- 1 Background
- 2 Current Situation
- 3 Government Policy and Program direction
- 4. Homelessness in the South metro Corrid or Workshop
- 5 Workshop Identification of Strategies to Address Homelessness at the Local Level
- 6 Strategies and Initiatives to Address Homelessness
- 7 Discussion and conclusion
- 8 Southwest Metropolitan Regional Working Group on Homelessness - Homlessness Reduction Strategy
- Appendix 1
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
City of Cockburn
City of Rockingham
Council of Australian Governments
Department for Child Protection
DH & W Department of Housing and Works
Homeless Emergency Action Team
National Affordable Housing Agreement
NBESP National Building Economic Stimulus Plan
National Partnership Agreement
National Rental Affordability Scheme
RKRHWG Rockingham Kwinana Regional Homelessness Working Group
RYEAP Rockingham Youth External Accommodation Project
Supported Accommodation Assistance Program
Socio Economic Index of Financial Advantage
Supported Tenancy Advice and Referral
SWMRWGH South West Metropolitan Regional Working Group on Homelessness
Town of Kwinana
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Across Australia some 105,000 men, women and children are homeless on a daily basis with many others treading the fine line between having a roof over their heads and taking their chances on the streets. People who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless form one of the most marginalised vulnerable groups within our community.
1.1 What Is Homelessness?
For the purposes of the Australian Census, homelessness is defined as:
- Primary homelessness, which includes all people without conventional accommodation, such as people living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings, or using cars or railway carriages for temporary shelter.
- Secondary homelessness includes people who move frequently from one form of temporary shelter to another. On census night, it includes all people staying in emergency or transitional accommodation provided under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP). Secondary homelessness also includes people residing temporarily with other households because they have no accommodation of their own and people staying in boarding houses on a short-term basis, operationally defined as 12 weeks or less.
- Tertiary homelessness refers to people who live in boarding houses on a medium to long-term basis, operationally defined as 13 weeks or longer. They are homeless because their accommodation situation is below the minimum community standard of a small self-contained flat1.
This definition is now widely accepted within Australia and is used in the Australian Government's White Paper on Homelessness2, released on 21 December 2008, and in developing the National Partnership Agreements on Homelessness3. (NPAH) and the Homelessness Implementation Plan (HIP) 4.
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1.2 Homelessness in the Australia Context
While the true number of homeless people remains underestimated largely due to difficulties in accurately counting those who 'couch surf', live with friends, in caravans, cars etc or those who are not on any official data base it is conservatively reported that 13,390 Western Australians are homeless each night. Of these 3,392 are reportedly sleeping rough while others sleep in cars, temporary accommodation, with friends or family or in sheds and garages. Of the numbers known to agency workers 62% are aged 34 or under with 32% aged 12-18 years and 9% children under 12 years living with either one or both parents. Indigenous people account for 11% of people experiencing homelessness.
People experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless are represented across all age and relationship cohorts. While single, young, elderly or mentally ill homeless people are often more publicly visible research in recent years has shown homelessness amongst families with children is increasing. The 2006 Census reported 26,790 people living in homeless families of which 16,182 were children this equates to a 17 % increase from the 2001 census.
1.3 Response to Homelessness within the City of Rockingham, Town of Kwinana and City of Cockburn
The City of Rockingham with an estimated residential population of 96,068, the Town of Kwinana with an estimated residential population of 26,387, two neighbouring outer metropolitan local government authorities 40 kilometres from Perth, have both identified a significant growth in the numbers of homeless people seeking assistance from a range of government and non government agencies. The City of Cockburn recorded the fifth largest population increase in the State in 2009 of 4.5% with an estimated population of 88,599.
Similarly people seeking financial and legal assistance because of threat of eviction has seen a marked increase in recent years. Scales Community Legal Centre in Rockingham reported it assisted 133 clients experiencing tenancy related legal issues during the 2008/2009 financial year. Cockburn Financial Counselling Services assisted 48 families who were either at risk of homelessness or who were homeless in 2009. Fremantle services such as the Community Legal and Advocacy Centre also see Cockburn residents for tenancy issues.
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The issue of homelessness was recognised by the City of Rockingham and the Town of Kwinana local government authorities and as such a briefing paper was presented to a joint Council Committee meeting on 3 August 2009 focusing on the increasing number of homeless young people within the area. After much discussion both Councils agreed the establishment of a Rockingham Kwinana Regional Homelessness Working Group (RKRHWG) of State and Local Government authorities and non government organisations to establish cross sector partnerships and collaboration in responding swiftly and effectively to local homeless young people. As part of this process the COR and the TOK invited the City of Cockburn to join the Regional Working Group and the group therefore changed its name to the South West Metropolitan Regional Working Group on Homelessness (SWMRWG).
All three Councils pledged to work together to gain participation by government and non government organisations in developing and implementing local initiatives designed to prevent people from becoming homeless as well as assisting those who do experience homelessness.
To this end a Homelessness in the South Metro Corridor Workshop was held on 5 November 2009 to determine local homelessness issues, identify local resources and determine service delivery strategies.
In addition the SWMRWG agreed to develop a briefing paper outlining the issue of homelessness and threat of homelessness for people residing in the three local government authorities recognising that homelessness is not just a youth issue. This paper will serve as a discussion document and lobbying tool to attract additional funding and services to address the accommodation deficit in the region.
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2 CURRENT SITUATION
2.1 Local Population Demographics
The City of Rockingham is listed as the tenth most disadvantaged area in the Perth metropolitan area on the SEIFA Index.5
The average house rental within the district is $260 per week with an average house mortgage payment of $1,600 per month. The median weekly income is $1,086 per week.
Unemployment figures for 2006 was1,803 - 4.9% of the workforce compared to an unemployment rate of 8.7% in January 2010.
The Town of Kwinana is listed as the most disadvantaged area in the Perth metropolitan area on the SEIFA index. The Australian Bureau of Statistics rates Kwinana as having a relative socio-economic disadvantage index of 896 versus the Perth average of 1,024.
