Housing comes first on Buckley Street

Posted on 19th January 2024
A member of cohealth's Buckley St Supportive Accommodation service out the front of the program's building

On Buckley Street in Footscray, cohealth is championing the housing first model, by giving people who have experienced long-term homelessness the opportunity to achieve their personal goals once they have stable accommodation.

At the Buckley Street Supportive Accommodation, the team has been working to meet the health, social, and wellbeing needs of program residents, some of whom haven’t experienced the stability of housing for some time.

“Access to housing makes a huge difference,” says Andrea Calleja, who is the facilitator of cohealth’s response at Buckley Street.

“For people who have experienced long-term homelessness, often they are going from crisis accommodation to crisis accommodation. But now we can work with them as they actually learn to live in a space again.”

The program is delivered in partnership with Unison Housing, with the two organisations working side-by-side to get people into housing and support their goals.

cohealth and Unison are working collaboratively to review referrals to the accommodation and support renters to sustain their tenancy. Unison handles the referrals for new residents that come from homelessness organisations, as well as the tenancy management of the leases and the facility management of the building. At the same time, cohealth works to meet the health, social and everyday needs of residents in the supported accommodation program.

“Maintaining tenancy is a shared goal of ours,” says Andrea about the collaboration.

Stability and security for residents is at the heart of what we’re both working towards”.  

The program officially launched in October 2023, and since then there has been a focus on getting residents settled and helping them meet their basic needs. There are over 50 residents in the building being supported by the hard-working and enthusiastic team, which includes housing support workers and peer workers

“We’re supporting people who haven’t had housing in a long time, so we need to meet their basic needs first and daily living skills – things like food, personal care items, and utensils for cooking. 

Residents contribute towards their rent and utilities, so there isn’t a lot left after that. The team has been busy reaching out for food donations in the inner west that are delivered weekly.


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Another consideration for the cohealth team is that many residents need new local healthcare providers, so that they don’t have to travel far for appointments.

For example, they have been able to support residents who receive pharmacotherapy to get this from a nearby Footscray pharmacy, rather than one located in the city or elsewhere.  

Connecting clients to the community and with each other in the building is also significant in establishing tenancy – it encourages a sense of place and community. 

A big driver for the team is making sure that each resident’s goals and needs are driven by what they want, not what anyone else thinks they want or need.

“The support we give a person is determined by them. We always make sure we ask people what they want on their plan, and of course, we can help them by reminding them of goals they have mentioned in the past,” says Andrea. “But it will always be their choice. We’ll never tell people what we think they need to work on.”

Residents have been supported to connect with other services, to attend and write letters for court appointments, to liaise with child protection and work towards reuniting with their families, and to enrol in education and training.

As well as building on their daily living skills such as budgeting, meal preparation, shopping and setting up their apartment, Andrea also says that a number of residents have found paid work . 

“This is something that could really only happen with housing, because it’s so hard to apply for a job when you don’t have a fixed address”. 

The team is located on-site, which has been helpful in establishing trust and connection with residents, and for those incidental conversations that often lead to better outcomes.

“We always try to stop for a chat, and this makes it so much easier to engage,” says Andrea, who also notes that seeing cohealth staff around the building – when food gets delivered or in the waiting room or foyer – helps residents feel comfortable with them. 

two members of cohealth's Buckley St Supportive Accomodation program.                     

 The team is located on-site, helping establish trust and connection with residents.

Already 26 residents have become clients of cohealth, a number which is expected to grow.

Residents can be connected to the other health and social supports that are available at cohealth, which is a key part of community health. Place-based care is central to the supportive housing model.

“By working with clients, we work out that a lot of things they have said they want and need are things that cohealth provides. For example, if we have any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander residents, we can connect them with the Yakeen Tharn team. Or if they are refugees, we can connect them to our refugee health team.”

Within the team, there is a real understanding of the impacts of long-term homelessness on individuals and how this often leads to more trauma. The team is trauma-informed, and approaches each resident in a non-judgemental, positive, and solution-focused way. This is the best way to support them in meeting their personal needs and goals.  

“We approach this as housing-first,” says Andrea. “But then we ask, what’s next?”.

Find out more about Buckley Street Supportive Accommodation here

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