#HW2022 | Government and Sector Updates

Homelessness Week is a national week to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face, and the action needed to end homelessness not just manage it.

On Wednesday, 3 August 2022 the Minister for Housing; Homelessness; Local Government Hon. John Carey MLA presented an update on the actions being undertaken by the government to end homelessness through the Office of Homelessness and in partnership with service providers.

Proceeding the keynote presentation by the Minister a series of fast-paced presentations were made where each speaker had ten minutes to speak about their projects.

Supporting Communities Forum

Co-chair Debra Zanella presented on behalf of the Supporting Communities Forum Homelessness Strategy Implementation Group. Debra acknowledged Tina Pickett, one of the other co-chairs who was on the panel. She noted in her opening the difficulty of implementation and how hard system reform is. “Implementation is a far harder gig than the development of the strategy and that has borne out time and time again,” Debra said.

Debra outlined key achievements not just for the Supporting Communities Forum but for broader sector collaboration that has occurred:

  • The Department of Communities has done “a phenomenal job” of looking at the whole of the strategy and then doing an analysis. There are fifty-eight actions which are aligned to the strategy. “It is a good solid piece of work done on behalf of the working group to guide the implementation.”
  • A Housing First approach as a philosophy underpins the strategy as well as Aboriginal wellbeing are key drivers the Supporting Communities Forum are driving.
  • The work being done by the Zero Project to make data available and transparent to the community. It gives a key indication at points of time at where we are when it comes to homelessness and rough sleeping.

Noongar Mia Mia

Managing Director at Noongar Mia Mia Tina Pickett gave the next update.

Noongar Mia Mia is the only Aboriginal-owned and operated Community Housing Provider in the Perth metro area:

  • The Noongar Housing First Principles is a significant piece of work. It not only assists Noongar Mia Mia but other housing providers and support service providers to create culturally safe environments and housing and support services for Noongar people experiencing homelessness.
  • Moorditj Mia program with support from the state government is WA’s first Aboriginal Housing First support service (in partnership with Wungening Aboriginal Corporation). In a year, it now supports 50 people with 19 housed.
  • A rental subsidy program is in development thanks to a philanthropic donation. This will assist Aboriginal people to secure housing and bridge the gap.

Watch the event here

Western Australian Association for Mental Health

Projects Lead Colin Penter gave an update on behalf of the Western Australian Association for Mental Health, the peak body for community mental health in Western Australia.

  • Most people with a lived experience of mental health conditions rent in the private rental sector. Many of those people face an exacerbation of mental-ill health because of the insecure and unaffordable nature of private rental.
  • WA lacks any specialist private rental mental health housing recovery support programs for people with mental health conditions. Nothing is supported through the Mental Health Commission. Victoria has Doorway a high-fidelity Housing First program run by Wellways.
  • Programs and services that support people with mental health conditions to access and sustain private rental are a vital element of the suite of mental health supported accommodation programs. It is a tenure which needs greater attention.

100 Families WA

Just Homes Program Manager, Alex Hughes wore two hats during his presentation. For four years he was the Project Manager at 100 Families WA and for four weeks he’s been the Program Manager at Just Homes Inc in Margaret River.

A research project, 100 Families WA gives us a better understand the issue of entrenched disadvantage as experienced by families living in Perth.

  • 100 Families WA is winding down but there are spin-off programs. A third of the 400 families were Aboriginal, so it is important to interpret their findings through an Aboriginal lens. Glenda Kickett will lead an Aboriginal Voice Project.
  • Major 100 Families WA website update will centralise all the learnings from the 100 Families WA project. The new hub about to go live will support the sector to make the necessary changes families say they want.
  • Just Home Margaret River is aware of the housing crisis in their local area while holiday homes (27 to 30 per cent) sit idle. Just Home will push innovative solutions to explore this problem.

Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA)

Chief Executive Officer at YACWA, Sandy McKiernan gave an update on youth related homelessness and the work being done in this area.