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Key figures include:
- Highest rate of unemployment for any local government area (with the exception of remote communities)
- Unemployment figures for 2006 were 565 - 5.8% of the workforce
- In January 2010 the unemployment rate was 11.0%
- 54% of Kwinana's population receive income less than $21,000 per year
- 57% of housing stock in the Town is rental accommodation
- Average house rental - $250.00 per week
- Median weekly income - $22,000.00 per annum
- 1 in 5 families are one parent families
- 8% of families do not have access to a car
- 33% population aged under18 years
- 4.5 % of the population is Aboriginal compared with State average of 1.4%
The median house rental within the district in 2006 was $180 per week with an average house mortgage payment of $1,300 per month. In 2006 the median individual income is $26,052 per annum, the median household income was $57,304 per annum.
Unemployment figures for 2006 were 3.3% of the workforce compared to an unemployment rate of 6.2% in February 2010. In 2006 49.1 % of Cockburn residents had no qualifications.
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Latest statistics from the Department of Housing and Works refer to a combined list for both Rockingham and Kwinana of 297 people on the priority housing list (2 yrs) and 1,014 people listed as being on the 'Wait Term List', both long term and regular.(5 to 7 yrs).
City of Cockburn residents access the Department of Housing and Works office in Fremantle the estimation provided by the department is as follows for the Wait Turn List:
- Family -2 to 3 bedroom applicants from October 2002;
- Family -4 bedroom plus applicants are being housed from 2003;
- Seniors 1 bed applicants are being housed from 2003; and
- Singles 1 bed applicants are being housed from 2002.
The priority wait list is now housing applicants from 2007. Three years for priority housing is of grave concern for this District.
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2.2 The Human Face of Homelessness in Rockingham, Kwinana and Cockburn
For many the term homeless person suggests an individual who through choice or personal weakness finds themselves 'living rough' usually comforted by alcohol and/or drugs. Alternatively a homeless person may be seen as mentally ill and/or socially incompetent and as such unable to 'fit' into contemporary society.
Popular opinion also suggests that young people may 'choose' to become homeless as an act of rebellion against overly strict and controlling authority figures in their lives and then there is the all too pervading view that some racial and cultural groups 'prefer' to live homeless as a nomadic existence is closer to their traditional way of life.
This type of stereotyping and over simplification of a multi complex social issue does much to ensure homeless people remain powerless, largely ignored and victimised by the society within which they seek assistance. In addition it ensures that homelessness and the threat of homelessness is a 'welfare issue' and therefore the responsibility of one or more bureaucratic levels of government and as a consequence an issue that can largely be ignored by the wider community.
While anyone has the potential to become homeless, some groups such as young people under the age of 25 are much more vulnerable than others. This age cohort makes up over half of the homeless population.6
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also largely over represented in the homelessness statistics. Although they make up only 2% of the country's population, they account for 18% of the clientele in homeless shelters.
Homelessness is frequently a consequence and an expression of chronic poverty with factors impacting on insidious poverty including:
- Insufficient affordable housing
- Poor physical or mental health
- Intellectual disability
- Drug and Alcohol abuse
- Family and Relationship breakdown
- Domestic Violence
- Physical and/or sexual abuse
Over the past 2 years homelessness has become much more visible and harder to ignore. The global financial crisis has resulted in a rapid increase of people experiencing homelessness and people at imminent risk of eviction through no fault of their own. While government and non government organisations struggle to measure the prevalence of homelessness this issue cannot be viewed through statistical measurement alone as all too often statistics can serve as a lamp post to a drunk - used to lean on rather than to illuminate.
To try to throw some light on the types of individuals and families experiencing homelessness or in danger of becoming homeless within the City of Rockingham and Town of Kwinana the RKRHWG documented the following profiles of people who have presented at one or more of the local agencies over the past 12 months. This information has been altered to protect individual privacy however the situations are accurate and reflect the complexity of the presenting issues.
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2.2.1 William 17 Year Old Student
William was a 17 year old young man who sought help from the local youth service for assistance with food and blankets. He was living in his car after having left the family home following repeated bullying by his mother's new partner. William's father died many years ago and this is the second partner his mother has established a live in relationship with.
William has two young half brothers who continue to live at home. William's mother agrees with her current partner that the break down in relationships with William is because he is stubborn, resentful and hard to discipline. William considers his mother's partner to be an abusive bully that he can no longer live with.
William attended a local high school where he was studying for the Tertiary Entrance Examination. He achieved very well academically and intended to gain entry to university next year to study science.
William bought his car with money saved from after school and holiday jobs. The car was registered, but he did not have a current driver's license. He moved the car every night to a different car park so as not to draw attention to his situation but was aware that he was breaking the law by driving without a licence.
During the day William studied in local libraries until they closed financially supporting himself with an allowance from Centrelink.
This is still a good news homelessness story - William attained an excellent TEE score, finally passed his driving test and got a drivers licence and is now attending university fulltime and sharing student accommodation with 2 friends. Unfortunately his hostile relationship with his mother and half brothers remains un-resolved.
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2.2.2 The Wilson Family
Mr and Mrs Wilson and their 2 teenage sons and 9 year old daughter presented at the Council offices having driven from Victoria. Mr Wilson had given evidence against a drug dealer and while the dealer was found guilty and jailed, resulting in the offenders colleagues mounting a harassment campaign against the family.
Having heard of the opportunities in W.A. Mr Wilson decided to move his family to a 'safer' state and start again. What he did not count on was the lack of affordable rental housing in W.A., the difficulty of breaking into the mining industry and the challenge of routing up two teenage boys from their familiar surroundings and friends and transplanting them to a new State.
By the time he had reached W.A. and stayed in budget accommodation for a few weeks while he tried to find a job the family had ran out of money and had no where to stay other than the family station wagon. Mr Wilson visited several housing assistance agencies but was advised that his wife and daughter could be housed short term in a women's refuge if she said she had been abused. Due to the boys being 14 and 15 years old they could not be accommodated with their mother and sister.
After much deliberation Mr Wilson sold some of his tools and other personal belongings and purchased a family tent so they could remain together. As they could not afford the camping fee at the local caravan park the family erected the tent illegally in one of the 'bush forever' sites and consequently attracted the attention of the local rangers. While the rangers did not issue an infringement notice, and provided a range of information relating to homelessness assistance agencies, the family was moved on and so commenced an itinerant existence between the City's of Mandurah, Rockingham and Cockburn.
