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Sharna de Lacy

4 Simple Things You Can Do To Support People Experiencing Homelessness

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Christmas is just around the corner and for many, that will mean food and fun enjoyed in the company of friends and family.

For the estimated 116,000 people experiencing homelessness – Christmas can be a painful time. While the world around them seems to be connecting with loved ones, it can be a reminder of grief, loss, and isolation. Domestic violence rates tend to rise over Christmas, with increased alcohol abuse and financial stress leading to a spike in homelessness for women, young people and children. 

There’s lots of ways to positively contribute to those doing it tough this Christmas, and here are four things you can do to help out…

Spare a Little Change and Stop for a Chat

Daily life while sleeping rough can be unsafe, isolating and dehumanising. While many of those who end up sleeping rough have experienced complex trauma, or are escaping unsafe situations, as a society we judge, blame, or simply ignore those most in need of a little kindness.

Some loose change is helpful, but extending a little care can do a lot more.  As Ann Cooper from Cos We Care told us in a recent interview – “You never know where someone has come from, but everyone deserves care, and when you show that it changes everything.”

So next time your rushing through the CBD or walking past someone who is sleeping rough, offer some change and to stop for a chat. A simple – “mind if I stop for a chat” gives someone the freedom to decline, and opens the door to what might be the first interaction someone has experienced that day.

Donate Your Time

It’s the busiest time of year for charities that support people who are suffering extremely disadvantage and homelessness. Across most local communities in Australia neighbourhood houses, community kitchens and drop in centres will be in full swing. The majority of these small organisations depend on volunteers to keep the wheels turning. Chris Holstein at Coast Shelter says they couldn’t do what they do without a committed team of volunteers –

“Christmas is by far the time of greatest demand on our services – providing meals but especially hampers to those in financial stress. Coast Shelter is lucky to have the support of over two hundred regular volunteers who give so generously of their time, energy and skills in providing meals and support to those who come to us for assistance.”

From collecting and sorting donated goods, packing and delivering emergency relief hampers, and preparing community meals – there’s never a shortage of work that needs doing. So why not find out who is doing this work in your area, and offer to lend a hand.

Be an Advocate

Cuts to emergency aid organisation Foodbank recently caused enough of a public backlash to force the government to amend that decision. This is a rare example of an issue that specifically affects poor and marginalised people making it to the middle-class-mainstream.

Issues like the desperate need to drastically increase public and social housing, or cruel and changes to Centrelink rules don’t tend to get much traction beyond poor-bashing headline in conservative tabloids. Single parents are a regular target, as are indigenous people, anyone looking for work, or having ever needed to claim a benefit at all

These are issues that primarily affect people without a political voice. As the recent Foodbank example showed, by standing together we can protect and promote the interests of our society’s most disadvantaged.

Read about news that affects the poor, share links, talk to your networks about it and sign petitions like this one. There are a number of homeless support pages on Facebook which share national and local news, as well as the StreetSmart page.

Support One of Our Campaigns and Lend a Hand to People Doing it Tough

It would be remiss of us not to include our two major Christmas campaigns in this list.

DineSmart is in full swing, with 130 restaurants all raising funds for local homelessness services. Odds are you’ll be invited to at least one work break-up, social group outings and family dinners before Christmas arrives. Suggest a DineSmart participating venue and you’ll be helping to raise funds for homelessness organisations in the local area.

You can also chip in to our StreetFunder campaign which is funding four small projects to buy gifts, fill hampers, and hold community Christmas lunches.

 

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It’s CafeSmart Grant Giving Season – and We Just Funded 159 Projects

By | CafeSmart, StreetSmart News | No Comments

The last few weeks of the year are always a mad scramble, and here at StreetSmart, we’re no different. With DineSmart is in full swing, behind the scenes we’ve been busy wrapping up CafeSmart 2018. We recently announced our Fundraising Awards and most importantly – reviewing grants and distributing proceeds to local projects.

It’s always exciting to bring you this news, which is the culmination of a lot of work for us and over 850 small business partners across Australia. Thanks to this effort, CafeSmart Community Grants are now making their way to 159 projects.

Getting much-needed funds into local communities is what it’s all about – and we are excited to finally share the results and funded projects!

The Result

This year we had a record 815 participating cafes and 50 Roaster Partners together with generous customers we raised $205,500. With matched funding from the Besen Family Foundation and Australian Community Foundation, our final CafeSmart tally is $238,720  

Clair, Amy and Elizabeth (pictured below) at Tassie Mums in Hobart received a CafeSmart community grant thanks to local cafes in Hobart.

“Thank you! We are really very grateful to StreetSmart who have been with us from the beginning on this amazing journey to help Tasmanian families.  The funds will support three of our projects. Our undies, socks and singlets drive – these items are always needed and we often buy them new. We’ll also buy a much-needed trolley bin to help move donations and completed Bundles and finally, as we continue to grow, we need to invest in a delivery system to make sure our help can get to where it is needed.” – Clair, Tassie Mums

That is what CafeSmart is all about – local communities working together to support the most vulnerable. As a sister organisation, St Kilda Mum’s recently put it ‘it’s about “helping each other and sharing the load.”

