NFP Calls For More ‘Housing First’
8 November 2016 at 11:37 am
Mission Australia is calling for wider use of the housing first model, which has been demonstrated “time and time again” to successfully tackle homelessness.
The housing first approach prioritises providing people experiencing homelessness with permanent and affordable housing, followed by support services as needed.
Mission Australia timed its call with the federal and state housing ministers’ meeting on Friday, as well as with its five-year anniversary celebration of Common Ground Sydney.
Common Ground, or The Camperdown Project, provides housing for people experiencing long-term homelessness.
CEO of Mission Australia Catherine Yeomans told Pro Bono Australia News the project had a number of achievements over its five years, which pointed to the need for more housing first.
“Since opening we’ve had 108 people who were formerly long-term homeless [who] have been accommodated at Common Ground,” Yeomans said.
“And 93 per cent of those tenants with high needs have been able to sustain their tenancy for more than 12 months.
“These are people who could have spent well over a decade, sometimes decades of their life, rough sleeping or in really unstable and uncertain accommodation.”
A further 30 tenants with high needs have lived at Common Ground for more than four years.
Yeomans also said the additional support services, tailored to individual needs, were an important aspect of housing first.
“In Common Ground [residents] have found not only a home, but the wrap-around supports that they’ve needed to be able to address some of the underlying issues that they’ve been grappling with, whether it’s been undiagnosed mental health issues, other health issues, substance misuse,” she said.
“We’ve got a 24-seven concierge service, so there’s security provided so that people have safety in their home environment, there’s proactive, onsite tenancy and support services.
“We’ve got clinical consultation rooms, so sometimes people have had health needs unmet for many, many years, and exacerbated from living on the street.
“For people who have been sleeping rough for a long time, they’re not necessarily equipped with cooking skills or knowing how to budget economically for meals throughout the course of the week, so we’ve got a community kitchen there that helps build these skills.
“We’ve got an art room, a computer suite. We’ve also got a library, courtyard, barbeque area so people can engage with members of the community.”
At the celebrations, which included member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek, Common Ground residents shared their experience of housing first.
“A couple of residents spoke very powerfully about what it meant to be able to have a home, but also reengage with life, they’re volunteering, they’re reconnecting with family, we had two current residents talk about how meaningful it was for them to reconnect with their adult children,” Yeomans said.
“They’ve got hope and they’re regaining their independence and building their future.”
She said housing first was “so important” and “impactful”, and should be used nationwide.
“Not only have we demonstrated it in other projects [and] Common Ground Sydney… but we know other providers who deliver housing-first models, here in Australia and overseas, can speak to the transformative nature of this way of working with people who’ve been experiencing homelessness,” she said.
“It starts with a home, so permanent accommodation that people can call home. But it’s not just about giving someone a key and a door and saying, ‘right there’s your home away you go’. It’s actually providing the wrap-around supports that people need as well – that’s really the power in the housing-first model.”
Mission Australia’s advocacy for housing first also coincided with other homelessness organisations calling for an extension of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which is due to expire in July 2017.
The federal government contributes $115 million annually to the agreement, matched by state and territory jurisdictions, which funds 180 specialist homelessness services nationally.