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2.2.3 Renee - 26 Year Old Single Parent
Renee is a 26 year old single parent bringing up her 7 year old daughter who has significant learning difficulties and delayed social skills. Renee was employed in a local café where she had worked for approximately 18 months. She lived in a private rental 2 bed room flat which she maintained with financial support from her mother and her mother's partner.
Renee's mother passed away 10 months ago from a particularly aggressive form of cancer after which the financial assistance ceased. Around the same time the owner of the café advised all 3 of his employees that due to the economic downturn and the resulting lack of patrons to the café that staff would have to be laid of and as Renee was last in she would be first to go.
Renee's 16 year old car broke down with a resultant $680 repair bill she fell behind with her rent and several other bills and was subsequently served with an eviction notice. Renee and her daughter packed what clothes they could and moved into the car. Each night they parked in a different public car park as Renee felt safer with the car park lighting and the Soup Patrol operating out of these locations.
Renee was afraid to involve the 'Department' as she was scared that her daughter would be taken into care and she would 'lose her' so for several weeks she tried to go it alone. Her daughter attended school less and less, her social skills, health and hygiene deteriorated and eventually the child was hospitalised due to severe bronchitis thus bringing the family under the scrutiny of the Department for Child Protection (DCP).
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2.2.4 Ann and Her Children Fleeing Domestic Violence
Ann is a 26 year old woman with 7 and 8 year old daughters and a son who is 18 months old. She and her children are currently living together in one room in a local woman's refuge after spending 4 days in hospital recovering from a severe beating from her husband. Ann's husband who has a long standing alcohol and gambling addiction has also financially abused her since they married, refusing to provide the necessary money to buy groceries and pay bills. As a result the family has substantial debts and been blacklisted for rental properties following a recent eviction from their privately rented flat.
Ann has decided that in the interest of her own safety and the safety of her children she would not return to her husband. She approached the Department of Housing and Works (DHW) for assistance and was told that the wait list for a 'wait turn house' is five to six years. She decided to apply for priority housing with the Department only to find out that if her application is successful the wait list is still 12-18 months.
Ann and her children can only stay in the refuge for a limited time thereafter if she cannot find transitional housing her options will be very limited. Unfortunately faced with the prospect of herself and her children becoming homeless many women feel that their only solution is to return to an unsafe abusive relationship an option that Ann is reluctantly considering.
2.2.5 Mrs Smith - 79 Year Old Widow
Mrs Smith is a 79 year old widow who for the past 33 years had lived with her only son after the sudden death of her husband. Approximately 2 years ago her son went for a 6 week holiday to Queensland to meet his 'girlfriend' and her two teenage children whom he had met on line. The holiday went very well culminating in the couple becoming engaged and returning to WA to live as a family.
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From the beginning, the relationship between the girlfriend and her children and Mrs Smith was difficult particularly when Mrs Smith's son was not present. In his absence Mrs Smith was subjected to emotional abuse, told she was a 'useless old fossil' and became the brunt of bullying and derision by the children. When she tried to speak to her son about the situation he stated that she just didn't want him to have a normal happy family life and she should be grateful that he had found his 'soul mate' and stop being so selfish.
After one particularly distressing confrontation Mrs Smith walked 2 miles to her friend's home, a younger woman who owns a small 3 bed 1 bathroom house which she shares with her 3 children. The home was too small to accommodate Mrs Smith as well however together they cleared out the garage, moved the car and this has became her new home.
While her name is on the public housing priority wait list and several private seniors housing facilities it is unlikely that she will reach the top of the list any time soon. Meantime she continues to reside in an unlined garage with no heating or cooling, a concrete floor and very limited security.
The vignettes outlined in this paper have been included as representative of homelessness situations in Rockingham, Kwinana and Cockburn. They have been chosen as examples of the less sensational forms of homelessness that never make the front page of the paper, do not prompt political action, nor enable the people involved to jump the priority wait list, never the less they exemplify the significant challenges faced by a wide cross section of local people just to have a roof over their heads and a measure of safety and security.
The complexity of homelessness is even more intensified for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) as their cultural diversity may make it difficult for them to understand the appropriate housing application procedures, private rental contracts, leasing and tenancy rights.
Similarly many people from indigenous backgrounds live within a cultural expectation that they will share their accommodation with other transient indigenous families. Kinship issues, family feuding, multi generational issues, and inappropriate housing options make it difficult for some of these families to maintain their tenancy. As a result they develop housing records and personal/family reputations that are severely detrimental to positive housing applications.
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2.3 Existing services
All of the individuals/families discussed have presented at one of more of the local government authorities, government organisations, non-government organisations or charitable bodies for assistance to resolve their issues. While initially requests for assistance are usually for crisis accommodation individuals and families usually need intensive education, training, advocacy and support to assist them to find and retain long term stable accommodation or to prevent eviction if their present housing is at threat.
For every one good news homelessness story there are many others that continue on the not so merry go round of multiple referrals to various agencies with little positive outcome. Homelessness never presents alone-consequently there are always additional issues regarding interpersonal conflicts, lack of employment opportunities, lack of education, poor health and low personal expectation.
Some long term homeless people have developed a 'homelessness career' and homeless identity having given up on the expectation of having a permanent roof over their heads. Many of these people follow the sun, moving up and down the West coast of Australia according to the season sleeping rough as they go.
2.3.1 Accommodation services
For those who present to an agency for assistance there are severe limitations as to what can be done. Currently there is no crisis, short term or externally supported accommodation services in Kwinana for families, young people and women and children escaping domestic violence situations. The very few services available are located in Rockingham, Cockburn (Youth services only) and Fremantle.
