A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
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A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy New directions to reduce homelessness in Victoria
ii A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Accessibility If you would like to receive this publication in an accessible format, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the National Relay Service 13 36 77. This document is also available in PDF format on the internet at www.homelessness.vic.gov.au Published by the Victorian Government Department of Human Services, Melbourne, Australia, September 2010 Copyright State of Victoria 2010 This publication is © copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. Authorised by the Victorian Government, 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. Printed on sustainable paper by: Impact Digital Unit 3-4, 306 Albert Street Brunswick VIC 3056
iii Contents Premier’s message v Minister’s message vii 1. Being homeless in Victoria 1 2. A new approach to reducing homelessness 13 3. Life stage: Families with children and independent young people 21 4. Life stage: Adults experiencing short or long-term homelessness 32 5. Life stage: Older people experiencing homelessness 38 6. Delivering change: A 10-year plan 44 Conclusion 48 Endnotes 49
v Premier’s message Imagine life without a place to call your own. How would you find shelter from the chill of winter and the heat of summer? How would you attain an education or hold down a job? How would you care for your children or yourself? How would you cope—physically and psychologically—if you had no place to go? This may sound like an unlikely scenario, but for more than 20 000 Victorian men, women and children it is reality. The undeniable fact is that—despite Victoria having one of the lowest rates of homelessness in Australia after a decade of nation-leading reform and investment—far too many of us are without a place to call home. That is why the Victorian Government is launching the landmark A Better Place: Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy. The Strategy is a landmark because it builds on the foundations of A Fairer Victoria and signals a major shift in the way Victoria thinks about and responds to homelessness. In short, we want to not just manage, but prevent and reduce, homelessness. Preventing and reducing homelessness will not be easy, but we must act now. There are strong economic arguments for reducing the incidence of homelessness, because it reduces the costs borne by a wide range of mainstream and specialist services. Ultimately, though, the best argument for preventing and reducing homelessness is humanitarian. Homelessness can and does happen to people just like us: mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. The causes of homelessness include everything from domestic violence and abuse to illness and unemployment. Those members of our community who find themselves without a home deserve a chance to get back on their feet. The challenge our community faces is to ensure these disadvantaged Victorians receive the support they need to grasp that chance. It won’t be easy. It will take time. But, if we can prevent and reduce homelessness, we will have made Victoria a better place. The Hon John Brumby MP Premier of Victoria
vii Minister’s message A few years ago I read an article in the New Yorker about a homeless man called Murray Barr. The many police officers, welfare workers and nurses who dealt with Murray—an alcoholic ex-Marine with a toothless smile—told the story of his life and lonely death. The point of the story—besides humanising homelessness— was that it had cost the public health system $1 million to leave Murray on the street and that it would have been better for everyone if he had received the support he needed before it was too late. Melbourne has many Murray Barrs. On any given night, more than 20 000 Victorians find themselves without a home. Some sleep on the streets. Some sleep in rooming houses. Some sleep in refuges. Some are old enough to be our grandparents. Many are young enough to be our children. Causes of homelessness are many and can range from family breakdown and family violence, to unemployment or drug and alcohol addiction, to mental or physical illness. Anyone can become homeless. Likewise, there is no one solution. However, this much is clear. If, as a community, we want to prevent and reduce homelessness, we must find new approaches that are more about the needs of the individual and less about fitting people into a system in which one size is supposed to fit all. The next decade must be about implementing innovative solutions and evaluating them, then reforming the system—that’s what A Better Place: Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy is all about. The Strategy is a landmark opportunity for those of us who care about the plight of those more than 20 000 men, women and children to find new ways to make a lasting difference to their lives. It is about being prepared to—through a process of trial and evaluation, collaboration and cooperation—come up with new approaches to prevent and reduce homelessness. I hope that, after reading the Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy, you will agree that homelessness is not a fringe issue, but a mainstream issue we all need to own. Richard Wynne MP Minister for Housing
1 1. Being homeless in Victoria There is no consistent and accepted definition Data from the Counting the Homeless 2006 of homelessness across relevant human Census showed almost two thirds (63 per service, education and employment services cent) of the homeless population in 2006 in Victoria. The most widely accepted were aged 34 years and under, with almost definition is by Chamberlain and McKenzie half (45 per cent) aged 24 years and under.3 (1992), who define homelessness as: Figure 1: Victorian homeless population, • primary homelessness—people without by age, 2006 conventional accommodation (such as living on the streets, in deserted buildings and in 6% 14% 65 or older parks), 17% 45–64 years • secondary homelessness—people moving 25–44 years among various forms of temporary shelter 12–24 years (friends, emergency accommodation, Under 12 refuges, hostels and boarding houses), and 31% • tertiary accommodation—people living in single rooms in private boarding houses without their own bathroom, kitchen or 32% security of tenure.1 Source: Chamberlain, C & Mackenzie, D 2009, Counting Regardless of the debate about the definition, the homeless 2006: Victoria, AIHW, Canberra. homelessness is a significant and growing While the number and rate of school aged problem in Victoria. According to the 2006 young people experiencing homelessness Census, 20 511 Victorians were recorded fell significantly between 2001 and 2006, this as homeless—a 15 per cent increase in the group was still the largest in the recorded decade from 1996.2 2006 homeless population. Homelessness is not confined to specific At the same time, the number of older people groups of people, ages, gender, or family in the homeless population is also increasing. and household types. It affects people at all The same data showed 2 666 people aged stages of life—from families with children to 55 years or older were recorded as homeless young people to single adults to couples to in Victoria in 20064—13 per cent of the older people. homeless population. This number rose by Some people experience homelessness 16 per cent between 2001 and 2006.5 for only short periods following a crisis. Between the 2001 and 2006 Censuses, the Supported with services and by family, friends number of homeless families also increased and social networks, they quickly move back by 17 per cent.6 into stable housing. Others who become homeless in similar circumstances can slide Men form a slightly larger proportion of the towards longer term homelessness if they do homeless population (55 per cent) than not find housing and the right kind of support women (45 per cent).7 in a short amount of time. Although the homeless population is younger than the general population, the reality is that anyone can become homeless at any stage in their life.