  • For YACWA intervention early is the priority to disrupt the drivers of youth homelessness. The longer younger people experience homelessness the more likely they are to experience entrenched homelessness as an adult. They need safe housing fast and with an age-appropriate model of care.
  • Young people are facing worsening threats to their ability to remain in healthy and secure living. The global pandemic, rising inflation, declining rental affordability, climate change and stagnating wages are all fuelling an increasing sense of fear for the future.
  • YACWA is starting a Housing First Youth Research Project. They will employ a project officer to bring together young people, youth sector and other experts in the space to understand what a real housing for youth project looks like.

Living My Best Life

Living My Best Life, Project Manager David Gibson lays claim to “having the best job title”. Living My Best Life is a capacity building project to assist National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers in making a NDIS access request.

  • There are a range of barriers for people with psychosocial disabilities applying for the NDIS. There is a large intersectionality between homelessness and psychosocial disability.
  • Living My Best Life offers free training workshops are specifically designed for NDIS service providers to help increase the likelihood of success for a psychosocial disability NDIS application.
  • The NDIS does not fund anything to do with homelessness in a person’s disability package.

Hear of My Experience

The second phase of the Hear of My Experience (HOME) project is underway. Run by Shelter WA, Elise Haddleton is Manager of HOME and Trish Owen is Project Officer.

  • Phase Two thanks to three years of funding from the Sisters of St John of God.
  • Establishing a co-design team of people with lived experience of homelessness and housing insecurity to engage with government, the community sector, and the broader community, as well as inform housing and homelessness policy and advocacy.
  • There are six sub-projects: Lived Experience Peer Education Support Project, Engagement and Co-Design Toolkit, Speakers Bureau, Advisory Council, Immersive Tours, and Phase Two of the Street to Street arts project.

Accelerating Delivery

In his speech the Minister for Housing; Homelessness; Local Government Hon. John Carey MLA highlighted the issue around social housing of “getting the money out the door”.

“We made the biggest injection in social housing funding – $875 million – in September 2021,” Minister Carey said. “In addition to that we announced a new Remote Communities Fund of $350 million this year.

“The biggest challenge I have is getting that money out the door. Every day that I have been the Minister for Housing I think of how can we accelerate the delivery of social housing. We are seeing massive cost escalations. I can go out for tenders and no one responds to build or refurbish property.

“In the last financial year, we added 600 homes.”

“We are thinking outside the box. We are converting existing other government housing for regional workers surplus to needs to social housing. My agency is constantly reviewing Government Regional Officers’ Housing and where it is surplus, we convert it to social housing.”

Other work being undertaken and highlighted by the Minister include:

  • Department of Communities was selling commercial housing combined with social housing as part of a mix of development. Where they can, these are being converted to social housing.
  • Reform from double-brick homes to timber framed homes. Quicker build times.
  • Spot purchasing. Acquisition in Kununurra for Aboriginal women at risk of homelessness.

“In the last financial year, we added 600 homes,” Minister Carey said. “We have got 860 under contract or construction. We also have our direct grants which have gone out to community housing.”

Moving forward the Minister is now looking at lazy land. He has spoken with Planning Minister Rita Saffioti to create a Housing Diversity Pipeline, going to the market to see what can be done.

Commissioning Strategy

In referencing the implementation of Western Australia’s first State Commissioning Strategy for community services the Minister said he is “committed to working with the sector” and appreciates it will be both challenging and difficult.

“Committed to working with the sector.”

“I hope the sector does embrace that as a better way forward to provide more consistency and certainty over a five-year period which is the aim,” he said.

Homelessness Week 2022 would not be possible without the support of our sponsors: Lotterywest, the WA Alliance to End Homelessness, Department of Communities, Fleetwood Australia, Uniting Church in the City and Beyond Bank.

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[L-R] Kieran Wong, Chairperson – Shelter WA & Minister for Housing; Homelessness; Local Government Hon. John Carey MLA