A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
A Better Place
Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
A Better Place
Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
New directions to reduce homelessness in Victoria
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
ii A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

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                              Published by the Victorian Government Department of Human Services,
                              Melbourne, Australia, September 2010
                              Copyright State of Victoria 2010
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A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

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
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
iv A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

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
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
vi A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

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
A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy
viii A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

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%
                                                                                             65 or older
                                                   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
• 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.

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.

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:

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.
6 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

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.

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.

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.

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
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
   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
14 A Better Place Victorian Homelessness 2020 Strategy

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.

‘‘ 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.

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
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

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







                                                                                                  No. Support Periods






































                             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.

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.

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.

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

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
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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