2 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Indigenous people are overrepresented in all sections of the homeless population in Victoria. In the Counting the Homeless 2006 Census, 777 Indigenous people were recorded as homeless in Victoria. Indigenous Victorians make up 3.8 per cent of the homeless population, but only 0.6 per cent of the general Victorian population.8 Reducing homelessness is not a simple task. It is a multifaceted problem requiring a multifaceted solution. Building on solid foundations— the story so far It is important to reflect on what has been achieved over the past decade. The goal of A Better Place: Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy is to build on those solid foundations. The Strategy seeks to deliver an approach that is more strategic, targeted and coordinated— formalising existing relationships among housing, homelessness, health, education and employment, child protection and justice services to create pathways for people to find their place in the community. Victoria has a strong record in helping people who experience homelessness Addressing disadvantage, reducing inequality and achieving social inclusion are key imperatives of the Victorian Government’s landmark social policy framework, A Fairer Victoria. The Victorian Government invested up to $6.4 billion over six years through A Fairer Victoria to ensure more Victorians have the opportunity, capability and support to lead active, fulfilling lives. The Government’s investment and reforms have focused on assisting people who are vulnerable or experiencing long-term disadvantage.
3 This effort has involved major investments in In addition, the Victorian Integrated Housing early childhood development, family violence, Strategy combines: efforts to increase the mental health, disability services, housing and supply of housing; new planning initiatives; community development. improvements to the protections; rights and conditions of tenants; greater support for Tailoring services to meet the needs of better housing design; and actions for more different individuals and groups, rather than energy efficient and sustainable housing. a one-size-fits-all approach, has been critical to the success of A Fairer Victoria. After all, Homelessness policy many disadvantaged people experience Since 1999, the Victorian Government has interconnected problems and government also invested more than $1 billion in programs services need to be integrated and sustained to assist people experiencing homelessness, to help them find the solutions they need to such as: improve their particular circumstances. • the Supported Accommodation Assistance Victoria faces considerable population Program, operated through 150 funded challenges over the next decade—particularly organisations across Victoria; in metropolitan Melbourne. The growth in population will increase the demand for • the transitional housing program, with housing, services and infrastructure. Through 3 600 houses managed by 20 funded Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne @ 5 Million organisations across Victoria; the Victorian Government has introduced • flexible funding assistance to people initiatives to manage growth in Melbourne and in crisis, which has helped 120 000 regional centres, with planning mechanisms households in the past two years with and related policy frameworks designed to Housing Establishment Fund Grants; ensure services are delivered to every citizen, including disadvantaged and • youth homelessness initiatives; and vulnerable Victorians. • whole-of-government reform of the family violence system.
4 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Over the past two years, the Victorian Government has committed $340 million to help approximately 350 000 people with support, flexible funding and accommodation. The initiatives have included: the Opening Doors coordination project; new Indigenous family violence facilities; assistance for women and children experiencing family violence to remain in their homes; the flagship Common Ground supportive housing project in inner Melbourne; and the provision of more stable accommodation in outer metropolitan areas and regional Victoria for homeless families and individuals under the A Place to Call Home initiative9. The Victorian Government is also working closely with the Commonwealth Government to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in Victoria and across Australia. The Commonwealth Government has supported this effort through funding from: the National Affordable Housing Agreement and National Partnerships on Social Housing and Homelessness; and the National Partnership Agreement on Nation Building and Jobs Plan. The Victorian Government has significantly reformed its homelessness policy and programs over the past decade, driven by the Victorian Homelessness Strategy 2002. The specific needs of homeless young people were recognised in Creating Connections 2006, which links homelessness services for young people to employment, education and training opportunities.