Lead Grant Projects

With public funding uncertainty, many important organisations find it hard to test good ideas, extend proven programs, or fully fund priorities.

Through our Lead Grants, which are supported by the StreetSmart Collective philanthropic matched giving, we were able to boost funding and scale these projects to multiply their impact.

This year we provided 8 Lead Grants to support a range of important work – from advocacy to fix our housing system, to specialist services for people who have experienced chronic homelessness.

We are supporting Footscape to scale up its operations and help more people. Wounds and chronic health issues, like diabetes, are common for people sleeping rough or experiencing extreme disadvantage. Thanks to a lead grant we are helping the volunteer-led team at Footscape to scale up their work with rough sleepers – providing foot care kits, health advice, shoes and socks.  

Another Lead Grant went to the Father Bob Foundation (pictured below) to expand their education work with young people who are homeless or living in extreme disadvantage. The RoboBus is a hi-tech classroom on wheels keeping disadvantaged young people technologically literate. The bus will offer training in a range of new technologies from 3D printing to VR environment learning – with the aim of helping kids break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage and preparing them for the future of work in Australia.

You can check out this years’ lead grants, in more detail, here.

Here’s the State breakdown –   reflecting the funds raised in each State

 

State Funds Raised Projects Funded
ACT $            3,000.00 2
NSW $          66,500.00 55
NT $            1,500.00 1
QLD $          25,550.00 25
SA $            7,500.00 8
TAS $            6,250.00 4
VIC $         111,670.00 47
WA $          16,750.00 17
Totals $         238,720.00 159

 

A Small Grants Snap Shot…

ACT:  $1500 to Street Law Outreach Legal Service to create information packs for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse clients.

NSW:  $1700 to Bayside Women’s Shelter to help fit out their new women’s shelter.

NT: $1500 to Larrakia Nation to provide street based outreach services in Darwin

QLD:  $1900 to EDON Place Domestic & Family Violence Centre to provide starter packs of essential items for women accessing the refuge in Bundaberg.

SA: $1000 to Essentials for Women, to provide women’s hygiene products to women’s services across SA.

TAS: $2250 to Homeless Healthcare to provide vital medical outreach on streets of Hobart.

VIC:  $800 to Clean As Casper to provide mobile showers and care to people in the outer South East suburbs of Melbourne.

WA:  $750 to Orana House to provide a children’s holiday program in their refuge in Inglewood.

For a full listing of where the funds have gone, in each State, to support your communities, check out these detailed grant sheets:

ACT Grants

NSW Grants

NT Grants

QLD Grants

SA Grants

TAS Grants

VIC Grants

WA Grants

And a final word from a grant recipient.

Women’s Community Shelters would like to say a huge thank you to StreetSmart for the ongoing support of our shelter network. The funds provided will allow us to help even more vulnerable women and children who are escaping homelessness or domestic and family violence. Our new Bayside Shelter, which you are helping fit out, is the sixth shelter in our growing network and can assist up to 65 women and their children every year. Our aim is to expand our network to at least 10 shelters by the end of 2020 and grants such as this will help us to carry on our work.”  Nathalie Peacock

 

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This Adelaide Charity Is Quietly Transforming Lives and Attitudes about Homelessness.

By | StreetFunder, StreetSmart News | No Comments

Photo by: nowandthenphotography.com.au

Cos We Care is a small Adelaide based charity that’s transforming lives and community attitudes about homelessness.

I spoke with one of the Founders, Ann Cooper about how she came to start Cos We Care and how it’s quietly transforming people and community in Adelaide.

Cos We Care started when Ann and a friend decided they wanted to do something positive for the estimated 152 people sleeping rough in Adelaide and surrounds. They prepared some bread rolls, cookies and boiling thermos and started approaching local businesses to spare a roll of toilet paper, a beanie, or whatever they could manage.

“We didn’t have a lot back then, but we made something of what we collected and just started walking around meeting people, and offering what we had.

We felt so great about it, we just wanted to do more. We couldn’t wait till the next Sunday to come – and we just kept on doing it.”

Photo by: nowandthenphotography.com.au

Their impromptu outreach was about more than providing material aid – Ann wanted to do something about the isolation and loneliness people who are homeless experience. By asking approaching local businesses and total strangers to donate some food, a gold coin, or their time, Cos We Care is working to build a community where no one suffers the pain of isolation just because their circumstances have led them to homelessness.

“We don’t go to Foodbank, everything we get is donated from local people and businesses – it’s about getting people to be involved.

We now have about 30 volunteers – covering different things – sorting, distribution and helping out on the weekends. We have people who cook, share equipment, help set up, it’s a big community of people involved. That’s what makes it what it is.”

Now Cos We Care operates a weekly community breakfast in the local parklands and they now have about 80 regulars every Sunday. Ann is passionate about the Care in their name – and what it can do to change people’s lives.

“You never know where someone has come from, but everyone deserves care, and when you show that it changes everything.”

People sleeping rough or experiencing chronic homelessness are a small percentage of overall homelessness, but are more likely to have experienced significant abuse and trauma, and struggle with untreated physical or mental health issues. It’s easy to judge someone on the street for being ‘rough around the edges’ – but showing a little compassion to someone who may have rarely experienced it is much more helpful.