Within the City of Rockingham Town of Kwinana and City of Cockburn services include:
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Lucy Saw (Female accommodation/resource centre for domestic violence located in Rockingham):
- 3 month short term crisis accommodation for women who are victims of domestic violence
- Primarily crisis accommodation with the aim of 3 month stay but extensions are often given depending on clients case management and availability of other accommodation
- Children will be accommodated with mother (boys only up to 14y/o)
- 6 families can be accommodated (with a total of 19 children)
- 18 year old female clients preferably, but service will assess younger females in situations where DCP case management is involved
Chesterfield House (Youth crisis accommodation located in Baldivis):
- 3 month supported crisis accommodation for young people (with possible stay extension in certain circumstances)
- 15-19y/o homeless young people accepted
- Supports up to 3 females and 3 males
- DCP case management required for clients under 16y/o without parental consent
- Transition into medium term independent accommodation program if appropriate/available
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Breathing Space (residential accommodation and counselling for perpetrators of domestic violence located in Kwinana):
- Men are self referred or court ordered
- 1 month residential with support on site 24 hours
- Supports 12 residents at a time
- Counselling and referral (alcohol and drugs)
Anglicare Rockingham Youth External Accommodation Project (RYEAP)
4 separate 2 bed room units available to 16-20y/o young people accepted through assessment or transition from crisis accommodation (clients must have steady income)
- 12 month medium term transitional accommodation
- Units can support either singles, couples, young parents with children or 2 individual young people willing to share a unit
Within the City of Cockburn services include:
Spearwood Youth Crisis Accommodation- Anglicare
- 3 months supported crisis accommodation for young people
- Supports up to 6 young people
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2.3.2 Housing information, assistance and support services:
- STAR program- (Supported Tenancy Advice and Referral)
- Roofs For Youths- (Education for young people to maintain a tenancy)
- Rockingham Youth Services - ( General and specific information and referral)
- Kwinana Youth Services- ( General and specific information and referral)
- Library- (General Information available)
- SCALES - (Community legal centre)
- Cockburn Financial Counselling Services- ( General and specific information and advocacy regarding financial and housing issues)
- Cockburn Youth Services ( General and specific information, counselling, case management and referral)
- Cockburn Family Support Services( General and specific information, advocacy, counselling, and referral )
- Southlake Ottey Family and Neighbourhood Centre (General and specific information, counselling, and referral )
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2.3.3 Church Groups and Charitable Organisations
- Salvation Army-(Material and limited financial aid)
- Low Cost Food Centre-(Assistance with reduced cost food)
- St Vincent De Paul- (Material Aid)
- Red Cross Financial Counselling
- Emergency Relief Agencies Rockingham, Kwinana, Cockburn
With a combined population of 211,054 residents in three of the fastest growing local government authorities in WA accommodation and support services available locally are woefully inadequate.
With many of the major homelessness services based in and focusing on the Perth CBD and Fremantle areas and the majority of the new funding submissions targeting the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness funding also being largely Perth and Fremantle based, Rockingham, Kwinana and Cockburn are considered in real danger of being overlooked in terms of attracting the required additional resources to address homelessness.
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3 GOVERNMENT POLICY AND PROGRAM DIRECTION
3.1 Policies to Address Homelessness and Risk of Homelessness
This paper acknowledges the recent State Government and Commonwealth Government initiatives to address homelessness under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. The Department for Child Protection at the State level in particular is acknowledged for leading the implementation of key strategies in Western Australia.
Homelessness has become one of the most pressing social issues to be addressed by any government. Politically the rising numbers of visibly homeless people is a subject which needs to be addressed no matter which party is in power. The present government recognised the need to reduce the empty rhetoric which abounds around homelessness and in its place establish a program of cross sectorial strategies and services backed up with adequate recurrent funding.
Action taken to date includes:
In December 2008 the Commonwealth Government released a White Paper: The Road Home which adopted 2 headline goals:
- Halve homelessness by 2020
- Offer supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020
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Council of Australian Governments (COAG) established the National Partnerships Agreement on homelessness with $800 million funding nationally.
On 1 January 2009 a new Commonwealth/State National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) was launched.
Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) services now funded under NAHA.
Funding of $40 million per annum was released to fund 137 homelessness accommodation and support services.
In July 2009 Australian and Western Australian governments contributed $135.1 million over 4 years to reduce homelessness under a National Partnership Agreement (NPA) This Plan links directly to the National Building Economic Stimulus Plan and the Social Housing National Partnership agreements working together to achieve the 2013 interim targets to reduce homelessness.
Of the total $135.1 Million;
- $53.8 funds new support initiatives
- $30.7 funds capital and land for new properties
- $16.4 recognises current state commitment in financial counselling and support to people at risk of becoming homeless
- $31.7 has been allocated for capital and $2.5 million for support
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A unique aspect of these homelessness initiatives is their strong linkage to the mainstream services of child protection, housing, mental health, drug and alcohol, corrective services, Centrelink, education and employment services.
In The Road Home the Australian Government committed to boost its efforts to important areas such as social housing, employment, income support and aged care.
Specific Australian Government initiatives include:
- $590.22 million allocated to Western Australia to construct new dwellings and refurbish existing social housing dwellings as part of the $5.6 billion Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan (NBESP). 1,990 new dwellings have already been approved.
- $40 million funding to Western Australia under the National Partnership Agreement on Social Housing to increase the supply of social housing;
- $1.18 billion over 10 years for Western Australia to provide new houses and upgrades to existing houses in remote indigenous communities under the National Partnership Agreement on remote indigenous housing;
- $1 billion nationally over the next four years to build 50,000 affordable rental properties under the National Rental Affordability Scheme; (NRAS)
- Improvements to Centrelink's capacity to respond to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and
- Additional emergency relief funding, more personal helpers and mentors for people living with severe mental illness, innovative employment services and increased capital and recurrent funding for elderly people who are homeless
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3.2 National Partnership Agreement (NPA) - Programs To Address Homelessness and Risk of Homelessness
The National Partnership Agreement initiatives and strategies are framed around early intervention and prevention, breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty and improving and expanding the existing service system. To this end the following programs and services have been developed:
- Under A Place To Call Home 33 social housing properties will be developed in the metropolitan area to house people on the Department of Housing Priority Wait List. These people will be provided with targeted support for the first 12 months of their tenure and will maintain their housing after support is no longer provided.
- A Foyer development will be constructed in the metropolitan area to house around 100 young people including 35 young people who are at risk or currently homeless. Support services will be provided on site.
