Knowing people by name key to ending street homelessness

By Clare Lawson

An end to street homelessness in Melbourne? Sounds ambitious, but it is entirely possible.

Already, real progress has been made towards ending street homelessness, right here in Melbourne. A pilot project in the City of Port Phillip has achieved a 27% decrease in rough sleeping in the area between February 2021 to February 2022. The approach that has made this possible is known as Functional Zero, and it aims to build a future where homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring.

How does it work in practice?

It starts with what’s known as a By-Name list. A multi-agency team creates a list of every person, by name, who is rough sleeping in that community and records and maintains real-time data to measure progress.

The team meets regularly to find tailored housing and support solutions for each individual on the By-Name list, with the ultimate aim of moving them into a home and ending rough sleeping for each person on the list.

Instead of seeing homelessness as an impossible problem with services funded and operating separately, local service systems are brought together to work in a coordinated and hyper-local way.

Functional Zero puts the needs of the individual at the centre of the service, resolving cases quickly and consistently through collaborative wrap-around support.

George Hatvani, Functional Zero Manager at Launch Housing, credits the reduction in rough sleeping in Port Phillip to improved service coordination at the same time state resources were made available through COVID-19.

“During the pandemic, people sleeping rough were moved to a higher priority position on the waitlist for available housing.

“Because the Port Phillip Zero team were already maintaining their real-time, By-Name list, Launch Housing knew every client and were ready and prepared to assist them in securing permanent housing,” Hatvani explained.

“We’ve created this structurally connected, multi-agency team focused on people sleeping rough. People aren’t in the shadows any more once they’re on the By-Name list.”

The progress made so far in Port Phillip provides a solid proof of concept and momentum for the approach to be adopted across Melbourne. So far, the Zero project has been adopted by City of Frankston and City of Stonnington, with discussions underway with a number of other Melbourne councils looking to get on board.

Additionally, the Victorian Government’s unprecedented $5.3 billion Big Housing Build will see over 9,000 new homes over the next four years which will help improve Victoria’s growing housing shortage, but advocacy groups and services are still calling for a national strategy to guide an ongoing and targeted effort to build more social and affordable housing.

Want to help make a difference to homelessness in Melbourne?

Grassroots campaign, Melbourne Zero, is calling on all Melburnians to join the movement to end street homelessness in Melbourne. Stand in solidarity with Melburnians experiencing or at risk of
homelessness and call for action. It is only with whole of community support that we can push for zero homelessness in our city.

Take action today by joining Melbourne’s movement to end homelessness at