“I will never forget one fella had quite a bad attitude when he came to our first few breakfasts. But he kept coming, and we knew he’d come from a tough place – so we just kept reminding him that we are here because we care. After a few weeks, he had totally changed. He has beautiful manners, shows up early every Sunday to help out, and makes sure he thanks everyone by name. All it took was a little decency – we showed him respect and care.

It’s the little things that make a difference – care doesn’t cost you anything, but it’s so powerful and we need more of it.”

With the help of our StreetFunder community, we are supporting Cos We Care along with three other projects this month. Christmas is a busy time for the services we support and Cos We Care are no exception. They have been busy collecting food for hampers and will be holding a Christmas lunch in the park. Ann will be using the StreetFunder grant to give people something they may not have had before – a choice.

“When you’re depending on charity – so much of what you get is often the only thing on offer. The people we help are very grateful for that – but I’d love for them to buy something they really want – something they chose. That might be something they need, or a gift for a nephew, or something they just really want. I’d love for people to have that choice, that would be really wonderful.”

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They Roasted, Brewed and Donated – The CafeSmart Fundraising Awards Are In!

By | CafeSmart, News | No Comments

On the 3rd of August, 815 cafes and 50 Coffee Roasters teamed up with their customers to raise over $205,000 for local grassroots homeless projects. It was a massive community effort and by working together we are going to impact many lives.

Thank You All!

A huge thanks and a hearty slap on the back to everyone who brewed, sipped and donated to this years’ CafeSmart grants pool. $1 is a small donation, but with the collective power of over 800 cafes and thousands of coffee drinkers, it really adds up.

CafeSmart is all about bringing people together to raise awareness and funds to combat homelessness and make a difference to our local communities. We believe that by coming together at the community level, we can play a big role in ending homelessness.

We appreciate every one of our CafeSmart supporters and participants, together we make a real difference.

We are now busy working to distribute these funds to support local homeless services and will announce recipients in mid-December. But with results in – we are pleased to announce the winners of our fundraising awards.

Roaster Awards

Our Roaster Partners are the engine room of CafeSmart. They help us connect with the industry and cafes across the country, and it’s no exaggeration to say that CafeSmart wouldn’t exist without their enthusiasm and support.

This year we welcomed a number of new Roaster Partners who joined a band of great contributors. We are pleased that many new regional roasters have joined us, making an important contribution to rural and regional communities that we couldn’t reach out to without their support.

Our 2018 Roaster Champs are the crew at Single O who recruited and supported 68 of their wholesale customers. A close second and runners-up were long-time supporters Five Senses with 59 cafes. Our Top Coffee Roaster partners were…

National Roaster Champions Single O
National Roaster Champions – Runners Up Five Senses
Top 5 Roaster Partner Allpress
Top 5 Roaster Partner Campos Coffee
Top 5· Roaster Partner Axil Coffee Roasters

 

Café Fundraising Awards

This year we had a record number of 806 cafes signed up for the event. Every café who gets involved has an impact on their community, and in some cases, cafes go beyond the call of duty, so hats off to our top fundraisers.

Our National Fundraising Champions are the team at Monica’s Cafe in Maleny (QLD), raising a staggeringly $2,550. Their secret weapon was young Ava – a big-hearted 9-year-old, who baked and sold CafeSmart cupcakes raising an incredible $900 on the day!

Lisa, Ava and Geo from Monica’s Café – this year’s National Fundraising Champs

Our National Fundraising Champions Runners Up were Baked In Sorrento (VIC) raising a whopping $2,000. This was their first CafeSmart, and with such an incredible result they’ve also taken the Best New Cafe Award.

Monica’s Cafe and Baked In Sorrento also took out the Collection Box Challenge Champions Award both raising an additional $1200 each from customers.

Here’s the full list of fundraiser awards – great work and well done on and outstanding result to all!

Fundraising Awans Café Name
National Fundraising CHAMPS Monica’s Café (QLD)
National Top Fundraiser Runners Up Baked In Sorrento (VIC)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No. 3 Kwik Koffee Busselton (WA)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No. 4 Yelo Trigg (WA)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No.5 Yellow Bernard (TAS)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No.6 Single O – Surry Hills (NSW)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No. 7 The Grounds of the City (NSW)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No.8 Axil Coffee Roasters – HQ (VIC)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No.9 The Grounds of Alexandria (NSW)
Top 10 National Fundraisers – No. 10 Stand By Me (ACT)
Collection Box Challenge JOINT CHAMPS Monica’s Café (QLD)

Baked In Sorrento (VIC)

Collection Box Challenge – No.3 Chapter Three Espresso & Bar (VIC)
Collection Box Challenge – No.4 Yellow Bernard (TAS)
Collection Box Challenge – No.5 Kwik Koffee Busselton (WA)
National Best New Café Baked In Sorrento (VIC)
Best New Café runners up Brew Bros Licenced Eatery
Best New Café – No.3 Lilly’s Espresso & Cucina
Best New Café – No.4 Chapter Three Espresso & Bar
Best New Café – No.5 Pablo & Rusty’s Sydney CBD
State Champs
ACT Stand By Me
NSW Single O – Surry Hills
NT Laneway Specialty Coffee
QLD Monica’s Café
SA Taste of Yorke
TAS Yellow Bernard
VIC Baked In Sorrento
WA Kwik Koffee Busselton

Our Awesome Sponsors

We couldn’t organise CafeSmart and raise these funds without the support of our event sponsors – so a huge shout out and thanks to SKIP (our Principal Sponsors), La Marzocco and Broadsheet for their financial support and commitment to the event and cause, and for the help from friends at Cargo Crew, Joco, 360 South and Beanscene.