- Long term, stable accommodation for rough sleepers will be provided in inner City Perth and Fremantle
- Case management, financial counselling and referral support for private and public rental tenants will be provided state wide to assist these people to maintain their tenancy.
- 10 new housing Support workers will be provided across the metropolitan, rural and remote areas for people with alcohol and drug issues to assist them to access and maintain stable housing.
- State wide assistance will be allocated to support children who are homeless including assisting them to maintain contact with the education system
- Three Assertive Outreach Teams supported by specialist mobile clinical teams for mental health, drug and alcohol assessment, treatment and referral will provide support to rough sleepers in inner City Perth and Fremantle.
- Seventeen state wide homelessness accommodation workers will liaise with private and community housing providers to assist people to secure and maintain stable accommodation
- Eight specialist workers will assist people leaving mental health services to re integrate into the community and find stable accommodation and five specialist housing workers will assist those leaving correctional facilities in the metropolitan and rural areas. In addition workers will assist people leaving child protection services to find stable accommodation.
- Several new initiatives will be piloted to address support for people with exceptionally complex needs.
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4. HOMELESSNESS IN THE SOUTH METRO CORRIDOR WORKSHOP
A joined up approach between homelessness services and mainstream services including the Department for Child Protection, Western Australian Department of Health; Mental Health Division and Drug and Alcohol Office; Corrective Services and Department of Housing are integral to the implementation of the strategies outlined in 3.2.
Recognising the importance of a joined up approach and in response to the National Partnership Agreement and the growing incidences of homelessness in the area a Homelessness In the South Metropolitan Corridor workshop was developed and presented on 5 November 2009 in partnership with the City of Rockingham, Town of Kwinana, City of Cockburn, and Rockingham/Kwinana Development Office. One of the main aims of the workshop was to determine the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) relevance and impact on Rockingham, Kwinana and Cockburn to determine a range of strategies to address homelessness at the local level
Twenty service providers from a wide cross section of services discussed issues contributing to homelessness in the area and determined strategies to address these issues. The emerging issues were then categorised as follows:
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4.1 Community, Social, Demographic
Key issued identified include:
- Relatively high levels of unemployment
- Employment expectations - transient population, economic migration
- Economic downturn
- Family relocation from country to the city for medical/study reasons
Unemployment in the City of Rockingham has risen by 3.8% in the past 4 years with the Town of Kwinana's unemployment rising by 5.2%, and the City of Cockburn rising by 2.9% over the same period. This is in part due to the economic downturn with some small businesses having to reduce staffing hours and in some cases increasing staff redundancy. Similarly in the present climate of economic uncertainty fewer employers are taking on apprentices and trainees. High population growth in the Southwest region combined with low levels of job creation has also increased unemployment levels.
Rockingham and Kwinana have also a lower than average number of young people graduating from high school and less people undertaking higher education. Consequently their work choices may be reduced contributing to a reduction in their earning potential.
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- 74% of males did not finish Year 12.
- 68.5% of females did not finish Year 12.
- 98.5% of indigenous males did not finish Year 12.
- 97.5% of indigenous females did not finish Year 12.
Key issued identified include:
- Lack of affordable housing
- Availability of private, public and community housing affordability
- Reduction in rental properties
- Impact of boom - high housing prices and high rental costs
- Relocation - housing availability
- Blacklisting by real estate agents
- Availability of intermediate accommodation
- Lack of living skills and education
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For many the great Australian dream of home ownership is just that, a dream and indeed for some a nightmare. While the government announced an increase to the first home buyers subsidy as part of the economic stimulus package this encouraged some people to buy into the housing market with little or no deposit. Unfortunately having borrowed to the maximum of their capability some found themselves facing unemployment or reduction in earnings resulting in a significant number of first home buyers defaulting on their mortgages with the resultant bank foreclosures.7
Finding and retaining private rentals has also proven difficult for some individuals and families. Challenges include exorbitant rental costs, lack of references, black listing and accumulated debt and instability of the rental due to sale of property. For families this can result in children having to move from school to school affecting their education and social skills development lack of stability and sense of home community.
The mining boom in the North West of Western Australia has also resulted in an increased fly in/fly out workforce with the associated stressors that this lifestyle sometimes places on families. Within Rockingham, Kwinana and Cockburn this transient workforce has impacted on the rental housing market with some landlords inflating rents to this salary level, a level that cannot be met by those on pensions/benefits or those holding lower/middle class nine to five jobs.
In terms of availability of accommodation for those in crisis homeless families are often accommodated in hotels/motels for a few days but this is only a stop gap usually paid for by DCP or other welfare agencies. The lack of transitional housing is critical often forcing families to spend the night in places that are neither safe nor stable.
Within the City of Rockingham and Town of Kwinana there are only 3 male and 3 female crisis accommodation beds for young people aged 16-19 years. Crisis accommodation beds are available for 6 families with up to 19 children for women fleeing domestic violence situations. There are no crisis accommodation beds in Cockburn or Kwinana for families; as a result many of these clients are forced to relocate out of their district with resulting stress and upheaval for themselves and their children.
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4.3 Personal/Family issues
Key issues identified include:
- Relationship breakdown and family breakdown with young people
- Mental health
- Sexual abuse
- Substance and alcohol abuse
- Increasing domestic violence
- Unsustainable income
Homelessness does not come about as one single event but rather as an amalgamation of life situations and stressors that simply become overwhelming. Relationship and family breakdown however is one of the main precursors to homelessness particularly for women and children in domestic violence situations.
The Lucy Saw women's refuge provided crisis accommodation for 155 women and 272 children fleeing domestic violence between 1 January 2009 and 1 January 2010. In addition the Centre assisted a further 422 women and 682 children with domestic violence issues living in the community. While these numbers are really concerning it should be noted that this is only the tip of the ice berg as this data was collected from women agreeing to be contacted by support services and does not reflect the women and children who for a variety or reasons do not seek formal assistance or agree to be recorded.8
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Substance and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse and mental health issues can also result in homelessness as the individual struggles to deal with these challenges on their own or with limited assistance.
It needs also to be recognised that some individuals simply cannot meet the financial responsibility of maintaining a home and family with limited life skills training, lack of education and little if any training in money management.