5 Victoria is also leading the way with its integrated, whole-of-government response to family violence, underpinned by the following reform strategies: • A right to safety and justice: strategic framework to guide continuing family violence reform in Victoria 2010–2020, • A right to respect: Victoria’s plan to prevent violence against women 2010–2020, and • Strong culture, strong peoples, strong families: Towards a safer future for Indigenous families and communities 10 year plan. Homelessness is being recognised in key policy areas across the Victorian Government—for example: Education The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood (DEECD) is developing a Homelessness Education Commitment (HEC) to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of children and young people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. The HEC requires school and community agencies to work in partnership to improve educational outcomes. It builds on the DEECD guidelines for Victorian schools, • providing tailored, flexible services to Supporting children, young people and highly vulnerable young people who have their families affected by homelessness, experienced significant abuse and trauma, released in 2009. especially those involved with youth justice, Mental health the Children’s Court, child protection and youth homelessness services; and In 2009, the Victorian Government launched Because mental health matters: Victorian • giving people with enduring psychiatric Mental Health Reform Strategy 2009–2019, disability who are homeless or at risk of which sets directions and reforms for current homelessness greater access to individually and future policy and service delivery. It also tailored packages of psychosocial outreach recognises the relationship between mental support linked to secure and affordable health and homelessness by: long-term housing options.
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7 Justice Disability There is a connection between homelessness The Victorian Government established the and contact with the criminal justice system. Disability Housing Trust in 2006 to promote, Research shows that the number of times an sponsor and develop new and innovative offender moves house is one of the highest housing options that provide people with predictors of their likelihood to reoffend.10 disabilities opportunities to live in a range A number of people who experience of accommodation types that will best homelessness also have contact with police, suit their requirements, and to encourage courts and the corrections system. These new investment in housing for people contacts are opportunities to refer people with disabilities. experiencing homelessness to agencies that In addition to this, the Victorian Government can provide help and support. has committed to the development of a The Department of Justice has been working Housing and Support Strategy for People with to provide targeted interventions for people a Disability which will promote choice and experiencing homelessness, including the wellbeing for people with a disability, including Homelessness Infringement Program, the those who are also at risk of homelessness. Corrections Victoria Housing Project, Court Integrated Services Programs, the Better Pathways Bail Program, Victims of Crime Services and family violence system reforms. Fines and penalties for minor offences (such as transport infringements) can have a significant impact on people experiencing homelessness, because they do not have the income to pay. The Department of Justice recently reviewed the operation of the Infringement Act 2006 (Vic.), resulting in changes to the system and the acknowledgement of homelessness as a special circumstance. Victoria Police members are often the first to come into contact with people experiencing recurring homelessness. Victoria Police has nominated mental health as one of its priority issues since 2006 and this commitment is reflected in the Victoria Police ‘Peace of Mind’ Mental Health Strategy. Victoria Police, in partnership with the Victorian Government, has developed and introduced mechanisms to strengthen and formalise referral processes to support services for people experiencing mental health issues, including those impacted by homelessness.
8 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Victoria meeting the housing challenge and delivering more affordable housing Decreasing housing affordability and the limited supply of private rental housing are placing a significant number of Victorians under housing stress or at risk of homelessness. Since 1999, the Victorian Government has built or purchased more than 17 000 social housing units across the state. Through Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV), affordable housing options are being developed for indigenous people and Indigenous support services will be enhanced. AHV is responsible for the tenancy management of approximately 1 250 properties. Under the Nation Building and Jobs Plan, AHV is being funded for 200 additional homes. Many tenants in rooming houses are highly vulnerable and disadvantaged. In October 2009 the Victorian Government announced a new investment of $77 million to improve rooming house standards and provide greater support and protection to rooming house residents. Helping families to move out of rooming houses and into social housing or stable private rental housing is an important part of this initiative. In addition, the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments have committed to jointly fund incentives for 7 500 new affordable homes through the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). Under the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), Victoria is working in partnership with the Commonwealth to invest $1.4 billion over five years to 2012-2013 for coordinated action on homelessness, social and Indigenous housing, private rental and home ownership in Victoria.
9 The Nation Building and Jobs Plan has Evidence also shows positive returns from: committed $5.7 billion nationally to boost • investing in early childhood development and upgrade social housing, of which (with benefits to both individuals and the $1.27 billion will be invested in Victoria. community), and This very substantial increase in funding will see major improvements in social housing. • preventing poor mental and physical health (which reduces direct health care costs and Affordable housing is integral to reducing and increases economic productivity).11 preventing homelessness and is a key part of the Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy. Prevention and early intervention can also Victoria will continue to increase the supply decrease costs and create benefits, including: of housing through not-for-profit housing • reducing the risk of child protection providers and drive investment in affordable involvement and out-of-home care (which rental housing. are linked to poorer educational, housing Moving to a prevention and early and life-time productivity outcomes), intervention model • reducing the deterioration of mental and Homelessness is caused by a wide range of physical health, including substance abuse social and economic issues such as: poverty, and experience of violence, and unemployment, violence, drug and alcohol • reducing the use of high-cost emergency abuse, mental health issues, poor education, services such as hospitals. and a lack of connection to family, friends and the broader community. To prevent and reduce homelessness those broader social and economic issues must be addressed. To address those broader social and economic issues, there needs to be a shift in focus. The Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy is therefore aimed at reducing homelessness and addressing its root causes. Research and evidence in Australia and from around the world demonstrates that people experiencing long-term homelessness who do not have their housing, health and other support issues addressed contribute to significant public financial costs. The repeated use of casualty wards of hospitals, entry and exit from prison, ongoing crisis interventions by mental health and drug and alcohol specialists puts a strain on the public purse. When housing, health and support needs are met, the benefits for the individual along with the savings are considerable.
