CatholicCare on housing as a fundamental human need
June 2, 2021
Finding yourself homeless must rank as one of the most challenging things that could happen in life, but CatholicCare Diocese of Broken Bay’s 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.
“Being homeless is stressful,” says Sean MacKinnon, Practice Manager for CatholicCare’s housing and homelessness programs.
“Housing is a fundamentally important human need and no-one functions the way they would normally function when they find themselves homeless. So our job is to help people through that situation.
“We are funded by the Department of Communities and Justice to provide crisis accommodation and link 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.”
Sean says his small team of dedicated case workers provides 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.
“So it’s important that our clients feel safe and supported. Our super-lean team does everything in our power to improve their situations.”
Ken, who is aged in his 60’s was referred to CatholicCare’s STA program when he had nowhere to go after being released from hospital following treatment for a chronic condition.
The Department of Housing found him emergency accommodation in a local motel, but the upstairs location of his room wasn’t suitable for his medical condition.
“They organised for Sean to pick me up and take me to a transitional residence and I was there for five weeks,” Ken says.
“In that five weeks, Sean worked his backside off to find me a ground floor unit for permanent accommodation and I’ve been here now since May 2017.
“I’m pretty sure he more or less saved my life. And he’s still very caring about me, checking in on me all the time to make sure I’m going OK.”
Julie found herself suddenly homeless when the place she was living in with her young adult son caught fire.
“I woke up and the room was full of white smoke,” she says. “The firies came and did all they could to put it out but by 5am we were homeless.”
Julie, who is on NDIS disability support due to mental health issues, got in touch with her coordinator, who contacted the Department of Housing, who then referred her to CatholicCare for emergency accommodation.
“You go into a state of shock for a while when something like that happens to you,” she says.
“But Sean took care of everything. He moved us into temporary accommodation and he was always available on the phone. He handled the paperwork and he re-escalated an existing application I had in with the Department of Housing.
“Now, we are in a two-bedroom villa, with a little yard and it’s great.
“It felt like a rollercoaster for a while but now I’m starting to get back on my feet a bit.”
And Natasha, who is a mother of a young daughter, found herself without a home when the grandfather of her daughter, with whom she’d been staying, suddenly had to move into residential aged care.
“It happened so fast,” she says. “I was stressing out. I thought, ‘what am I going to do?’”
She says the referral to CatholicCare’s STA program provided a much-needed lifeline, which went beyond providing a safe and secure roof over her head.
“It kept me stable and on my feet,” she says.
“As soon as I got into it, we just connected, straight away. Jo (a member of the STA team) would come and see me every single day except Saturday and Sunday. She was always in contact and supporting me.”
After applying for 23 places to rent, Natasha was successful in securing a private rental and she’s been living there a year now, while studying to become a drug and alcohol counsellor.
Sean says it is stories like these that inspire his team to go all out for their clients.
“To be a part of a person’s journey that everyone puts in the ‘too hard basket’ – to see them gain some stability and for people to see the good in them – they are really wonderful stories to be part of,” he says.
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