Key issued identified include:
- Increasing number of culturally and linguistically diverse people (CALD) being relocated to this region with lack of support (eg interpretive services) and family isolation
- Access to / lack of appropriate support services (eg transport)
- Sustainability of tenancy due to accessibility and knowledge of support services
- Flexibility and availability of support services in emergency situations
The City of Rockingham and the City of Cockburn has a growing number of migrants many of whom speak little if any English. The City of Cockburn has a higher than state average of residents who speak English as a second language and the greatest population increase over the next five years is projected to be overseas migrants. These residents often relocate to Australia with young children from war ravaged countries. It is not unusual for two or three families to live together in one house pooling their resources. Unfortunately if the relationships break down often due to over crowding and new culture stressors one or more families find themselves homeless in a foreign land.
The lack of services to support the CALD community in this region is well recognised with most of these services based in Fremantle and Perth CBD. Consequently people from these backgrounds experiencing housing issues often have to negotiate a limited public transport system to access assistance outside of the district.
The Town of Kwinana has a significant indigenous population with homelessness emerging as a critical social issue for this population group.
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4.5 Information and Knowledge Assistance
Key issued identified include:
- Lack of knowledge of legal rights for marginalised people
- Awareness of services
- Lack of education - budgeting, planning
While it is recognised that there is a need for flexible support services to assist CALD families there is also a need to establish new and strengthen existing education and support services for migrant groups. This type of early intervention and education can strengthen individual resilience and self reliance.
A recent forum presented by the African and Sudanese community with assistance from the City of Rockingham raised several issues relating to the lack of understanding of legal rights and responsibilities of recent migrants. Several examples were given of people signing leases they could not afford and taking out loans from high interest finance companies resulting in threat of legal action, and eviction.
Other groups such as young people, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities and the elderly can also find themselves with limited information regarding their rights and responsibilities regarding getting and maintaining long term accommodation.
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Key issues identified include:
- Discrimination - housing rights
- Attitude towards young people, single women and indigenous people by landlords
Discrimination relating to certain groups such as young people, single parents and indigenous people is not uncommon throughout Australia. While this type of discrimination is not usually overt for legal reasons, covert discrimination is active with these individuals and families often not getting past the initial contact with a real estate agent.
Those who do get to view a property are often actively discouraged through very high rents, unreal expectations and in some cases their applications are not forwarded to the next level or presented to the home owner.
Unfortunately many of the people experiencing this type of discrimination do not know what their rights are, where they can go to gain this kind of information and indeed many do not have the self esteem to be assertive in their own defence.
While the community legal service does much to assist these people to have their rights upheld increased education for programs such as Roofs for Youths and Life Skills Training will do much to educate these individuals and make these marginalised groups more attractive as potential tenants.
It would be naïve to suggest that this type of education and support will make much of a difference in the current rental market however given that there is such a dearth of affordable rental housing resulting in property managers being able to pick and choose the type of tenant they desire for each property.
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5 WORKSHOP IDENTIFICATION OF STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL
The following social supports were identified and strategies suggested at the workshop for future consideration and focus:
- Increase Roofs for Youths programs
- Address the lack of general crisis accommodation - families
- Develop better liaison with real estate agents to educate and link in with support workers
- Attract additional funding for affordable housing for seniors
- Increase diverse housing stock
- Work with appropriate housing services to gain funding to develop a Foyer Model Facility in the Rockingham/ Kwinana area.
- Extend the Lucy Saw Women's Refuge
5.2 Personal/Family Supports Identified
- Increase MEM (Making Ends Meet) training
- Increase Food Sense training
5.3 Service/Supports Identified
- STAR program (Supported Tenancy Advice and Referral)
- Sudanese and African support group
- Community Law Centres
- Bridging the Gap
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5.4 Recommendations to improve Services/Supports
- Expand domestic violence services and increase exit points accommodation for domestic violence
- Attract homeless advocates to the area
- Increase Department of Housing Case Worker availability
- Increase access to Centrelink Social Workers
- Develop a register of NGO community resources
- Support homeless person - not limited to district / LGA boundaries / graphical boundaries
- Introduce the FRESH Scheme Model to Rockingham/Kwinana
- Increase support services including life skills
- Increase Mental Health Outreach services
- Develop and implement more preventative and early intervention programs
- Develop a common assessment model with more effective coordination
- Expand the Strong Family Model with Multi-agency Case Management
- Expand the Safe At Home Model
5.5 Supports regarding Information, knowledge and problem solving assistance identified:
- STAR program (Supported Tenancy Advice and Referral)
- Tenancy training eg Roofs For Youths
- Rockingham Youth Services - information and referral
- Kwinana Youth Services-information and referral
- Education and information availability
- Library Information available
- Bridging the Gap
- Cockburn Financial Counselling Services
- Cockburn Youth Services
- Cockburn Family Support Services
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5.6 Recommendations to improve information, knowledge and problem solving assistance
- Attract more early intervention and prevention models
- Provide additional education for community on legal rights and obligations
- Upgrade information and referrals to streamline the process to minimise multiple assessment and agency use
- Develop and implement a one stop shop information source re bed and housing availability
5.7 Recommendations to address Discrimination/attitudes
- Engage the local media to reduce sensationalization of homelessness and work with agencies to get information out to residents.
- Address housing and homelessness issues at high school
5.8 Recommendations to improve Planning, Mapping, Strategies identified
- Develop a central register for homeless people in Rockingham or Kwinana
- Make meeting room available for NGOs to build links and share information/resources
- Develop a Rockingham/Kwinana/ Cockburn Homelessness Plan
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6 STRATEGIES AND INITIATIVES TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS
6.1 National Initiatives
As shown in Section 2 of this paper many initiatives are already underway to address homelessness and the threat of homelessness throughout Australia. All of these initiatives are welcomed as a significant step forward in addressing this most pressing social issue however it is concerning that so many of the programs and services are based in and focused on inner City Perth and Fremantle.
Similarly many of the new infrastructure developments are located in Perth and Fremantle consequently even if a person or family is offered accommodation in one of these new developments they will have to leave their local community to start again a process which can cause enormous stress to families who have lived in a local area for a long time.