Photo Competition

We had over 1000+ photos posted to social media using #CafeSmart– check out the winners here and a selection from the event in our Facebook Photo Album

Finally – thanks to everyone who drank a brew or two on the day and chipped in to help us support people across our communities doing it tough. The CafeSmart Community Grants will be announced in early December.

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4 Projects Lending a Hand To Those Doing It Tough This Christmas

By | News, Projects StreetSmart, StreetFunder | No Comments

Although Christmas is a joyful time for many of us, it can be a very difficult time for many. Financial pressures, social isolation, and family separation increase dramatically over this period, making it one of the busiest times of year for the projects and services we support.

That’s why we have a number of ways to lend a hand to those who are doing it tough this holiday season – with DineSmart in full swing and StreetFunder supporting four projects to help meet the demand of Christmas – there are lots of ways to pay it forward.

Here is a little about each of the projects, who are serving up community dinners, putting together hampers and making sure their communities most vulnerable have a pressie under the tree this Christmas.

Manna Gum Community House is a  is a small not-for-profit located in Foster, South Gippsland. They provide an increasingly busy emergency relief service to people in need in the local community.

Lack of access to transport to reach the larger service towns in the district, lack of housing and rural isolation are common issues, and through their drop-in centre and community kitchen, the Manna Gum Community House is a vital service for many locals.

“There is a shortage of housing and many people that come to us are either homeless or living in transitional housing. Every year, as we approach Christmas, we experience an increase in demand for our services. This year we will distribute food hampers at a Christmas Community Lunch in December, part of a monthly pop-up cafe program that provides a hot meal and social connection for regular clients and the volunteers.” – Rebecca Matthews, Community Development Coordinator, Manna Gum Community House

Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre is based in Brisbane and provides counselling and medium term supported accommodation to young women who have survived sexual violence and those experiencing homelessness. Sadly, demand for their services increases dramatically over the holiday period and their staff are determined to make the period a safe, and joyous one.  

“The generous offer from StreetSmart of financial support over the Christmas period could not have come at a better time! Christmas is a difficult time for many of the women and children we help and we always see increased demand for our service. This extra funding will allow us to purchase essential items such as food, clothes, nappies, and children’s items, and to top up phone credit. We also host an end of year Christmas event for the young women and their children who have accessed our support programs throughout the year, and this provides an opportunity to connect, check in with them and distribute the emergency relief food vouchers and other items your funds will resource.” – Stephanie Anne, Manager, Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre Inc

Cos We Care are a small volunteer-run organisation that provide high-quality community meals and much-needed items, such as toiletries and clothing, to the homeless and vulnerable in Adelaide and Elizabeth. They support a regular community of around 200 people who attend their Sunday lunches and depend on donated goods to make it all happen. Funds raised through StreetFunder will help provide their regular Sunday community with a gift they can choose themselves.

“When you’re depending on charity – so much of what you get is often the only thing on offer. The people we help are very grateful for that – but I’d love for them to buy something they really want – something they chose. That might be something they need, or a gift for a nephew, or something they just really want. I’d love for people to have that choice, that would be really wonderful.” Ann Cooper – Cos We Care

Coast Shelter is the largest provider of meals to those in need on the NSW Central Coast, operating every day of the year. Last year over 50,000 meals were provided to those in need in addition over 1,300 hampers to struggling families at risk through their community kitchen, Laurie’s Table. They run ten refuges across the Central Coast providing over 200 beds for young people and adults, and crisis accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence.

“Christmas is by far the time of greatest demand on our services – providing meals but especially hampers to those in financial stress. StreetSmart’s assistance gives us the ability to lift the spirits of the people we help. Last Christmas we had in excess of 250 people attend our lunch and dinner sittings, which are managed by volunteers from the community.  We believe it’s vital to show the meaning of Christmas, of love and goodwill to our fellow man. This funding will make that one day just that little bit more special.” – Chris Holstein, Coast Shelter.

 

You can chip in and support these wonderful community organisations that are making Christmas a little brighter here.

 

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The Mum Powered Charity That’s Helping Local Families in Need

By | DineSmart, Projects StreetSmart, StreetSmart News | No Comments

Jessica Macpherson, founder and CEO of St Kilda Mums

St Kilda Mums connects new and pre-loved baby goods with families in need, and was founded by a group of mums with the very simple idea that local families can help each other out.

With a little helping hand from funds raised through our DineSmart campaign, this volunteer powered organisation has grown to include Eureka Mums in Ballarat and Geelong Mums. Jessica Macpherson, founder and CEO of St Kilda Mums now oversees an organisation with over 2,500 volunteers. But it started with just a handful of goods she donated to the St Kilda Maternal and Child Health Centre.

