ending homelessness and starting school; one client’s journey

Posted on 7th August 2020
Homelessness Health Week 2020

During Homelessness Week 2020 we shed light on the exceptional work undertaken by cohealth’s Homeless Health & Support Services team, and the strength and resilience of the clients they work with.

Every night in Victoria there are 24,000 people without a safe, secure place to call home (ABS, 2016). The vast majority of people without a home are in hidden forms of homelessness such as couchsurfing, rooming houses, caravan parks and emergency accommodation.

Elyse, 29, first came into contact with cohealth in October 2019 after periods of staying in hostels, couchsurfing and rough sleeping. The cohealth outreach team first met her while she was living at a rooming house.

While Elyse’s social worker is helping her find more secure accommodation, Elyse is also engaging regularly with psychosocial and physical health supports at cohealth’s Central City clinic.

“At Central City I’ve been getting physio treatments for my back, and the podiatrist got me special shoes that I never would have been able to afford,” said Elyse.

Elyse sees the GP at Central City to help her manage her medications, and has regular appointments with counsellors to stay on top of her mental health.

Having a range of services and programs accessible under one roof at Central City has been key to Elyse’s progress.

Elyse was initially hesitant to engage in social activities, so cohealth workers started with one-on-one activities; meeting her for coffee in places she felt comfortable, and taking walks. She then started participating in group activities with the cohealth Kangas which built her physical and social confidence.

A cohealth initiative that gives clients mobile phones, iPads and data helped spark Elyse’s interest in further education.

“I’d been thinking about going back to study, and nursing has always appealed to me. But it’s been more than 10 years since I finished school and I wasn’t sure where to start. cohealth gave me an iPad and helped me research what my options were for nursing qualifications,” Elyse said.

Having decided on a nursing diploma at Holmesglen, Elyse has been busy preparing for her entrance exams.

“I’ve been doing test exams and quizzes on the iPad with my worker to prepare for the entrance exams. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be applying to study nursing, I never would have believed you” she said.

Beau Branch, from the Central City team, says Elyse is good example of how early intervention and wraparound support can divert people who’ve become homeless from falling into a chronic cycle of disadvantage.

“Elyse is a bright and motivated, and with a little support from us, she has been able to tap into her natural strengths and interests, and get her life back on track,” said Beau.

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