6 November 2019

Government to put a permanent roof over homeless heads under new program

| Lachlan Roberts
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CatholicCare and St Vincent de Paul will partner with Housing ACT to deliver Axial Housing

CatholicCare Deputy CEO Lisa Higginson, Minister for Housing Yvette Berry, CatholicCare CEO Anne Kirwan, St Vincent de Paul director Patrick McKenna and Housing ACT’s executive group manager Louise Gilding. Photo: Supplied.

Twenty people sleeping rough on Canberra’s streets will be moved into permanent housing under a two-year pilot program to help end the cycle of homelessness in the nation’s capital.

CatholicCare and St Vincent de Paul will partner with Housing ACT to deliver Axial Housing, a “housing-first program”, which will support 20 people sleeping rough in the ACT into permanent housing.

The pilot will see Housing ACT provide the properties while two specialist homelessness services, Street to Home and ASSIST, will provide flexible and individual assistance for as long as needed.

The program differs from traditional models as it is offered without preconditions such as employment, no criminal history and sobriety.

ACT Minister for Housing Yvette Berry said the program, which has been run in the US, will help end chronic homelessness and stop people from falling in and out of temporary accommodation.

Ms Berry said the program had proven to be effective in helping people experiencing homelessness to find accommodation and maintain their tenancy, and also is reportedly less expensive than emergency accommodation and transitional housing.

“A housing-first approach will help people in our community experiencing chronic homelessness, requiring urgent assistance and unable to sustain a tenancy on their own,” Ms Berry said.

“Right now, this combination of complex issues means that this group of people are cycling through crisis services or remaining homeless for long periods of time, unable to break the cycle of homelessness.

“Evidence suggests that housing-first recipients are homeless for shorter periods of time than those assisted with emergency accommodation and transitional housing.”

One property has already been allocated to the program with a further four properties identified across Canberra. Ms Berry said as the program develops, Housing ACT will continue to work with CatholicCare and St Vincent de Paul to identify future properties.

The new program was recommended in the ACT Government’s study last year, which highlighted that the current model of homelessness services did not work for people with high and complex needs, who were unable to navigate the system to move into and sustain long-term housing.

CatholicCare CEO Anne Kirwan said the trial is the perfect opportunity to test whether the program will work in Canberra.

“To support this vulnerable group, we need to deliver our services differently,” Ms Kirwan said.

“This partnership, where we provide the wrap-around services and Housing ACT provides the properties, will enable us to successfully assist people with high and complex needs to move into long-term housing, with the necessary support systems already in place.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to measure the impact of such an approach on both participants and the related sectors and systems that interact with this vulnerable group.”

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Mike of Canberra10:51 am 07 Nov 19

Twenty years in power and this tired old government finally comes with something they should have thought of years ago. Time to go.

The real problem is that the ACT Government has been doing pilot programs and policy tweaks in the Housing area for over a decade and the situation on the ground continues to get worse.

When is someone going to be brave enough to call out their years of reductions in public housing and sound bite policies like this, that only ever touch the edge of the problem?

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