10 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Outcome-based policy and service delivery The Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy will shift the focus of homelessness policy and service delivery to achieving tangible and lasting outcomes—including substantial reductions in homelessness. Victoria and the Commonwealth have already committed to achieving national targets by 2013 through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH). This first critical step towards an outcome-based approach will see Victoria contribute to the following national targets: • A 7 per cent decrease in the number of Australians who are homeless, • A 25 per cent reduction in the number of Australians sleeping rough, • A reduction by a third in Indigenous homelessness across Australia, • A 25 per cent reduction in the number of Australians released from care and custodial settings into homelessness, • A 25 per cent reduction in the number of Australians leaving social housing and private rental to homelessness, and • A 25 per cent reduction in three repeat periods of homelessness at an emergency service in 12 months. Meeting these challenging targets will require coordination and collaboration across all parts of the system—not just specialised homelessness services, but mainstream service agencies such as schools, hospitals and correction facilities.
11 Existing innovative projects • A similar youth project is the new A large number of innovative projects are Melbourne Citymission Youth Precinct already helping specific groups of clients: based in Fitzroy, which will provide short and long-term accommodation as well as • The Safe at Home initiative helps women support and employment pathways for and children experiencing family violence young people experiencing homelessness to remain in the family home, and stay and disadvantage. connected to their school and community. This program involves coordinated action • The Sacred Heart Mission’s Journey to by the courts, police and community Social Inclusion project is assisting people agencies to ensure the home is safe who have been chronically homeless and free from harassment. through intensive intervention, skills development and support to reconnect to • The Prison Exit Program is a joint initiative the community. of Corrections Victoria and the Department of Human Services, which places women • Wintringham is a recognised leader in and men exiting prison into transitional providing dedicated housing and support housing with the support they need to services for older people experiencing find long-term housing and to re-establish homelessness—combining housing, aged themselves in the community—reducing care, health and community care services rates of recidivism. for older homeless people. • Youth Foyer is an iconic accommodation Ultimately, more needs to be done to build and support program for young people on the successes of existing programs providing secure accommodation and across both the homelessness service and case management, including mentoring mainstream service systems. and support to build life skills (such as budgeting and cooking), recreation This requires forging stronger connections programs, training and employment. between homelessness services and Ladder, a joint venture between the mainstream services such as schools AFL Players’ Association and the AFL and hospitals. Foundation, is an example of Youth Foyer.
12 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Landmark policy and reform The first stage will be the implementation of six 4-year flagship projects, which will explore different ways that government, the community sector, business and philanthropy can work together. The projects will recognise that people become homeless for many different reasons and their needs change with age and circumstance. More than 1 000 people or around 5 per cent of the Victorian homeless population will be engaged in the flagship projects. The projects will aim to deliver lasting outcomes for these people by addressing their distinct needs and helping them move out of homelessness to independent living and full social and economic participation. All projects will be fully evaluated and directly inform further policy and service delivery reforms. New initiatives are funded in partnership with the Commonwealth Government through the NPAH, as well as through new and existing funding from the Victorian Government. These innovative projects will be in addition to the 2010–11 funding of $177 million for ongoing homelessness and family violence support and housing initiatives, assisting approximately 175 000 people. It is important to note that while the shift to prevention and early intervention is a significant change in policy and service delivery, the Victorian homelessness service system will still require the capacity to respond to crises. It is not always possible to stop crises from occurring. However, moving to prevention and early intervention will mean that less people will require a crisis response over the long term. This is why the Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy is a landmark policy reform.
