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

Lachlan Roberts 6 November 2019 40
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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40 Responses to Government to put a permanent roof over homeless heads under new program
Bethany Williams Bethany Williams 6:04 pm 07 Nov 19

This is such a great start to helping the homeless in Canberra. In a place as wealthy and left-leaning as this, there shouldn’t be any homeless people. We should be making sure they have permanent accommodation. Food. Clothes. And access to health and drug/alcohol services. We have too many people living on the street and it’s a disgrace. I hope that this program expands to more than 20, and continues to help the vulnerable well into the future.

Richard Garthon Richard Garthon 5:44 pm 07 Nov 19

Good Start with that guy outside Woolies at Dickson

Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 10:51 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.

Pete Schwartzy Pete Schwartzy 8:38 am 07 Nov 19

About time the ACT adopted a housing now policy. This is the proven best practice to actually solving homelessness.

Jacqui Hogan Jacqui Hogan 6:42 am 07 Nov 19

Hope it works!

Peter Mackay Peter Mackay 9:33 pm 06 Nov 19

How many Canberrans are “sleeping rough”? And where are they doing it?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:47 pm 06 Nov 19

    When I used to ride to work I would pass an elderly man who slept in the picnic shelter near the paddle boat hire. He's likely dead now, but for years he slept there, all weather. I have seen a bed set up on the picnic table (what were once the old toilets) near the Carillon. Many sleep rough in bushland around Canberra. I have often come upon their camp-sites when geocaching. Also I see camp-sites in other hidden places. Or evidence of them, as some are packed up during the day and hidden; only being brought out late in the day. For a long time an old camper van was regularly parked in a picnic area near Parliament House. Many choose to camp near the convenience of toilets, but not all. They're around. I haven't come upon a mass sleeping area, such as this area in Melbourne I found. The people sleeping rough in Canberra I have seen appear to camp more alone. But I have seen logs pulled together, so perhaps after hours some get together.

    Peter Mackay Peter Mackay 1:18 am 07 Nov 19

    As a night cabbie - and my own geocaching and Ingressing - I’d see a few. Not many, and nothing like the sort of night camps you see in other cities.

    I might accept that there are quite a few homeless - those without a permanent shelter - but for people dossing down in alleys or in parks, there can’t be more than a couple of dozen.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 6:01 pm 07 Nov 19

    Peter Mackay That's likely because we don't have as many alleys and the like in Canberra as say Melbourne and Sydney, as we don't have the concentrated city centres. Plus we have Nature Parks and bushland around and within Canberra, which is more attractive and out of the way, than an alleyway. That would make many homeless less visible.

    Danny Parker Danny Parker 10:06 pm 07 Nov 19

    There's a few in the city sleeping under the roof eaves. Nigel is one of them. He's the one that sits on the bench everyday outside Oliver Brown's. Poor guy tells me he is waiting on ACT Housing list. Recently had half his stuff in his trolley stolen. Would love to see this program or one like this target him.

    Tamara Lions Tamara Lions 2:17 pm 08 Nov 19

    There is a man who has been living outside Dickson Woolworths for at least 8 months. He really needs to be helped.

    Melanie Ryan Melanie Ryan 10:17 pm 08 Nov 19

    A walk through Civic on any given day would turn up a dozen without even going looking. CEO sleepout and the like discuss numbers well up in the hundreds.

    Peter Mackay Peter Mackay 1:39 am 09 Nov 19

    I walk through Civic on any given day and I find nothing of the sort. I might see one or two folk with their belongings in a nearby trolley, but I suggest that someone begging at a mall entrance isn’t sleeping rough unless they are actually set up to do so. The dead giveaway is some sort of bedding and shelter.

    Saying that somebody asking for money is actually sleeping on the streets when there is no evidence is more a matter of gullibility than science.

    I say again. Where are these hundreds of people and where are they sleeping rough?

Bekah Glaz Bekah Glaz 9:00 pm 06 Nov 19

About time. Hope it can be widened.

Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 8:29 pm 06 Nov 19

Hooray at last.

Madeline Eva Woldhuis Madeline Eva Woldhuis 8:25 pm 06 Nov 19

It's a good start

Julia Burns Julia Burns 6:06 pm 06 Nov 19

Sounds great!

Stephen Rowe Stephen Rowe 4:29 pm 06 Nov 19

Safe Shelter ACT Information if you somehow didn't know :-)

Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 4:19 pm 06 Nov 19

Great initiative...something needed to be done.

Sharrowkyn Crow Sharrowkyn Crow 2:33 pm 06 Nov 19

Hopefully they dont overlook homeless people with pets like they did with me...

Sharon Hunter Sharon Hunter 1:59 pm 06 Nov 19

Thank goodness there has been a start made without the usual conditions.🙂

Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 1:51 pm 06 Nov 19

I hope it's not bast on gender.

    John Hynes John Hynes 9:00 am 08 Nov 19

    Daniel Duncan first thing I thought. 2 in 3 rough sleepers are men. Given they didnt give numbers, I reckon the stats for this group will be the other way around, if they are lucky.

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 1:28 pm 08 Nov 19

    John I did see a news article one time on homelessness and the numbers they gave was 1 in 3 was a woman so we need more woman's shelters. but you can leave the men to rot type of story.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 1:18 pm 06 Nov 19

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?

Renea Hazel Renea Hazel 1:13 pm 06 Nov 19

At last, Housing First!

Loftie Croftie Loftie Croftie 12:49 pm 06 Nov 19

How about using all these old empty government buildings in Canberra and fit them out for the homeless instead of them being boarded up and looking like the Bronx. Can the tram and use the money more wisely

    Renea Hazel Renea Hazel 1:15 pm 06 Nov 19

    Because a lot of them are now privately owned by developers eg. the old Health building in Woden. There is also a lot of red tape and cost involved in redeveloping for this purpose, many would be full of asbestos. Cheaper and more practical to purpose-build from scratch ie. the new Common Ground about to go up in Dickson.

Michele Gorman Michele Gorman 12:42 pm 06 Nov 19

It's a start, well done

Jodie Moore Jodie Moore 11:47 am 06 Nov 19

Nice work - now multiply that for everyone who is homeless in Canberra :)

The Finland homeless policy should be adopted worldwide.

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 1:49 pm 06 Nov 19

    Jodie what is Finlands policy?

    Jodie Moore Jodie Moore 1:52 pm 06 Nov 19

    Daniel, here is the latest story but it's been going on since the early 2000s - basically everyone gets a house, no strings attached (if they want one). Even if they can't pay the rent, they get a roof over their heads.

    https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/jun/03/its-a-miracle-helsinkis-radical-solution-to-homelessness

    Jodie Moore Jodie Moore 1:53 pm 06 Nov 19

    Sorry - since 2008.

    I've been following this for ages and can't understand, why the rest of the world, doesn't follow this.

    https://housingfirsteurope.eu/countries/finland/

    Jenni Zimoch Jenni Zimoch 5:23 pm 06 Nov 19

    Jodie Moore money. It usually comes down to money.

    Jodie Moore Jodie Moore 6:29 pm 06 Nov 19

    Well the government keeps giving themselves ridiculous pay rises - there are plenty of cuts to make there.

    Big business apparently helps a lot in Finland with funding these things (I would guess they get lower taxes or something, depending on what they contribute)..

    We are a wealthy country and we can afford to feed and house our people.

    Pen e Lope Pen e Lope 5:15 pm 07 Nov 19

    Jenni Zimoch Utah did this too. It turns out that it's way cheaper than paying for health care and prisons and all the other much more expensive things

    Kyeen Grivas Kyeen Grivas 4:21 pm 08 Nov 19

    Jodie Moore thank you for this link. Its so good to read the details. So grateful and thankful these people are being helped.

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