While some of the new services are based on a mobile outreach model and consequently expected to cover the wider metropolitan and rural areas it is felt that the distances involved and the associated travelling time to access clients may place these services at a significant disadvantage to those who are centrally office based.
6.2 International Initiatives
Homelessness is a world wide problem requiring a range of social, environmental and culturally appropriate solutions. It is largely recognised that no one tier of government, organisation, or group, has the capacity to address this problem rather a coordinated partnership approach is vital if real change and progress is to be achieved.
A brief scan of international strategies already underway has provided some exciting examples of homelessness innovations that are proving successful.
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6.2.1 Foyer Model
The Foyer Model originated in France where the government invested in 'Foyers' to promote social inclusion and induction into the labour market. With the bleak economic climate of the early nineties, the UK Foyer Movement came into being in 1992 with the establishment of The Foyer Federation, and five pilot schemes based in existing YMCAs. There are now over 120 Foyers operating in the UK and over 500 in France
Foyers help young people who are homeless or in housing need to stabilise their lives and achieve the transition to independence. The approach is holistic offering integrated access to affordable housing, support and security, and education, training and job opportunities thus breaking the 'no home - no job - no home' cycle.
Foyers can be small and intimate facilities but tend to be larger to achieve economies of scale with independent living units in the same facility as a wide range of counselling, community service and support organisations.
A Foyer is being developed in Perth under the National Partnership Agreement and when opened will house approximately 100 young people with all of the necessary supports on site.9
6.2.2 City of Vancouver Homelessness Action Plan (2010-2015)
While the City of Vancouver recognises that housing and social services are the role of the provincial and federal governments it sees local government as having an important role to play in addressing homelessness. To this end the City has contributed land, building and capital funds, waived property tax and regulated initiatives that protect affordable housing.
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The City is determined to end homelessness in Vancouver by 2015 and since the adoption of the first Homelessness Action Plan in 2005 has supported the development of 900 affordable units, and signed an MOU with the provincial government committing more land for affordable supportive accommodation.
One of the main successes of the City of Vancouver's response to homelessness is that it has not been developed from a 'one size fits all' ethos, rather their focus is to increase the supply of affordable housing with a broad range of dwelling types to meet the needs of a diverse population.
In 2008 the Mayor launched a Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT) initiative and 5 temporary shelters accommodating 450 people each night were opened. This along with a winter response strategy, single rooming houses, interim accommodation, long term affordable rentals and supportive accommodation for specific needs groups such as older people, people with mental illness and people with disabilities provides a really holistic approach to a multi complex issue.10
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6.2.3 A Public Health Approach to Homelessness- Lower Hutt, New Zealand
The Council to Homeless Persons in New Zealand has developed a public health approach to homelessness where a homelessness strategy addresses three levels of prevention - primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary prevention aims to stop people becoming homeless. It involves two complementary strategies, targeting both the whole population and individuals at high risk.
Integrated efforts across many sectors including housing, employment, income support, justice, health and education ensures that people are assisted to gain or maintain housing through expanding their abilities and resilience.
High-risk individual strategies target those groups and individuals who are known to be most at risk of homelessness namely young people, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities, women and children fleeing domestic violence and indigenous people.
Early intervention which is secondary intervention aims to have people accommodated in permanent supported housing as quickly as possible and where appropriate skipping the crisis accommodation options. Support is provided through counselling, education, training, employment, health care and economic support to ensure housing is maintained and individual capacity enhanced.
Tertiary prevention is aimed at maximising the quality of life and minimising suffering to people experiencing homelessness. This level while recognising that at times people need crisis support, such as temporary accommodation, material and financial aid operates from its main focus which is to get homeless people into permanent accommodation as soon as possible.
This framework of understanding and dealing with homelessness maximises cooperation across all levels of government and service providers and works to end homelessness through a raft of early education, support and community partnership initiatives11.
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7 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Homelessness and the threat of homelessness is every ones issue and as such we need to give content to the rhetoric of a whole of government approach to address this social concern As with all of the issues contributing to homelessness the key to addressing them is the availability of timely, appropriate and flexible local services which can respond empathically to assist individuals.
Due to the geographical distance from Perth, Rockingham, Kwinana and Cockburn are often disadvantaged in the area of infrastructure development to prevent homelessness and funding to support additional service delivery. To address this deficiency increased funding needs to be made available to relevant organisations to provide infrastructure and services at the local level. The City of Rockingham, Town of Kwinana and City of Cockburn together with the Rockingham-Kwinana Development Office are well placed to seek support for additional federal and state funding to address this issue.
With the significant population growth of the City of Rockingham, Town of Kwinana and City of Cockburn not expected to slow in the next 5 - 10 years the number of people experiencing homelessness will grow exponentially unless a coordinated approach is taken to address the underlying socio-economic issues.
While there is no argument that crisis accommodation and support is an integral and necessary community service, this in its self serves mainly to address the tertiary level of homelessness. Consequently it is felt that a strategic approach to primary and secondary prevention would do much to address the risk of homelessness before people reach the tertiary level.
It is recommended that a Rockingham, Kwinana Cockburn Homelessness Reduction Strategy be based on a prevention and reduction approach which will involve all levels of federal, state, local government, non government and charitable organisations working within a coordinated partnership framework.
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8 SOUTHWEST METROPOLITAN REGIONAL WORKING GROUP ON HOMELESSNESS - HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION STRATEGY
Strategy 1 Attract additional housing services/facilities to the district
Identify a lead agency to work with Federal, State, and Local Governments and funding bodies to seek increased funding, garner support and develop incentives to attract more social and community housing providers and facilities to the City of Rockingham, Town of Kwinana and City of Cockburn.
Strategy 2 Increase the diversity and number of low rental accommodation
Support agencies such as the Department of Housing and the Lucy Saw Women's Centre, and other supported housing providers to source and purchase additional low cost housing.
Strategy 3 Provide accommodation for housing service providers willing to locate to the Cities of Rockingham, and Cockburn and Town of Kwinana.
Identify existing accommodation within the City of Rockingham, Town of Kwinana and City of Cockburn and if necessary seek funding to construct a Lotteries House facility for homelessness service providers.