“When my son was newborn, I was visiting my maternal health centre very regularly. I started to offer some of the things my son had already outgrown. The nurse asked me to pop these things into the photocopy room, and I went in and saw that there was lots of donations like mine.

The nurses were taking these goods, and doing their best to distribute them. But they had no time to organise it all, which also meant they were struggling to find things when they needed them.

So I volunteered to organise all of the donations, to make it an easy pop in to find what was needed. I felt so good, and the nurses were so grateful, I just wanted to do more – and that was it.”

It was the beginning of a very small community project, that has now grown to service across Victoria and has been 100% lead by local mum’s. “Each of the projects has been set up by mums all working together, helping each other and sharing the load”.

While the core of their work is material aid, Jessica is quick to point out that there’s no such thing as a typical family that needs support, but there are some people that are more vulnerable than others.

“The majority of people we support are migrants and asylum seekers, women who are homeless or escaping family violence. We also help many teenage mums, indigenous families, women with poor mental health, disability or experiencing a crisis. While there’s no ‘perfect time’ to have a baby, some women will be facing this huge life-changing event under really difficult circumstances.”

St Kilda Mums Volunteer, Tammy

Homelessness comes at great cost to an individual’s health, and for a pregnant woman her own health and that of her unborn child are at risk. Untreated chronic disease, risk of infection, malnutrition and exposure to violence are just some of the risks pregnant women face while homeless, with many presenting to maternity wards with nothing but the clothing on their backs.

“Everyday, families who are presenting to the maternity ward with nothing. No accommodation, no idea where the next meal will come from. We know many of these women are in that situation because they are escaping violence, which escalates when they fall pregnant. Absolutely no one should be in that situation, let alone at such a critical time in their life. We are really glad to be able to step in and offer some immediate relief.”

Not everyone who needs help from St Kilda Mums would be immediately recognisable as vulnerable. Life can throw you a curveball at any time, and people are welcoming a child into the world every day amidst some very real, very big challenges.

“I will never forget one family we helped who had very premature twins – born three months early. As you might imagine mum and her babies needed to spend a lot of time in hospital. That was already a massive and unforeseen challenge, but over the course of the pregnancy dad’s health deteriorated and by the time of their birth, he was in palliative care. Whatever plans they had made were out the window, with dad’s illness and then such a premature birth the challenges for that family were huge.”

A new baby will often come at a time when everything seems to be in chaos, but I honestly believe it can be overcome with support, and that’s what we try to do – help in whatever way we can.”

There is an optimism and genuine care that underpins what St Kilda Mums’ does – supporting families when they need it and without judgement.

We believe that ending homelessness starts with local people creating connected communities, and that’s why we’ve been proud to support their work with almost $70k in community grants since 2012.  As Jessica explains…

“DineSmart grants have helped us launch in all three of our locations, and supported a number of our small projects and pilot projects, which have now gone on to become part of our core service. We could not have got these projects off the ground without that initial support.”

 

You can support St Kilda, Geelong and Eureka Mum’s by dining at a participating restaurant in those areas. Just check out our map to find your local.

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Shared Living – a Solution to the Housing Crisis?

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Over the last few decades, there has been an increasing trend towards living alone or with immediate family. However, the increase of the sharing economy has been changing that. The founders of Home Share Melbourne think there is much to be gained from rediscovering shared living, and that it might be a big part of the solution to the current housing affordability crisis.

Homeshare is an international concept that originated in the USA, and was designed to match an older person (or a person with a disability) with someone who can provide support, practical help and companionship. Home Share Melbourne is taking the model and expanding it to match people from all walks of life – and provide a possible solution to the current housing crisis in Melbourne. With over 1 million homes in Australia with 3 or more empty bedrooms, we think it’s an idea worth backing.

HANZA Inc (the Homeshare Australia and New Zealand Alliance) has been supporting and working with organisations across Australia and New Zealand since 2000 to set up home share programs and now it is launching its own program – Home Share Melbourne.

Carla Raynes is one of the founders of HomeShare Melbourne and has over a decades’ experience working in frontline homeless services – both here in Australia and in the UK.

“The face of homelessness has changed in Australia. It’s hitting more people – with many experiencing homelessness for the first time in their lives, especially those over the age of 50. I see people every day who just need a safe place to stay so that they can continue to be valuable members of the community. Homelessness services are overwhelmed and are putting people into completely inadequate environments such as private rooming house which is often dangerous. We need to think of an alternative way to house people.”

HomeShare Melbourne is aiming to be part of the solution by carefully matching Householders willing to open their homes to someone who’s at risk of facing housing crisis, such as asylum seekers, people over the age of 55 and young people with limited supports.

There is a trend towards single occupancy homes, and according to 2016 Census data, an estimated 24.4 % of Australians live alone, with the average lone Householder being a woman over the age of 60 years. Many lone Householders are maintaining 2-3 bedroom properties, wanting to stay in their own home and in their familiar community. Home Share Melbourne sees this as an opportunity.

As I wrote last week, the permanently inflated housing market is responsible for  the increasing number of people paying 30% or more of their income on rent. We can see this clearly in 2016 Census data, which shows a clear correlation between the cost of housing and levels of homelessness. Being employed used to provide a buffer against homelessness, but with exorbitant rents and flat wages, a shocking 30% of people experiencing homelessness are in fact employed.

