Safety Network Conference

A discussion on homelessness was part of this year’s Local Government Community Safety Network’s Annual Community Safety Conference.

The discussion focussed on exploring ‘the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders in addressing homelessness, the current state of strategy development and program responses, and included case studies of the work of local governments in addressing homelessness issues’.

Speakers included Shelter WA Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Mackenzie; WA Alliance to End Homelessness Independent Chair John Berger and 50 Lives 50 Homes Manager from Ruah Community Services Leah Watkins.

Attendees heard from the Manager of Community Development and Library Services at the City of Joondalup Jude Thomas and Acting Manager of Community Services at the City of Perth Bek Slavin about initiatives that their Councils had put in place.

Presentation from Leah Watkins on the ‘Advance to Zero’ approach a part of the WA Zero Project .

John Berger outlined the galvanising work of the Alliance, the strong evidence base of what is needed to end homelessness, including a Housing First approach to end rough sleeping, and key initiatives delivered by the Alliance. Leah Watkins built on this presentation outlining the WA Advance to Zero Project. Advance to Zero is an approach to achieving functional zero for rough sleepers in an area. It uses a combination of real time data on who is homeless measuring the inflow and outflow of people who are living on the streets and service co-ordination.

A By-Name list collects information against six data points (see photograph) to show data how many people are actively homeless in a community, whether or not this number is reducing and why, and how many people are moving in and out of homelessness.

People and organisations working with people experiencing homelessness come together to use the list to analyse what is working and to adapt service responses to get better outcomes.

Shelter WA outlined the critical role local governments play across their functional areas to end homelessness. This includes facilitating more social and affordable housing supply through their urban planning schemes, responsive local laws, supporting community services through rate exemptions, access to land or investment in local services and strong advocacy. Many local governments have established local or regional homelessness committees who are developing plans to align and co-ordinate local effort. All speakers emphasised the important role of local government homelessness strategies to drive change.

This was followed by Ms Thomas on the Cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo Regional Homelessness Plan. The outcomes in the Plan, developed through extensive consultation across their cities, are achieved through the development and implementation of agreed actions through each City’s role to coordinate, support, advocate, collaborate and facilitate within their respective communities.

Ms Slavin outlined the purpose of the City Homelessness Framework Committee. With representation from several inner-city local governments this Committee focuses the efforts of many organisations and individuals working in the field towards ending homelessness.

The community safety and crime prevention teams within local government are at the coal face working within local communities. They meet people who are experiencing homelessness on the streets and see first-hand the impact of this on individuals and communities. The panel discussion provided a great opportunity to discuss how local governments, in particular the community safety and crime prevention teams, could work within and across their organisations to embed good policy and practice.

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