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Changemakers – Cathy Humphrey


Monday, 16th April 2012 at 10:26 am
Staff Reporter
Cathy Humphrey is the chief executive of Sacred Heart Mission and sits as a director on the Board of Council to Homeless Persons. This week we profile Cathy in Changemakers - a regular column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.


Monday, 16th April 2012
at 10:26 am
Staff Reporter


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Changemakers – Cathy Humphrey
Monday, 16th April 2012 at 10:26 am

Cathy Humphrey is the chief executive of Sacred Heart Mission and sits as a director on the Board of Council to Homeless Persons. This week we profile Cathy in Changemakers – a regular column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.

Sacred Heart Mission addresses homelessness and disadvantage by providing a range of diverse and creative services that ensure people have access to necessities including housing, food and healthcare and enable people to connect with their community and develop support networks that sustain and nurture their lives.


What are you currently working on in your organisation?

Sacred Heart Mission is currently piloting a three-year project, Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) that is aimed at tackling long-term homelessness. The project, which is the first of its kind in Australia, aims to demonstrate that with the right investment it is possible to end a person's homelessness and that it makes economic sense.

J2SI draws on research as well as best practice in Australia and overseas that shows a person can make a permanent transition out of homelessness through intensive, individually-tailored, long-term support that addresses the underlying causes of the person's homeless as well as trauma experienced while homeless.

The pilot began in November 2009 and involves 84 participants (40 who are receiving intensive support and a comparison group of 44 who are using the existing services that are available).

The project focuses on resolving the trauma often experienced by people who are homeless. It seeks to get participants into stable housing as well as to equip them with life skills such as assertiveness, job readiness, interpersonal and practical living skills through group work and one-on-one sessions. It is believed that with these skills, people will be able to reconnect to the mainstream community and build social networks outside of the homeless subculture.

The total cost over the three years will be $4 million – around $30,000 per supported participant per year. To ensure evaluation of the project is robust we have partnered with RMIT University to evaluate the social impact of J2SI on participants and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research to undertake the economic evaluation.

How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?

I have been working in the community housing and homelessness sector since 1993, and since 1996 I have been in areas more specifically focused on working with people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

What do you like best about working in your current organisation?

On 21 January 2012 I reached my 10 year anniversary of working at the Mission so I took the opportunity to reflect on what keeps me engaged, motivated and influences me to work in the one organisation for this length of time, and here is what quickly and easily came to mind:

  • Inspirational leadership
  • Challenges and rewards
  • Culture and values of the organisation
  • Innovation and aspirations for service excellence
  • Connection with community
  • Fun and team work
  • Influence and contribution
  • Respect, loyalty and commitment of the teams

I consider my greatest achievement to be…

Looking back over my 10 years at the Mission, I view one of the significant achievements among a few was the development of Sacred Heart Central and the assertive engagement approach in 2003. This was implemented at a time when resistance to change was strong within the organisation and the dominant view was that people just want to come into the dining hall, eat in peace and leave. Based on research of best practice and with the support of the CEO and the Board we continued the consultative journey of engaging the staff team and people we work with.

The name Sacred Heart Central was chosen to illustrate the components of the integrated service approach, which incorporates:

  • Gateway to service provision
  • Access to a community space
  • Access to activities and recreation opportunities
  • A focal point which is central to offering opportunities for community connectedness.
  • Integrated service responses

Whilst we have grown and matured in our approach to services since 2003, I continue to see the Meals Program at the heart of our journey into people’s lives. We have developed a structured and effective assertive engagement approach to build relationships with people who are isolated from the mainstream service system and the community. The Mission is in a unique position of being in contact with a large volume of people experiencing poverty, homelessness and a range of complex and unmet needs, including people who are sleeping rough. As a result, assertive engagement has become the organisation’s core strength and we have been able to apply this skill and experience to different service models such as the Women’s House, the Women’s Housing and Complex Needs Project, RHPP our rooming house, and the J2SI Pilot.

Favourite saying…

You get what you focus on!

If you are constantly striving and moving towards what is important to you, you cannot help but achieve it and see the results!



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