing, household items and toys to the community.
LG: What is next for you and your initiative?
CU: We are trying to obtain funding to build some Rapid Response Disaster Relief Mobile Accommodation Units. This way our community can respond immediately to any future disaster by swiftly deploying our mobile accommodation units to the affected area or people using the Readiness - Response - Recovery mantra. The requests for assistance in the aftermath of the bushfires was enormous and impelled our organisation to investigate ways to be better prepared for disasters and better respond to the community’s needs, both in the initial stages of such and also in the recovery processes.
LG Electronics Australia would like to thank Clare for her continuous efforts giving deserving families the opportunity to call a place home.
If you know someone like Clare making positive contributions through their time, actions, talents and/or dedication to others, you can nominate them to be named an LG Local Legend by visiting www.lglifesgood.com.au/nominate-a-local-legend. We are looking forward to celebrating their achievements with you soon!