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While Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre has been located on the banks of the Yarra River for 25 years, the site has a history that dates farther back. It laid the foundation for one of MCEC’s most important community partnerships.

From 1976-1994, the land that MCEC stands on today was home to Hanover’s New Gordon House, which provided accommodation to people who were experiencing homelessness. The team behind Hanover’s House later merged with other likeminded organisations to become Launch Housing.

Launch do incredible work, delivering life-changing programs and services to make a real social impact. They love this city and everyone in it, just like we do at MCEC.

Given our shared history and love of Melbourne, it’s no surprise we saw opportunities to work together.

Back in 2018, MCEC kicked off a partnership with Launch Housing that gives employment opportunities for young people based in Launch’s Youth Foyer program. The program provides accommodation, training and support for at-risk young people whose lives have been impacted by homelessness.

Since the partnership started, MCEC has been able to place more than 20 young people in kitchen, retail and customer service roles in the centre. Some of these were casual roles for a short period while people completed their studies, whereas others have chosen to stay with the MCEC family for longer.

Jess* joined the MCEC team through the Launch partnership three years ago and said the program has changed her life in many ways.

“Before participating in the Launch Housing Youth Foyer program I hadn’t thought about working at MCEC,” she said.

“I have gone from staying in because I couldn’t afford to go out, to enjoying time with friends a lot more. I have been able to afford to live independently outside the foyer program,” she said.

“My self-confidence, and my ability to gain employment, has increased. And my communication skills and teamwork have improved. Plus my ability to work in a fast-paced environment.”

It’s partly that fast-paced environment that Jess enjoys most about working at MCEC.

“Even though its fast-paced, it’s also chill. Everyone is welcoming and it doesn’t matter where I’ve come from. Everyone gets treated equally and are easy to talk to.”

Having lived through the experience, Jess’ advice for those who have may be at risk of homelessness or already displaced is not to be afraid to ask for help.

“Reach out to someone you trust to talk about what you are going through. Asking for help may be hard at the time but it’s how I ended up in the Youth Foyer program,” she said.

“It’s how I got the opportunity to work at MCEC, and other opportunities may arise that can help along the way.”

If you are experiencing homelessness call 1800 825 955 (free call number, open 24/7). Launch Housing has three access points (offices) providing homelessness services in the Melbourne Metropolitan area.

You can drop into any of these three sites in person Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. Launch Housing access points are located in Collingwood, Cheltenham and St Kilda.

To support the work of Launch Housing visit www.launchhousing.org.au/donate

*name has been changed to protect privacy.