These seemingly separate problems may in fact point to a solution – as Carla points out “There are many benefits in sharing for Homesharers, Householders and the wider community. Homesharing can support people to live at home for longer, can help Householders cover rent and bills and can support people to access safe and affordable housing at the same time.”

The benefits of matching people with room to spare with those in need of affordable housing are not the only social good the Home Share Melbourne team are hoping to provide. “We want to not only combat homelessness – but social isolation and an increasingly disconnected community.”

The model is simple. Home Share Melbourne carefully matches a Householder with someone looking for affordable housing (Homesharer), and they can agree to provide 0-10 hours of support to the household, and depending on that commitment they will pay some nominal level of lodging fees.

“Actually lots of people still share homes – students and young people – and it’s seen as a safe thing to do. We complete a rigorous process of police checks and reference checks to provide an increased level of security for everyone in the household. We will screen, interview and skillfully match people to create sustainable accommodation.”

The program will support the matches for at least 6 months, and their “aspiration is to create matches that are so successful they don’t need the program anymore.”

Home Share Melbourne is planning to make 75 matches that support at least 150 people in a 3 year pilot period. The pilot will run in the City of Port Phillip (Melbourne) and surrounding areas, which has one of Melbourne’s lowest proportions of affordable new lettings and expand from there.

Home Share Melbourne is ready to be launched and it will be a grant from StreetFunders that gets things up and running.

“This is huge for us – we just need a teeny weeny cash injection to get started and prove that this works. With this funding, we can launch with our first matches, prove the concept works, and start throwing our hat in the ring for ongoing sponsorship and support. ”

 

You can join the community of StreetFunders getting Home Share Melbourne off the ground here

You can also support Home Share Melbourne by voting for it in the Pick My Project government grants initiative. Your vote will help the program secure a years’ worth of funding,

If you are interested in taking part in the pilot get in contact with Home Share Melbourne here

 

 

 

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Housing and the Myth of Trickle Down Economics

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While the Australian electorate is still seething from the knifing of yet another sitting Prime Minister, there is no sign the freshly conservative face of the federal Coalition is likely to attend to voters most pressing concerns: insecure work, the cost of living, good public healthcare and education, affordable housing and wealth inequality. While politicians in Canberra have been busy wrestling control of government, an estimated third of the population are in rental stress.

The most recent Demographia report on the state of housing affordability ranks all of Australia’s five major housing markets as severely unaffordable. According to Demographia a ranking of 3.0 (or lower) is considered affordable, while a ranking of 5.1 (or higher) is severely unaffordable. Sydney ranks an incredible 12.9, Melbourne fairs slightly better 9.9 – and regional centers like Ballarat and Bundaberg rate as severely unaffordable at 5.4.

If we reach as far back as the 1960’s (when the majority of sitting MP’s would have been entering the housing market) housing prices have surged by a massive 6,556 percent.

As house prices have soared, those that would have previously been able to own their own home are pushed into the private rental market. Up to a third of Australians now expect to rent for life. This trend can be seen most clearly in the most unaffordable areas, where there is a close relationship between the median house price and the percentage of people in private rental.

The Poor Are Paying the Price

For the 1.86 million people dependant on Centrelink, or the 1.9 million workers estimated to be subsisting on the merger minimum wage the recent tiny dip in the median house price is unlikely to bring much reprieve to their rental bill.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute suggests as much of 14% of the population are in dire need of affordable housing.

According to Anglicare’s recent report on housing affordability, a single person on a low income will find less than 0.01 percent of rental vacancies affordable. Depending on how badly you fair on the low income scale, you may find up to 6% of properties affordable. But as the report notes, low income earners are in direct competition with people on much higher incomes looking to reduce their own cost of housing. It’s not hard to imagine that the majority of low income earners land on the bottom of the application pile.

Low income households will find little reprieve in public housing, which has largely been abandoned. While social housing has increased – total stock has not kept pace with the demand. Victoria has just 80,311 public or social housing properties, while the the population grew 125,000 last year alone.

The impact of these big picture trends is that it is pushing low income and working poor households into homelessness. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 288,000 people required assisted by a homelessness service in 2016–17.

Behind those statistics are those that are not seeking assistance, or are sacrificing other basic needs like food, heating or medical care to maintain their rent.

Some are Even More Vulnerable

Some people are more likely to end up shouldering the burden of the housing crisis.

As I wrote earlier this year, older women experiencing homelessness has risen 31 percent in 6 years. Women over 60 are the lowest earning group nationally and having led conventional lives, raised families, worked part time or in unpaid roles – they have retired with less savings and assets than men their age. Underpaid, with little savings, facing a permanently inflated housing market, older women have been thrown under the bus by prolonged government inaction.  

Migrants are disproportionately likely to end up homeless. According to the last Census, 45 percent of people who are homeless are migrants. Language barriers are a contributor, but discrimination in employment, working rights, and visas linked to violent partners are all part of the picture. While overt race-baiting has become a deplorable feature of political discourse, many migrants are shut out of the basic benefits of Australian society. As Homelessness NSW state:

“Depending on which category of visa [someone holds] their visa conditions may mean they cannot legally work, access Centrelink, Medicare or government assistance to undertake education or training.”

