November 5th 2018
Pilmuir House was designed by Edwards & Clendon Consulting Engineers in 1964. First owned by the District Health Board, the building housed Hutt Hospital nurses. The building was then purchased by Mr Tom Brodie and his wife, and then converted it into a long-term hostel that housed many workers and former patients from the various medical centres throughout the Hutt Valley. The Brodies worked tirelessly during their ownership to improve the condition and reputation of the hostel by taking on working people in the Hutt community.
In 2006, YMCA Greater Wellington received a $1 million grant from the Dudley Estate to purchase housing in the Hutt Valley. Pilmuir House was the perfect location. Upon taking over Pilmuir House, the YMCA had one main objective: provide affordable, clean, and safe accommodation to anyone that needed it.
Despite the grant, there was a large loan that presented many challenges. To provide accommodation to those in need, the business developed a more interactive approach with tenants to make the business of the hostel a success. The key ingredient was the relationships that Hostel Manager Josephine Dickens developed, most specifically with WINZ. Josephine began accepting WINZ recipients as tenants and continues to maintain a balance of working and non-working tenants. She has established a direct payment system with WINZ to ensure rent is paid on time and assist tenants in financial education.
Pilmuir House also caters to students from overseas completing research in Wellington. The primary objective of the hostel is to maintain a 95% occupancy rate, leaving the remaining 5% free for routine maintenance to take place.
Other revenue streams include:
- Leasing available space (totalling 40% of the ground floor) to catering company ‘EAT’
- Leasing a portion of the lower level of the building to YMCA Wellington
- Utilising the height of the building (which is the tallest in Lower Hutt) to lease to Spark, Vodafone, and 2Degrees as a cell phone tower and TV mast
The hostel is staffed by both paid employees and volunteers. Josephine Dickens is the current manager of the facility. Originally from Zimbabwe, Josephine has worked in a dry cleaner, supermarket and a clothing factory. Here she started off in reception and moved her way up to managing the facility of 140 employees. Josephine moved with her family to New Zealand in 2001. She started at Pilmuir House in 2005 while it was under the management Mr Tom Brodie. Josephine was a part-time employee when she started and was offered full-time employment in 2006 when the YMCA took ownership. Josephine became General Manager in 2011 and is beloved by both residents at Pilmuir House and YMCA staff. In her spare time, Josephine enjoys reading and spending time with her family in Napier.
Josephine works closely with Sheryl, another legend of Pilmuir House. Sheryl and Josephine met while working at Kia Kaha, a clothing store in Lower Hutt in the early 2000’s. Together, Josephine and Sheryl made a dynamic duo. Sheryl had been managing three shops when Josephine became manager at Pilmuir House and wanted Sheryl to be her right-hand woman. Soon after, Josephine offered the Assistant Manager position to Sheryl, and the rest is history! Sheryl is from Wainuiomata, has two boys, and has been with her now husband Dion for thirty-two years. In her spare time, Sheryl enjoys visiting her four grandchildren in Palmerston North and riding motorcycles with Dion.
With a large sixty-year-old building comes a lot of maintenance. Barry works tirelessly to keep on top of maintenance throughout the building constantly refurbishing rooms, painting, waterproofing, washing and generally fixing the building. As well as our full-time staff, we also have a contracted cleaning company that ensure the communal areas remain clean, tidy and hygienic. Alongside the three full-timers and contractors we have an army of volunteers, most of these look after the garden and act as off duty wardens. Main Warden Bruce has lived at The YMCA since 1995, been on the volunteer team since 1999, and although now retired, he previously worked in the automotive industry. Having been part of the volunteer committee for so long he is seen as a trustworthy integral part of the team at Pilmuir House. Josephine is a firm believer that giving the tenants ownership over their building ensures that they will respect it as their home.
Developing community is something dear to not only Pilmuir Accommodation but the YMCA as a whole. Josephine and Sheryl host a quarterly fish and chip night to bring all the residents at Pilmuir House to enjoy a meal together. This is a great icebreaker for new tenants and gets people out who would not normally socialise. Developing a community helps maintain a safe environment. There is an annual Christmas Party that brings residents together to enjoy food and karaoke together for the holiday. Working closely with tenants, Josephine and Sheryl will often invite external programmes such as Man Up (a local anger management programme) free of charge to tenants.
Over the past several years, Pilmuir House has undergone a number of renovations, these include elevator upgrades and cameras installed, roof repaired, and the television lounge has also been renovated. One floor has been refurbished each year, this includes double power points and a fridge being installed in each room.
The goal for the next few years is that the YMCA can refurbish the final two floors of Pilmuir House, continue to operate at 95% occupancy and maintain the great sense of community Josephine and Sheryl have worked so hard to develop. Any profits from Pilmuir House are churned back into our benevolent programmes such as Raise Up, designed to develop youth in our communities.