Having a place to call home where you feel comfortable and safe is one of the most important parts of good physical and mental health. Insecure housing can cause stress and uncertainty, as well as poor health outcomes. Often, people who don’t have a secure home aren’t able to get the other health and social supports they need.
Through cohealth’s homelessness outreach program, a woman and her children, who had moved into a caravan park at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, were supported to move from their temporary accommodation to a much more stable and secure two-bedroom home.
cohealth visits this caravan park once a fortnight, where the team has existing links with many of the residents there. Some residents have been staying in the park for a short time, while others have been there on a long-term basis and are settled.
These fortnightly visits mean that the team can support residents, many who face barriers to healthcare, to access doctors and allied health services, as well as COVID-19 testing and flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. They’ve also organised a justice organisation to come and provide legal advice and information to residents, helped with housing applications, or gotten people on public housing waiting lists.
“When I first met this client and her family, she didn’t give me many details, as people at the caravan park can be a bit shy,” says Joshua Gliwa, who works in cohealth’s Homelessness Health team. “So we registered the family for the food program we do there and just established a connection.”
The children, aged between 12 and 18, were also referred to cohealth’s dentist team, and the family was able to access the vaccinations available at the park.
After spending time with the family, and talking to them and listening to what they wanted, Joshua was able to build trust with them. This trust allowed him to support the client to submit a housing application.
“She was really happy to receive the support and advocacy. So I reached out to every community housing service I could. Even though these things can take time, we wanted to get the family on a waitlist,” says Joshua. “And we finally got a two-bedroom property, which is in a convenient location for them and close to some of the kid’s friends.”
Now that the family has a more stable place to live, there is the opportunity for them to be linked into health services in their local area if they want or need them. One of the impacts of insecure housing is that it is more difficult for a person to build and maintain relationships with support services and with a local community, which has an enormous impact on their physical and mental health. Through the support of cohealth, this family now has a home where they can build a community around them.
For residents who are currently living in the caravan park, Joshua says that he and other outreach workers provide support in navigating any issues that come with renting.
“It depends on what people’s needs are. If they’re getting breaches or notices to vacate or they’re behind on their rent, we can get them advice from Tenants Victoria and link them in with any agencies where they need to get support,” says Joshua.
“We can also help if something needs fixing. When some toilets weren’t getting cleaned properly, we worked with Tenants Victoria and the owners to get this addressed. We’ll help fix amenities in people’s cabins as well, like if the oven isn’t working or something like that. We want people to be fully informed of their rights.”
Every person deserves a place to live so that they can have the best chance to live a healthy life, which is why cohealth works to support people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness with housing, health and social support.