13 2. A new approach to reducing homelessness To break the cycle of homelessness over the Setting a consistent definition next decade, the Victorian Homelessness of homelessness 2020 Strategy aims to: As stated earlier, there is no consistent • prevent people becoming homeless and accepted definition of homelessness in the first place, across relevant human service, education and employment services in Victoria. This is • minimise the harm caused by problematic for a number of reasons: homelessness, and • it is hard to clearly identify the target group, • assist people to move out of • it makes cooperation between service homelessness permanently. providers and stakeholders difficult, To do so, the Victorian Homelessness 2020 • it is harder to collect meaningful data about Strategy proposes, as its central tenet, a greater clients, and role for mainstream services—such as schools, • it is difficult to measure the effectiveness job networks, health services and Centrelink. of interventions for people experiencing homelessness. The Victorian Government’s new approach comprises four areas of reform: Establishing a shared and consistent definition 1. Focusing more on early intervention of homelessness is essential. and prevention for people experiencing The Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy homelessness, to prevent homelessness proposes that the widely accepted where possible or significantly reduce its Chamberlain and McKenzie definition of duration. primary homelessness (people without 2. Taking a life stage approach to conventional accommodation), secondary delivering services for people experiencing homelessness (people moving among various homelessness, which recognises people forms of temporary shelter) and tertiary at different stages of life often become accommodation (people living in single rooms homeless for different reasons, face different in private boarding houses without their own circumstances and have different needs. bathroom, kitchen or security of tenure)12 be adopted across all government agencies 3. Taking a systemic, whole-of-government and not-for-profit organisations funded to approach to addressing the causes and provide services to people experiencing effects of homelessness for people at homelessness. different life stages. This means connecting housing and homelessness support with education and employment services, health services and income support. It also means identifying which part of the system ‘‘ is best placed to coordinate services for people in different life stages. I was very ashamed of the situation I was in. 4. Developing a workforce primed to I came from a place where I had my own house intervene early, target services for people and my own job and now I had to ask. I didn’t at different life stages, work across service have the courage nor did I think it was my right ” sectors to address the multiple needs of people experiencing homelessness to ask for a house or money. and focus on achieving the best possible David, former homelessness services client, from outcomes for their clients. consultation with Council to Homeless Persons
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15 Combining a life stage Defining the life stages approach with early intervention Based on research and analysis, the Victorian and prevention to reduce Homelessness 2020 Strategy is structured homelessness broadly around three life stages: The centrepiece of the Victorian 1. Families with children and independent Homelessness 2020 Strategy is a life stage young people aged 15–24 years who are approach, recognising that at different experiencing homelessness. stages of their life, people often face different 2. Adults aged 24–55 years who do not care circumstances, and have different needs. for children and who are experiencing A young stay-at-home mum with two primary either short or long-term homelessness. school aged children who has nowhere to live following the breakdown of her relationship 3. Adults aged over 55 years who are has different needs compared to an older experiencing homelessness. single man who is long-term unemployed and The life stage categories are not absolute. has chronic ill health as a result of sleeping Our aim is to ensure that under the life stage rough or in boarding houses for years. A approach, all people at risk of or experiencing 19-year-old man who has had a fight with his homelessness will receive appropriate service parents, dropped out of TAFE and is sleeping responses to meet their needs. on the couch at a friend’s place has different needs again. Testing the life stage approach By focussing on the needs of people at This shift in direction will need to be tested. different life stages, we can re-establish the A package of flagship projects to demonstrate skills, resources and connections they need the life stage approach is being funded. to avoid becoming homeless again. Each project will engage the sector and ‘‘ relevant government departments as In relation to a one-size- well as business and philanthropy. An fits-all approach to housing, outcomes measurement framework will also be developed to track the progress of throw away the book and use each flagship project. This measurement common sense … everybody framework, along with a formal evaluation of is different. ” Barry, 50, from consultations with PILCH each project, will inform future service models and funding. Simultaneously, while this period of testing, measuring and evaluating new approaches is underway, all existing service arrangements will continue providing vital services for Victorians most in need. The homelessness service system will continue to support anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
16 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Putting the life stage approach into practice Addressing the interrelated issues that make people vulnerable to homelessness with early, targeted, coordinated support will be critical to the success of a life stage approach in reducing homelessness. This includes providing: • affordable housing and support to maintain tenancies, • adequate income support, • help for children and young people to remain engaged in school, complete Year 12 and move into appropriate vocational or further education, • help for parents and young people to find and keep jobs or access training to gain skills, and • a continuity of primary and mental health care. Central to this approach is providing people with the services they need when and where they need them. Achieving this will require stronger links and better coordination between: mainstream health, education, employment and income support services; specialist homelessness support services; and housing services. The Victorian Government will ensure people are provided with assistance to navigate a complex service system and find the support they need to participate more fully in social and economic life.
