At the beginning of August the MHCSA partnered with the Don Dunstan Foundation to deliver the Addressing Homelessness Conference with a key focus on mental health.
Guest speakers included Professor Mike Slade from the University of Nottingham in the UK and Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions in the USA. Professor Slade’s talk centred around the role of secure housing in assisting with the journey of recovery.
You can watch Mike Slade’s full talk here and in the Lived Experience Project report below you can read about the event MHCSA hosted.
Personally speaking, I found Rosanne Haggerty’s talk on the 100,000 Homes Project was a stand out. Rosanne reminded us that homelessness is a sign that our community bonds are breaking down and we’re all in danger if our neighbours are being crushed by economic and social circumstances they cannot manage themselves.
She took us on a historic journey in New York where the rise of homelessness in the 70s was the early sign that our community bonds were in trouble. What happened from there was homelessness turned in to a multi-billion dollar industry where money was pouring in to addressing the immediate problem and not finding a real solution.
According to Ms Haggerty it is possible to end homelessness , however it needs a plan that is focused on the right outcomes and not about just getting people in to shelters and temporarily off the streets.
Through decades of her work in the sector she saw the real problem as a seeing system that was not connected. That the community programs they had – and are proud of – weren’t really adding up to what was genuinely needed. It was this non-cohesion or coordination that was keeping vulnerable people out of secure homes and this was the problem they needed to solve.
Homelessness had to stop being a charity project and become one that required communities coming together.
So over time her understanding of homelessness moved from shelters to affordable housing to moving to a person-by-person model.
This focused person-by-person approach saw her realise that more often it was a temporary crisis that led people to homelessness. By assisting them in crisis with what was at hand the majority were able to get back on their feet and keep going. There were of course those with longer-term challenges and they still found help, it was just for a longer period of time.
But what had to happen for this new approach to work was to adopt what many in the health sector do already. That is individualise the needs of the person, triage the most urgent (which means throwing away waiting lists and criteria) and communicating with everyone in that person’s ‘care’ team to make sure their needs are being met.
Roseanne stated that it was tough to change what they were doing to adopt this model but the 100,000 Homes project has exceeded its expectations and has housed 105,580 people. It is not the end point as more needs to be done but it is an interesting example of re-orienting existing resources to achieve different results.
The proactivity of the project is seeing some communities setting targets to find housing for the homeless within 30days.
It’s an inspiring project and I encourage you to take the time to watch her full talk here.
It made me think more about the parallels for people with mental illness in Australia. In particular it reinforced the need to continually review the goals and the effort of our systems to ensure that are focused on assisting people to build better lives. It also begs the question: is there a better starting point than with safe, stable, affordable, appropriate housing?