In March 2020 when the pandemic hit Melbourne’s homeless community were moved into temporary hotel and motel accommodation subsidised by the state government.
Although homelessness appeared to have been “solved” overnight the accommodation was only temporary. The sector quickly recognised that a plan was needed to ensure these people didn’t return to the streets or inappropriate housing after the pandemic was over.
The From Homelessness to a Home (H2H) initiative was subsequently launched by the Victorian Government to provide 1,845 households with access to stable medium and long term housing and support packages to people experiencing homelessness who have been staying in hotels and motels during the pandemic.
cohealth joined with partner agencies to form two separate consortia, drawing on the combined strengths and expertise across property and tenancy management, case management and social and physical health support.
In the north and west regions, cohealth has been working in partnership with Melbourne City Mission and Unison to provide housing and intensive support packages to assist 221 people to transition into affordable and sustainable housing under the H2H program.
In the North and South regions, cohealth has formed a consortium with Launch Housing, Mind Australian, Bolton Clarke – Homeless Persons Program, Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Ltd (VACSAL) and Uniting to deliver H2H packages to 420 members of the homeless community.
Together with these agencies, we are building healthy and thriving communities which benefit the people we are supporting, as well as the broader community.
“The fundamental philosophy behind H2H is a housing first model, something that has been spoken about in the sector for a long period of time as the key to solving the issue of chronic homelessness,” said cohealth homelessness manager James Duffy.
This week, we profile Emma Littlewood, Program Facilitator – H2H North and West at cohealth in the cohealth-Unison-Melbourne City Mission.
What outcome within the H2H program is your consortium most proud of enabling?
As a specialist health service within the H2H program, we feel proud to have enabled clients to access support for their mental health & AOD support needs. This has included accessing regular and appropriate medications, counselling and in-patient treatments; allowing clients to achieve their goals. Thanks to the stable, secure accommodation provided with the H2H program, we’ve had much greater success in engaging with clients on their health and social wellbeing because their primary need of housing is met. It proves yet again that the H2H model of providing housing plus support is the formula for success.
What’s the most uplifting compliment your team has received from an H2H participant?
A H2H participant thanked one of our lived experience workers for ‘saving their life’ after a traumatic family violence incident. Having peer workers involved in client’s transition to housing has been vital to the success of the program as they have the ability to develop trust and connection much faster because of their shared experience. We’ve received other expressions of gratitude after providing trauma informed emotional support when participants have been experiencing feelings of self-harm and suicidal ideation. The pandemic has been a challenging and overwhelming time for our clients and our team feel lucky to have been able to provide such invaluable support and empower clients to move forward with their self-identified goals.
What are your team’s tips for maintaining cohesion while working remotely?
Our teams were permitted to work onsite throughout the pandemic due to the essential support needs of H2H clients. As a consortium, we have been able to establish regular care team meetings and leadership meetings to maintain a positive working relationship virtually. Internally, we place a strong focus on staff wellbeing and self-care and have established some fun and positive ways to ensure staff feel supported and ready to provide excellent client care during challenging times.
What is your team looking forward to most over the next few weeks?
Lots of (COVIDsafe) end of year celebrations with our wonderful H2H partner agencies! And also seeing our H2H clients preparing to spend Christmas in a secure, stable home – possibly for the first time in years. Seeing this tangible progress is ultimately what gets us out of bed each day.