Geraldton Housing Forum
Participants involved in a housing and homelessness forum in Geraldton have come away with a list of actions to end homelessness by better understanding the nature and size of the issue within their community and how best to collaboratively respond.
Organised by Darren West MLC the Member for the Agricultural Region the forum brought local community groups and Perth based not-for-profit organisations including Shelter WA together to discuss issues and drive solutions.
Leah Watkins and Michala McMahon, from the Ruah led 50 Lives 50 Homes program provided an overview of the key steps to a Housing First approach to ending homelessness and encouraged participants to work together to run a Connections Week in Geraldton as the first step.
Connections Week – which has run successfully in several other Australian cities – identifies the most vulnerable people and kickstarts collaborative work to proactively meet these needs. During Connections Week teams of volunteers conduct early morning surveys (using the VI-SPDAT tool) of people they find sleeping out in their community. Surveys are also completed at key services attended by people experiencing homelessness. At the end of the week, a launch event is held to present the results of the surveys to key stakeholders to demonstrate what is happening in the community and to invite stakeholders to become part of a collaborate response to address identified needs.
Connections Week also represents a significant contribution to the By-Name List which gathers data and drives systems change to end homelessness. The By-Name List establishes a baseline of the number of homeless people in a community, which is updated on a monthly basis. The List can be used by using the postcode where surveys are undertaken to identify the number of people found to be homeless in a defined area, map month by month the number of people who are newly identified in that area and how many of these people leave and/or return to homelessness.
A By-Name List is an evidence based approach to produce actionable data which helps measure progress towards ending homelessness. The data supports system performance evaluation, informs system improvements, and assists in setting goals around key indicators such as increasing the number of people housed each month or reducing inflow of homeless.
Other solutions discussed at the forum included the need to develop tenant ready housing, energy efficient housing and renovation of existing Department of Communities housing stock. Also to increase the diversity and affordability of local housing, and implement new initiatives such as rental assisted pathway program, accommodation for men and a short stay facility.
It was identified that critical to success was strengthening support networks and information sharing and ensuring that the community has access to housing data from the Department of Communities.
A working group has been established to drive initiatives in Geraldton. Shelter WA looks forward to working with this group as their work unfolds.
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