Young people are especially vulnerable to the shifting dynamics of a predatory economic climate. While more young people are forced to stay home for longer, many lack this choice. Family breakdown, violence, or the entire family falling into homelessness are big drivers of homeless among young people. While the demonised by politicians and media outlets alike for being lazy and entitled, most young people are justifiably worried about their futures. Facing an insecure labour market, woeful levels of income support, something as basic as housing security starts to feel like an impossibility.

What is the Root Cause and How do We Fix It?

The state of housing is not simple, and is made up of a complex interaction of policy levers across State and Federal governments. Issues like land supply, tax incentives and the increasing insecurity of work and flat wage growth all contribute to the current crisis. To cut through the noise, it is more useful to look at what broad priorities have been set and who they advantage.

Over several decades voters have been sold the lie of ‘trickle-down economics.’ This myth has justified tax breaks for property investors over investment in public housing, concessions to top earners paid for by the poorest workers, the list goes on and on

As wealth inequality widens it’s getting harder to conceal the fact that the benefits of such policies trickle up, not down. As Anglicare stated in their report:

“Simply put, current government policies mean that billions of dollars more of public funding goes towards supporting housing investors, rather than ensuring everybody, including people on low incomes, has a home.”

This hits at the heart of our national failure – we have fostered a housing market that privileges investors, promotes speculation and cataclysmically fails to treat housing as a fundamental right as basic as food.

This crisis has been decades in the making, but with a dedicated realignment of priorities, it can be fixed. Advocates have been pushing for a National Housing Strategy that would remedy trickle up failure and restore some basic fairness to the housing system. Federal Labour is promising to roll back negative gearing and reform capital gain tax, and if elected should be held to that promise. But we also desperately need to increase the poverty level welfare payments and to create conditions for ongoing secure employment. After so much dog-whistling targeting minorities, young people and the poor, we need a massive shift in our national consciousness. That will take genuine leadership, perhaps the sort that is naive to hope for. But with an early Federal election on the cards, with voters fed up with the status quo, we are overdue for a radical change.

At StreetSmart we believe everyone should have a safe and secure place to call home.  Housing is a human right and is the foundation for building relationships, connecting with community, engaging in education and work and having a stable and successful life. 

What you can do to help…

Join the community of StreetFunders helping HomeShare to get people out of rental stress here

Sign the Everybody’s Home Petition and demand action on housing here

Find, and contact your Federal MP here

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5 Things You Need to Know About Housing First and Homelessness

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1. People need a Safe Permanent Home Before Other Supports.

Housing First is an evidence based model that tells us something that’s pretty intuitive – people need a stable roof over their heads before they need anything else. Shelter (and food) are the core needs of every individual without exception.

This sounds pretty straight forward, but our approach to homelessness in Australia has grown to work in reverse. Over time government responses to homelessness have begun to treat those experiencing it as personally responsible. Rather than seeing the bigger picture (like the cost of housing, domestic violence etc) successive governments have resorted to victim blaming – requiring people to fix their personal deficits before they can be housed.

As Professor Eoin O’Sullivan, editor of the European Journal of Homelessness told Probono Australia: “[Homelessness] is about dysfunctional housing markets and dysfunctional services rather than dysfunctional individuals”

2. It Works for People Who’ve Been Chronically Homeless

Most people who experience long term rough sleeping typically have complex trauma.

Sadly, much of this has been experienced in the care of Government institutions such as the state care system,  prisons, hospitals and a long series of difficult interactions with other public services. Mistrust of police, hospital staff, and even homelessness services is common and difficult.

Long term rough sleepers are survivors and do need additional supports – like drug and alcohol treatment, life skills training or mental health support. The housing first model does not discount the need for specialist interventions. It says that for people to recover – they need housing first. StreetSmart has been supporting the successful implementation of Housing First projects for many years, such as through Micah Projects in Brisbane.

3. It Works for People Who Have Been Priced out of Their Homes

One of the reasons homelessness is on the rise is because of the sky-rocking cost of housing across the country. This is affecting people who might not ordinarily find themselves homeless – including low waged workers, young people, older people and those that find themselves on the economic margins but are otherwise usually able to maintain housing.

Jumping in quickly to rapidly rehouse people works to keep people out of homelessness. It prevents the vicious cycle of poverty and homelessness from wreaking havoc on people’s lives. It works through simple measures like short term financial assistance, advocacy with private rental, and getting people into public housing. Not everyone requires intensive support, but some do.

4. It’s Cheaper

Homelessness creates a huge cost to people, and also to public spending. It can be difficult to put an accurate number on the cost of homelessness because its effects are deep and far reaching. It pushes people into hospital emergency departments, contact with the justice system, creates demand for expensive temporary accommodation and creates a system that maintains rather than ends homelessness.

It’s easier to imagine the true cost of homelessness at the individual level. Earlier this year we supported the First Nations Homelessness Project to prevent evictions in Perth. By spending $400 on maintenance they saved the Department of Housing the $40,000 cost of eviction. They prevented Child Protection from stepping in to remove now homeless children from their parents. They prevent visits to crisis services, to Centrelink, and prevent the host of health issues that result from homelessness. Homelessness results in multiple traumas, can cost lives, and it costs a lot of taxpayers’ money.