17 ‘‘ I was only allowed six weeks support. That was really cases (for example, a community health centre), the best placed agency will need to develop an integrated plan to address the immediate and not enough time to pull my longer term needs of the person. whole life back together. When Assigning one agency with the responsibilty the six weeks was up I was for commissioning the required services represents a major shift in current service on my own again and slipping ” system arrangements, and will require both backwards. mainstream and homelessness support Rosie, middle aged person suffering depression, from organisations to recognise the best placed consultations with Council to Homeless Persons agency and work to an agreed plan. A range of agencies provide services to This plan will ensure that the best placed people experiencing homelessness. They agency is able to reach those in need include Commonwealth, State and local of support. government agencies, and not-for-profit and for-profit agencies. Some focus specifically Getting the respect that comes on people experiencing homelessness, from having a home and work while others also deliver services to the A home is fundamental to ending broader community. homelessness. Where possible, work The Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy is the extra ingredient that will sustain recognises that reducing homelessness is accommodation and build someone’s ability the joint responsibility of this broad range of to participate more fully in the community. agencies. It also recognises that the missing ‘‘ element is often the coordination of services to achieve lasting outcomes for people. Employment, it just helps cause it gets you There are many successful examples of one agency providing service coordination across a range of partners. Too often, out of your head, and gives you purpose. ” Terry, unemployed, from consultations with PILCH however, these arrangements rely on personal Through the Victorian Homelessness 2020 relationships between individuals and are not Strategy, the Victorian Government recognises comprehensive or consistent across Victoria. that improving access to jobs for people The Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy experiencing homelessness is important. Data seeks to formalise a key role for the agency or from homelessness services shows that only agencies best placed to coordinate services. a small proportion of clients leave services with some kind of employment. It is important The causes of homelessness and the needs to acknowledge that homelessness services of people vary. As a consequence, the have not generally been funded to provide agency best placed to coordinate the employment services for their clients and services will vary according to the needs therefore rely on referrals and links to Job of each individual. Services Australia (JSA) providers and other In some circumstances, the best placed labour market programs. To achieve future agency (for example, a school) need only reductions in homelessness, homelessness identify that a client is at risk of homelessness support services and employment services and put that person in touch with a will need to work in concert. homelessness support organisation. In other
18 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Through closer collaboration with the Commonwealth, the Victorian Government will contribute to employment service reviews and advocate for greater targeting and consistency in the provision of employment services for people experiencing homelessness. ‘‘[Working for the Big Issue] does wonders for your self-esteem. You wake up, have a coffee and a cigarette and think ‘hey life’s not that bad’. I got sick of begging all day and going to court ... ” Phil, unemployed, from consultations with PILCH The Victorian Neighbourhood Renewal program provides a sound evidence base for improving employment outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. Evaluations of the program indicate that more than 5 500 new jobs were created across 21 disadvantaged communities in Victoria. The knowledge gained from this program will be used in the development of employment initiatives in the Strategy.
19 Income from a job also significantly improves the ability of people receiving income support to gain housing in the private rental market. Taking action This makes support to find and keep a job and access to long-term, stable housing Through the Victorian critical to reducing homelessness. Homelessness 2020 Strategy, the With that in mind, the Victorian Homelessness Victorian Government will: 2020 Strategy proposes two further components to support people who are • adopt the Chamberlain and McKenzie homeless or at risk of homelessness. definition as the consistent definition of First, an employment linkages project will connect participants in the Strategy’s flagship homelessness across government and the projects with JSA as well as transitional labour service sector, market programs, including social enterprises. This will involve working with employers • trial a range of flagship projects in different and union representatives to secure jobs for settings and across life stages and develop people experiencing homelessness. and implement an outcomes measurement The development and implementation of the employment linkages project will framework, involve agencies working in partnership to achieve positive employment outcomes for • implement an employment linkages project people who are at risk of, or experiencing, that will provide people experiencing homelessness. homelessness with work opportunities, Second, funding will be made available to and support people to access and complete secure stable accommodation (primarily in the vocational training, and private rental market) through a new private rental brokerage fund to support participants • implement a private rental brokerage fund in the flagship projects. to provide financial support to homeless families and individuals participating in the demonstration projects to maintain private rental housing.
20 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
21 3. Life stage: Families with children and independent young people Evidence shows a growth Family violence remains an in family homelessness unacceptable presence in our Between the 2001 and 2006 Censuses, community the number of homeless families increased Preventing family violence is a significant part by 17 per cent.13 of preventing homelessness. In 2008-09, 23 100 Victorian children Violence perpetrated by a partner—including (with their families) received support from physical, emotional and sexual violence—is homelessness, family violence and housing the leading contributor to death, disability and services14—the highest number on record. ill health in Victorian women aged 15–44.17 More than 70 per cent of those children were It has a profound and devastating impact on of preschool and primary school age, with women, children, young people, families and 42 per cent aged 4 years and under.15 communities. It erodes the sense of safety and security normally associated with having Families become homeless a home and is a significant contributor to for different reasons homelessness among families. Some families become vulnerable to The facts are stark. homelessness because they are struggling to The number of family violence incidents in make ends meet. The pressures of paying a Victoria in 2007-08, as recorded by police, mortgage and the increasing costs of living court services and homelessness services, can lead to relationship breakdowns and ranged between 20 150 and 36 114.18 further financial difficulties. The number of recorded incidents increased For other families, the loss of private rental significantly over the past decade. Between accommodation and the difficulty of finding 2000 and 2009, the number of client support another affordable property to rent can lead periods where family violence was the main to homelessness. reason for seeking assistance increased by Family violence is also a major reason that 74 per cent—up from 9 301 to 16 145.19 women and children become homeless. Figure 2 illustrates the increase in demand on Half of the women with children attending homelessness services over the past decade homelessness services in 2008-09 stated from clients experiencing significant family that family violence was the reason they were violence issues. seeking help.16 ‘‘The rental people blacklisted me, so no real estate agent wants anything to do with me. My ex smashed up two houses and I was living there at the time. The lease was under my name. I have no hope of getting a property. ” Joanne, 33, from consultations with Council to Homeless Persons
22 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Figure 2: Clients seeking homelessness services due to family violence 18,000 16,000 14,000 12,000 10,000 8,000 6,000 No. Support Periods 4,000 2,000 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 00 –0 –0 –0 –0 –0 –0 –0 –0 –0 –2 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 99 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 19 Sources: AIHW (various years), SAAP national data collection annual report, Victoria, 1999-2000 to 2008-09, Canberra.20 There is limited reliable information on the incidence of family violence in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. It is clear that women from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and Indigenous women do experience family violence—and some may experience higher rates of family violence compared to others in the community.21 Family violence service data shows a growing number of women and their children without permanent residency—such as women on student or spousal visas, without access to services, income or support—presenting to services. The Immigrant Women’s Domestic Violence Service estimates that approximately 2 500 women in this precarious situation miss out on services. Women’s refuges, family violence services and the homelessness service system have a limited capacity to meet the needs of these families, particularly when the families have no access to income support and other Commonwealth Government services. Addressing family violence is a priority, and the Victorian Government is implementing an integrated response designed to keep women and children safe, hold perpetrators to account and reduce family violence. This response involves police, courts, government departments and agencies, and the services sector (including homelessness services) working closely together.
