Interchange Outer East runs 10 House Intensive programs across four locations in Melbourne’s outer east and one in rural Victoria. Small groups of young adults, with one staff member, spend two days and one night per week in one of our private rental properties. The group lives as housemates for this period of time each week. They work on independent living skills like meal planning, household tasks, interpersonal skills, public transport, budgeting and personal safety.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, House Intensive hasn’t been able to run as a group program this term.  Our staff were not about to let their groups miss out or lose the opportunity to build on the skills that they had already gained. Intensive programs are still running at three properties; Scoresby, Chirnside Park and Lilydale, as well as within support workers own homes. Remarkably, thirteen House Intensive participants and nine staff are still taking part in the program across the fortnight. The change in programming and need for flexibility has also resulted in the properties being able to be used for 1:1 respite shifts with other IOE and external participants, allowing them a safe space to enjoy their shifts away from home.

While many of the usual activities are off limits, staff and participants have been really creative with alternative tasks. Cooking has been a favourite activity, as it often is, but the groups have also taken the opportunity to catch up on some spring cleaning, as well as going for walks and learning some skills in gardening and garden maintenance.

Here are a few updates from some of our House Intensive staff:

Theresa and Andrew

Andrew and I have taken on a huge project at the Chirnside House. Together we are transforming the backyard from an overgrown jungle to a well trimmed and coherent garden beds. We began by cutting back overgrown trees, both in the front and back garden, maybe ten trees in total. Andrew and I did all the hard labour and worked for hours each week. The Enterprise Garden Crew took away the garden waste and came back with a load of mulch for the garden.

Andrew and I also assisted one of the neighbours with tiding the front garden of another neighbour who was in hospital. Unfortunately the neighbour has passed away. Her family wanted to thank Andrew and I by taking us out for dinner after COVID-19. Although we are saddened by her passing, we are so encouraged by the sense of community.

Andrew has also cooked some great meals, made his bed, done the washing and vacuuming, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned and disinfected toilets and all high-touch surfaces. He’s also done some household shopping and potted plants.
The gardening and household chores have kept us fit and healthy. However, each week we have also been walking sections of the Warburton Trail where we often bump into people we know and say hello.

Jaymee and Louise

Jaymee has been coming to the house for 1:1 sessions since COVID-19 social distancing put group based programs on hold. Not being able to get out into the community has been a challenge but we are trying to be creative and keep busy. We’ve done some cooking, craft, a smidge of gardening, exercise in some form or another and playing games and puzzles. The more variety we can get into each day, the more fun we have!

I’ve been catching up with the rest of the group on Zoom. I have been sending through activity sheets for the families to print off ahead of time (a bingo game, colouring in, etc.) We do a combo of all of the above during our Zoom meetup. Last week we had a funny hat theme and did some hand sized bean-bag activities, a remote scavenger hunt and show and tell. Next week we are going to try a red faces session and perform something for each other. Briony hasn’t been able to catch up via Zoom so we sent her a letter instead!


I have been supporting three young men at a modified House Intensive program throughout the week using my own home. We have been doing lots of bushwalking in local forests, as a lifestyle and relaxation in nature activity. We have found that isolation is very therapeutic in the forests of the Dandenong ranges. We’ve enjoyed beautifully quiet and mindful walking in nature while building our fitness and endurance, appreciation of the environment. Our walks also provide an opportunity for engaging conversation and time for quiet contemplation. We’ve even done some yoga practice!

Rob has been getting stuck into jigsaw puzzles and could teach everyone a thing or two about focus, problem solving, concentration and persistence with this great rainy day activity. Dave loves pickles on his regular lunch of cheese and ham sandwiches. We took the opportunity to ditch the supermarket jars and made our own sweet mustard pickle from scratch.

Behind the scenes the House Intensive team have remained flexible as families needs have changed. As time has progressed through COVID-19 restrictions, more families are requesting support. This is mainly due to the isolation has started to negatively impact families and individuals. Where we are unable to offer a House Intensive structure, the team has worked with provision coordinators to put in 1:1 in home or respite shifts.

‘Participants and families have been grateful, understanding and really mindful of the overall situation which has been very heartening. We can’t wait to get our groups back when it’s safe to do so, so we can keep working on these essential skills with friends.’ House Intensive Coordinator, Linda Hull.

The safety of our participants, families and staff is paramount. The House Intensive team follows a strict hygiene and cleaning process each shift. Lots of checklists, reminders and VALiD easy English posters are up in the houses. This ensures that participants are able to be fully involved and aware of the requirements to keep themselves and each other safe.