Open House, fifty years serving the community, offering people a place to belong
“Home is like hell. We have nowhere to go but the pub. Doesn’t anyone care about us?”
50 years ago this month, these angry words of a gang kid prompted George & Muriel Farrington, the then leaders of an Ivanhoe church youth group, to do something to help. They felt a tug of their heartstrings and decided they needed to find a way to support the troubled, angry and disadvantaged youths who didn’t fit in with the community.
These youth would now be known as Socially isolated in today’s language, an all too familiar term to many of us.
So, George and Muriel approached some friends and shared their vision and from there gathered together some funds and set up the charity called Open House Christian Involvement centres with the tagline ‘A Place to Belong’. They leased an empty milk bar right in the heart of Ivanhoe and opened the doors to give young people a place to belong.
Open House began as a response to the needs of young people and over the years it has developed and grown and now offers many ways to provide friendship, care and support for disadvantaged, marginalised, disengaged and needy people of all ages.
Open House is very much like a large family offering unconditional long-term friendship and support. Throughout its history it has constantly evolved and seeks to be at the cutting edge in the development and the delivery of quality programs and activities. These are always in areas of identified needs, that are effective and engaging, so that everyone who attends feels they have a purpose and ultimately somewhere to belong.
From a humble beginning in a milk bar, Open House has continued to adapt to meet current needs. There have been several bases through the years, including a long period in Ivanhoe and a farm at Hurstbridge. Open House now employs 13 people, has over 50 Volunteers and an operating budget of $950K. Open House is now based in a former Uniting Church site in Macleod, just a five minute walk from the shops and railway station. With facilities consisting of a large hall, café with full catering facilities, workshops, program rooms, offices, 2 x 12 seater buses, coffee cart and community garden. In addition to the Macleod site, each Thursday afternoon a team are based at Malahang reserve, in Heidelberg West, where they open up the Bike Hut to repair and recycle bikes and scooters free of charge to anyone in need, run the Backyard Sports program and operate a coffee cart.
50 Years on and the world has changed significantly but the need for a place to belong is greater than ever. Open House is still open and continues to offer people a place to belong.
So if you or anyone you know needs a place to belong feel free to pop into Open House and they will always be pleased to see you.