23 The impact of homelessness However, if families experiencing homelessness on children can last a lifetime receive timely and coordinated support to access stable housing, education and other Much evidence, both in Australia and health and community services, children have internationally, shows that disruption and the capacity and resilience to quickly reconnect disadvantage in early years can have a with school and the community. negative impact on adult life. Health and wellbeing issues in adults—such as mental Families with children who health, crime, family violence, poor literacy, experience homelessness and unemployment and welfare dependency— need a dedicated focus are often linked to childhood experiences.22 Negative early experiences can set children Experiencing family violence, the loss of a on developmental paths that become job, relationship breakdown, drug and alcohol progressively more difficult to change. abuse or the failure of a family-owned small business can result in families with children ‘‘ and young people facing homelessness. I had a really good worker, Homelessness impacts on every member but only for 12 months and of a family, including children. That is why any homelessness service response then I had to be exited, I should consider the varying needs of was doing well, but once each family member. the support stopped I went Early intervention is vital to minimise short and downhill and had to get help long-term harm. It is important for families to again and go through the receive help quickly and easily, to ensure: process all over again. ” Anna, single mum, from consultations with PILCH • the family can find somewhere to live, • children can continue to go to school, or training or further education if they are older, Becoming homeless and moving from place to place, even for short periods, is • parents are supported to find and keep a destabilising for children. It affects their job, or gain access to training, health and wellbeing, as well as their • the family receives the necessary engagement in education. When combined counselling and life skills training needed to with other risk factors—such as the get relationships back on track, trauma of adult relationship breakdown, • the family has access to income and other unsupportive relationships with parents, financial support, and disruption to schooling, being witness to family violence, and separation from friends • the family can access community and and communities—homelessness can have support networks to rebuild their lives and enduring effects on children. avoid becoming homeless again.
24 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy Families facing homelessness currently access services from Victoria’s network of family homelessness support and accommodation services, as well as from an extensive network of family violence services. These services are a common first point of call for families—and are best placed to coordinate a response for some families. While family homelessness support and accommodation services cannot provide all the different services needed to get a family back on its feet, they are often in a strong position to broker and coordinate services and resources for families with children. A combination of family violence, housing, education, training, justice, income support and counselling services may be needed to help move a family out of homelessness. ‘‘ I left half way through school; couldn’t cope. My school fees weren’t being paid. Didn’t have a legal guardian so couldn’t go to school camps. A school should be a bit more lenient with people who are homeless and keep it discreet so people who don’t need to know don’t find out about it ” Michelle, 20, from consultations with Council to Homeless Persons Two flagship 4-year projects will test new service models responding to the needs of families. The first flagship project will target families with children. The second will target families experiencing family violence. Both projects will provide ongoing assistance to work with families to resolve their experience of homelessness.
25 Family homelessness flagship project This 4-year project will locate a new multi-disciplinary team of staff with specific expertise regarding families within an existing homelessness funded agency. This project will work with around 250 individuals, including children. The aims of the project are that: • children attend and stay in primary and secondary education, • parents undertake vocational education and training and/or access employment services, • families secure and maintain affordable housing, • children receive maternal and child health assessments, • families access community health and mental health services, and • families access financial counselling and support. Family violence flagship project The 4-year family violence flagship project will locate a multi-disciplinary team of staff in a specialist family violence agency. The project will build on existing integrated service delivery established through the recent family violence service reforms. This project will work with a further 250 individuals, including children. The aims of the project are that: • families receive legal services and safe accommodation, • families have access to financial counselling and support enabling them to control their financial resources, • families secure and maintain affordable housing, • families access community health and mental health services, • children attend and stay in primary and secondary education, and • parents undertake vocational education and training and/or access employment services. Clients participating in the two flagship projects will be given access to social housing or private rental. This will help children attend school, enhance access to local services and encourage new community relationships to be formed.