5. We Already Have Effective Ways to Implement Housing First

Registry Weeks (supported by The Australian Alliance to End Homelessness) enable the use the ‘Housing First’ model by working to mobilise resources at the community level to identify, by name, every individual and family in need of permanent housing, specifically targeting rough sleepers and the most vulnerable.

Understanding the real-time demand for housing and support services in each community assists local organisations and agencies to understand the level of housing and support supply that their community requires to end street and episodic homelessness.  

Through knowing everyone by name a community can put a number, names and faces on a seemingly unsolvable problem. While a street count can gauge the extent of a problem, Registry Weeks take that information and turn it in to permanent housing and appropriately supporting each person who is homeless in the community.

Our August StreetFunder campaign is targeting this important intervention and supporting the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness to equip more communities to roll out Registry Weeks and solve homelessness at the local level.

We’ve supported the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness Registry Weeks before. It’s a model that works and really does change lives. They were able to half homelessness in Newcastle within 6 months, securing permanent housing and the right ongoing supports.

Our CEO Adam Robinson says there is no reason this grassroots approach should not be taken up nationally: “The housing first model works, so we need to be asking our political leadership why we are not using best practice, evidence-based models to end homelessness. It is community organisations and some seriously dedicated people at the grassroots that are driving this, and we will continue to support them. For a wide-scale change, this needs to be supported at the State and Federal level”

Ways You Can Help

You can donate to StreetFunder here and empower more communities to roll out Registry Weeks

Sign the Everybody’s Home petition to demand government action here

Check out the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness Here.

 

 

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3 Life Saving Projects in 3 Cities

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Research from overseas suggests that homeless people, who sleep rough, have a life expectancy of between 43 – 47 years. Sleeping on the street is dangerous and creates a host of health issues, and untreated chronic illness, wounds, and infections, that most people think we left to the earlier parts of the 20th century, can turn deadly.

Rough sleepers commonly suffer from untreated mental health issues, injuries, skin infections, poor foot and mouth care, and blood-borne viruses. In winter it’s especially hard to keep on top of even the most minor of ailments, which can become serious problems.

As numbers of homeless people swell, and winter closes in, this months EOFY StreetFunder campaign will raise vital funding for three lifesaving health projects – Night Nurses (Melbourne), Homeless Healthcare (Perth) and Street Med (Sydney) – who hit the streets each night to care for the most vulnerable in our community.

HOMELESS HEALTH – PERTH

Homeless Health is a vital service run out of the back a van by Dr Andrew Davis, and a social worker. They cover drop in centres and homeless street ‘hot spots’. They provide care 365 days a year – including nights, round the clock nurses, support workers, and special support for newly housed people, to help keep them housed. This month we are helping to replenish their medical supplies.

“One of the major issues we face is wounds. When you’re living on the street and you get a cut, or can’t keep your feet dry – the rate of infection is very high and can be fatal if left untreated. That’s why we always need a good stock of wound dressings. The other issue that our patients face is chronic health conditions like diabetes which have been untreated for a long time. Having Diabetes kits available is really essential.” Dr Andrew Davis, Homeless Health.

NIGHT NURSES – MELBOURNE

Night Nurses are a team of committed professional nurses who walk the streets of Melbourne’s  CBD every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from – 7pm to 11pm, helping care for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They help support the work of Youth Projects primary health service – the Living Room and the Women’s Wellness Center (both of which have been supported by StreetSmart).

“It will go a long way to providing the basics needed for keeping people healthy and well. That might be as simple as snacks for diabetics, providing a wound dressing, or socks for people whose greatest challenge is keeping their feet protected from ‘trench foot’  – a condition that is used to describe what happened to men in the trenches of WW1. We need to ensure our Nurses are properly equipped with the tools they need to treat people effectively, on the spot, and this grant will make a good dint in our equipment needs.” Richi Goonan, Operations Manager for Community Health, Youth Projects.

STREET MEDIC – SYDNEY

StreetMed Inc. provides street-level first aid, mental health and advocacy for the homeless and at-risk people in Outer Western Sydney. On an average shift, they see 20-30 people and help treat and manage chronic health conditions like diabetes and wounds from life on the street. One of their aims is to equip people with the things they need to treat problems before they get serious.

“At street level, we see a variety of injuries and wounds ranging from minimal right through the spectrum to requiring medical assistance.  If our clients were equipped with early intervention measures such as first aid kits, their level of care would increase and the long-term ramifications of infection and medical intervention would decrease. Currently, as volunteers, we have been sourcing first aid kits funded from our own pockets and the response we have received to the few we have handed out has been overwhelmingly positive.”  Chris Cleary, Founder, Street Med

These three projects provide vital care for people sleeping on the streets, in parks, under bridges or where ever they can find shelter.  As winter sets in the demand for their services increases and these services depend on public support. We believe no one should be sleeping rough, but they are, and numbers have increased dramatically over the past 5 years.

Our aim is to raise $20,000 during June to share across the three projects.  All donations are tax-deductible and we’d love your support to help deliver care where it is needed most.

 

 

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