Strategy 4 Construct a Foyer Facility for young people within the district
Seek capital funding to construct a Foyer facility to accommodate young people within the region.
Strategy 5 Increase and improve local crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Attract funding to design and construct an additional women's refuge within the region to provide specialist services for families from CALD backgrounds.
Strategy 6 Increase homelessness prevention and tenancy maintenance support
Increase the range and frequency of training to assist people to gain and maintain permanent accommodation and provide assistance and advice to landlords willing to house low income tenants.
Strategy 7 Improve the availability, accuracy and accessibility of local housing information and advice
Develop and maintain a virtual or physical housing information and advice hub.
Strategy 8 Develop Standardised Housing Assistance Referrals
Provide skilled individual needs based assessments from an agreed common assessment tool to be used by all housing support service providers.
Strategy 9 Compile detailed local homelessness statistics
Identify and resource a lead agency to be the central repository and analyst for homelessness statistics within the City of Rockingham, Town of Kwinana and City of Cockburn.
Strategy 10 Establish a Funding Working Party within the SWMRWG
Invite interested members of the Southwest Metropolitan Regional Working Group to establish a working party to identify capital and operational funding options to assist appropriate organisations to expand their services and facilities.
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INPUT TO THE NATIONAL QUALITY FRAMEWORK FOR HOMELESSNESS SERVICES
In 2009/10 the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) developed and implemented a consultation process across Australia to develop a National Quality Framework (NQF) that over time will ensure a consistently high level of service quality for people experiencing homelessness.
This will be a two stage process initially to obtain feedback on what quality service delivery is what works well at the moment and determine what quality components could make up a National Quality Framework.
The second stage will occur later in 2010 after the Housing Ministers have considered the input where several options for a NQF will be documented and disseminated in the form of an additional discussion paper.
In response to stage 1 of the NQF process the Kwinana-Rockingham Regional Homelessness Working Group provides the following input to these consultations:
5.1 What is quality?
5.1.1 What aspects matter most for achieving positive client outcomes?
- Local service options, advice and support available in Rockingham/Kwinana
- Multiple assessments and form filling minimised
- Delivery of early intervention and prevention services is of equal importance as crisis management
- Services are culturally appropriate
- Each individual clients case is addressed in its entirety not as a youth, domestic violence, elder abuse issue
- Education of clients re the 'homeless career' and how this can be thwarted
- Early intervention strategies to assist young people who are at the early stages of homelessness to recognise and instigate options such as family reconciliation, the need to remain at school and steps to successfully negotiate the transition to independent living.
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5.1.2 What are the characteristics of quality service provision?
- Clients feel valued and worthwhile individuals
- Red tape is minimised
- Duplication is reduced
- Funding is targeted to the most pressing needs
- Advice and support is readily available without long wait lists
5.1.3 What key characteristics or elements of quality service provision support stronger cross sector service collaboration?
- A centralised coordinating body ensures all services are actively engaged and information readily accessible
- Community network meetings to exchange information, identify gaps in service and discuss ways to fill these gaps
- Boundaries are permeable and flexible to meet presenting needs
- All agencies/service providers are aware of their roles and the roles of each other
- Information and resources are readily accessible within the bounds of confidentiality
- Emphasis is on maximising the capacity, resources and resilience of individuals rather than 'quick fix', ' band aiding' or creating dependency
- Preventative strategies should start in schools and youth services to build protection against homelessness
- A national review of student welfare across all WA schools
- Development of a national bench of student health and wellbeing across biological, psychological and sociological indices.
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5.2 What mechanisms support quality?
- Sound governance practices
- Clearly articulated policies, practices and procedures
- Adequately resourced training and professional development
- Recruitment of professional, well trained officers
- Sound understanding of key response areas
5.2.1 Which of the components listed in the Discussion Paper could be considered in a national framework?
- Alliance models and strategic partnerships
- Continuous quality improvement strategies
- Agreed and maintained service standards
- Complaints Management System
5.2.2 Are there other key components that should be included in a NQF?
- Development of Key Response Areas
- Regular service evaluation and development of improvement strategies
- Results monitoring
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5.2.3 What components can support stronger cross sector service collaboration?
- On going education of the sector regarding homelessness issues, causes and careers.
- Partnerships and strategic alliances
- Identification of lead agencies
5.2.4 What components work well in ensuring service quality in your sector?
- Agreed commitment to quality by all agencies
- Review and improvement approach
- Coordinated approach with time lined actions
5.2.5 What components do not work well and how would you change them to make them more effective?
- Boundary and jurisdictional service delivery
- Multiple referrals-develop a standardised model
- Red tape-review documentation requirements to determine if they can be simplified, reduced etc
- Lone wolf approach to a multi complex issue
- Service 'preciousness'-work from a teamwork model across all agencies
- Responsibility for improvement development not shared across the industry
- Australian Bureau of Stastics, (2006), www.abs.gov.au, Canberra
- Australian Government, (May 2008), White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home, A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness, www.fahcsia.gov.au, Canberra
- Australian Government, (June 2009), National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, www.fahcsia.gov.au, Canberra
- Australian Governments, (July 2009), Homelessness Implementation Plan, www.fahcsia.gov.au, Canberra
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), (2006), Population and Housing Census, also known as the Socioeconomic Index of Disadvantage, (SEIFA), www.anra.gov.au, Canberra
- Hulse, K & Kolar,V, (July 2009), The Right to Belong; Swinburne University of Technology, & Hanover Welfare Services, Melbourne.
- Ash S, WACOSS, Record Number Of Repossessions In WA, Media Release, 1 July 2009; Ash S, WACOSS WA Households Under Pressure As Bankruptcies Soar, Media Release, 3 July 2009,
- Lucy Saw Women's Centre, (2010), Client Profile & Utilisation, SAAP reporting program, Rockingham, Western, Australia.
- Malycha,W,. (2009), Foyer; You're Future Starts Now- International Learning and Relevance to Australia, St Johns Youth Services Inc, Anglicare WA.
- City of Vancouver; (2010), Strategies To Address Homelessness, www.vancouver.ca/housing
- Amore, K,& Aspinall, C, (2009), Public Health Approach to Homelessness, www.chp.org.au