26 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy In addition to these important flagship projects, the Victorian Government is undertaking a range of complementary initiatives. The Department of Human Services’ Housing and Community Building Division already has staff focusing on family violence. To sharpen this focus and improve partnerships with community sector organisations, the Housing and Community Building Division will establish a dedicated family violence unit. The unit will provide policy and service delivery information about family violence and its relation to housing and homelessness. The Victorian Government’s new private rental brokerage fund will support up to 430 families experiencing homelessness over the next four years to find and keep housing in the private rental market. The scheme will provide short-term financial assistance—enabling families to access private rental housing and parents to access employment and education opportunities. Independent young people are a significant part of the homeless population Young people aged 15–24 who are no longer with their families and are experiencing homelessness are a significant part of the homeless population. ‘‘ My school knew I was homeless and referred me to youth refuge—they did a really good job. The refuge then took me to school every day. They both handled the situation really well. If it wasn’t for how they handled it I would be both homeless and fallen out of school ” Hannah, young person, from consultations with Council to Homeless Persons The issues affecting young people who become homeless include the breakdown of relationships with family, disengagement from school, employment and education and training, inability to access independent housing, life skills problems, and health and wellbeing issues (including mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse). For independent young people experiencing homelessness, a focus on services and support— including health and wellbeing, education and vocational training, and the promotion of social and family relationships, along with housing—can help them live independently. Victoria has recognised the distinct needs of young people experiencing homelessness Over a long period, the Victorian homelessness service system has focused on helping independent young people through dedicated crisis and transitional accommodation services, family reconciliation services and specialist assistance for those leaving statutory care and youth justice.
27 The Creating Connections 2006 policy framework pays specific attention to the needs and circumstances of young people experiencing homelessness. Creating Connections builds on reform resulting from the 2002 Victorian Homelessness Strategy and seeks to improve housing and support services for young people experiencing homelessness. The framework has introduced enhanced services, including intensive case management, life skills and private rental brokerage. More recently, the NPAH has recognised the critical need to link employment, education and training with homelessness services for young people to assist them in becoming independent.23 To help achieve this objective, funding has already been allocated through the NPAH for a number of youth initiatives including: three new Youth Foyer housing and support models; staffing to assist young people to access appropriate mental health services; resources to enable youth refuges to expand their services; and new family reconciliation services. A small but significant proportion of young ‘‘ people experiencing homelessness have previously been under the care of the state I’ve got consistent set people I see—my youth protection system. Victorian child protection worker, GP and school counsellor. They all have data estimates that approximately 450 young people aged 16–18 years exit their case management meetings with me when I Custody and Guardianship orders each year. need. Being able to see the same person because A proportion of these young people identified then you don’t need to keep repeating your story. ” as at risk of homelessness are supported by homelessness assistance services. They understand and get to know you ... Lucy, suffers chronic health issues, from consultations with Council to Homeless Persons Current leaving care services include post- care support to assist young people make the transition to independent living, mentoring from supportive adults, flexible brokerage to enhance regional service capacity, a leaving care helpline, housing and case managed support and Indigenous specific housing and support.
28 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
29 The Strategy aims to reduce the number of young people experiencing homelessness Young people The Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy flagship project will build on Creating Connections, the As part of this project a team will be employed to NPAH and existing initiatives to formalise work as part of a regional school network. Through and embed through the flagship project linkages with a range of support services, including an appropriate service coordination model community service, employment, education and training to deliver outcomes for young people providers, the project will coordinate and broker resources to experiencing homelessness. ensure good outcomes for young people. This project will work with 100 young people. A 4-year flagship project will test a new service delivery model aimed at achieving The aims of the project are that: lasting outcomes for young people, aged • young people attend and complete secondary school, 15–21 years, who are newly homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness. These • young people are engaged in work or post secondary training, young people will be living in a range of • young people develop positive family or supportive adult circumstances, including staying with family relationships, and friends or short term accommodation. • young people can access and maintain suitable housing, and This will involve forging stronger and more • young people have developed effective life skills to sustain formal relationships with schools, employment independence. assistance providers and TAFE colleges. The flagship project aims to bring together resources that help young people complete education and vocational training, access employment, and develop life skills to The employment linkages project will make a transition to independent life in help young people access transitional the community. labour market programs provided by Over and above this important flagship project, social enterprises—such as placements the Victorian Government is undertaking a in traineeships and apprenticeships—and range of complementary initiatives. find work in key industries. This will include helping some young people make the Linking with the Homelessness Education transition from school to post-secondary Commitment, a unique partnership vocational education, and training and work. between DEECD and DHS, the Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy will enable Combined with support to complete a more systemic identification of school education and training and find work, services students experiencing homelessness through will work to access affordable housing options new working arrangements between schools for young people. The private rental brokerage and homelessness services, which will help fund will help young people to sustain private young people engage with and complete rental housing. secondary school education.
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