Marking Homelessness Week 2021 – supports for people across our Diocese experiencing homelessness

July 26, 2021

On any given night, 116,000 people in Australia are experiencing homelessness.  Homelessness is not ‘rooflessness’. Only 7% of people without a home are sleeping rough. The vast majority of homelessness is hidden – people in crisis accommodation, rooming houses, insecure housing, overcrowded dwellings, or couch surfing. A home means security, stability, privacy, safety, and being able to control your space.*

Homelessness Week this year runs 1 – 7 August and is a good opportunity to revisit the importance of homelessness and housing supports across the Diocese.

There is no situation that undermines human dignity more than homelessness. The causes may be diverse but the impact is the same – a sense of hopelessness. Finding yourself homeless ranks as one of the most challenging things that could happen in life. It is often not a choice and being homeless is stressful. Housing is a fundamentally important human need, and no-one functions the way they normally would when they find themselves homeless.

There are many reasons people become homeless:

  • Domestic and family violence
  • Mental health or drug and alcohol issues
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Marriage or family breakdowns
  • No visa status after partner/marriage breakdown
  • Leaving prison
  • Loss of a partner
  • Caring for young families reliant on welfare
  • Loss of work or income, and more.

Our specialist housing programs help people at risk of becoming homeless to stay securely housed, and those who are homeless to find a keep a home.

CatholicCare’s role includes:

  • Early intervention and prevention
  • Providing transitional accommodation and supporting people to find more long-term, stable accommodation
  • Working with individuals and families to sustain an existing tenancy
  • Providing practical, emotional and financial assistance
  • Providing information, referrals and access to other services
  • Providing support to find and keep a job.

We offer a range of services including:

Our Supported Temporary Accommodation (STA) program helps not only put an emergency roof over people’s heads but assists them into more stable housing and a brighter future. Our STA Program is funded by the Department of Communities and Justice to provide crisis accommodation and links people to key services. We provide a case management model of support. It’s very short-term and intense and our work has to happen very quickly.

We have seen a significant spike in families becoming homelessness on the Central Coast, who cannot compete in the local rental market due to less properties being available and increasing rents. It’s a landlord’s market. Pre-COVID rental vacancy rates on the Central Coast were around 4.3%. This has dropped between 0.3 – 0.5% with the local rental market becoming more buoyant due to a reported increase in population of 40,000 people in the past 12 months and a number of rentals selling to become owner occupied. This has also put pressure on social housing stock, and at this point, the social housing sector do not have the capacity to meet local needs. This has put increased pressure on local Specialist Housing Service providers and other key support services on the Coast, who are already overwhelmed. We are in unprecedented times, and services have very limited resources, but CatholicCare’s commitment to support those in need has not waivered.

Additionally, Mary Mac’s Place in Woy Woy provides meals and companionship to address the isolation and loneliness vulnerable people in our community experience. We also provide a pathway to services like Legal Aid, homelessness support services and health assistance. Mary Mac’s are providing on average 60 lunches a day and we have seen a significant increase in people requesting food hampers. Sadly, we are seeing an increase in street based sleepers in the area.

Domestic and family violence continues to be Australia’s leading cause of homelessness. With the onslaught of COVID-19 the industry was forced to adapt quickly to the challenges of women feeling anxious about the sharing of refuge accommodation with many choosing to remain in the home and shelter from the virus rather than from violence.

Our Domestic Violence Response Enhancement (DVRE) team work within preventative frameworks to reduce the need for women and children to leave their homes and risk becoming homelessness. This is done through security upgrades to ensure they are safe and can remain in the home. We utilise Victim Services to fund the cost of these security upgrades, working to have this approved as quickly as possible whilst also tapping into other “safer in the home” resources.

CatholicCare’s DV services remained operational in the 2020 lockdown, and in the more recent July 2021 stay at home orders, with many clients being provided with safe phones to allow essential access during a time when perpetrators were at home. During these periods many women were flagged with our local Safety Action Meeting coordination point – a system deployed to assist us in keeping women who are at the highest risk safe. We have built solid connections with Social Workers within our local Emergency Departments which ensures we reach vulnerable women and families who have experienced domestic violence and have become homeless as a result. These relationships allow us to pre-empt their housing needs and action a timely response.

Our small team of dedicated workers provide practical and emotional support to the clients who are referred to them. We’re dealing with people who come from a long history of things not going particularly well. Mental health is a huge factor for us, as well as substance abuse and histories of inter-generational trauma. It’s important that our clients feel safe and supported. Our super-lean team does everything in our power to improve their situations.

Following are some case studies that illustrate the work we are doing across the Diocese.

Case study 1

Stella has a 2 year old child. She has no visa status and CatholicCare helped her leave a violent relationship. She has been residing in one of our sites and with assistance from her caseworker has been able to gain permanent residency, access to Centrelink payments, eligibility for community housing and other support packages. Now 8 months later Stella has been able to rebuild her life and has recently secured her own tenancy. We are constantly in awe of the amazing resilience of our clients!

Case study 2

Tracey had been sleeping rough for many years, suffering a number of physical and sexual assaults during her time on the streets. Our housing team engaged with her over a 3 month period before she would accept any accommodation. She wasn’t yet ready for a formal housing arrangement when we first met her. As we gained her trust we were able to support her with transitional accommodation. Stella worked really hard on engaging with her caseworker and counsellor, and this has led to significant gains practically, emotionally and spiritually.

Case study 3

Sarah had been supported by CatholicCare as a child when she was unable to live with her family. A few years later, she contacted us to advise she was homeless with an 8 week old baby. We provided immediate accommodation in a motel for two nights until our Supported Temporary Accommodation program could take over. They were able to help Sarah secure a long term tenancy that was affordable and close to family and she was referred to our young parents homelessness program for continuing support.

Our staff are specialists in their fields with a wealth of knowledge who listen to clients and support them moving forward. In addition to the services outlined above we have:

  • A women’s refuge for those escaping domestic violence
  • Specific supports for young parents
  • Outreach to street sleepers
  • Support for people in financial crisis via our Emergency Relief program.

If you, or someone you might know, is affected by homelessness or needs housing support, please reach out.

P: 1800 324 924

* Statistics provided by Homelessness Australia

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