Legal Service Partnership Supports Victoria’s Most Vulnerable

“Katie is approachable, easy to work with and incredibly knowledgeable.” – Mark Fitzgerald, Rough Sleepers Initiative Coordinator

For the last four years the staff and clients at Launch Housing’s St Kilda homelessness entry point have reaped the benefits of having a lawyer from the Justice Connect project, Under One Roof, on site once a week.

Our St Kilda entry point assists individuals experiencing homelessness with an initial assessment and plan for a pathway out of homelessness. Since Under One Roof’s inception in 2015, more than 200 people have received legal advice on issues such as tenancy, fines and infringements, criminal matters, and debts.

“This project recognises and builds on strong relationships and collaboration across sectors. It enhances client access to legal services and information, which ultimately leads to better outcomes for people. But what’s truly brilliant about the service is that the lawyer can join our assertive outreach workers, and that’s beneficial for rough sleepers who are often harder to reach and have multiple and complex needs.” – Andrew D’Arcy, General Manager Getting Housing

This initiative has been recognised by the Law Council of Australia and Victorian Government as “a best-practice model for people who are at-risk of or are currently experiencing homelessness.”

Launch Housing’s case workers involved in the project find the co-location of legal services to be enormously valuable when trying to achieve more sustainable pathways out of homelessness. It’s an agile way to offer consults about legal matters to either people in a housing crisis or support staff on-site.

Under One Roof provides legal assistance for people experiencing homelessness at one of Launch Housing’s busiest entry points. The St Kilda homelessness service offered support to 4,676 people last financial year.

The Initial Assessment and Planning service is the first step for those in a housing crisis, providing accommodation assistance, advice and referrals to additional support.

Justice Connect lawyers have also worked with Launch Housing’s Rough Sleepers Initiative (RSI) to connect rough sleepers with legal advice when needed.

“Being co-located in the homelessness service creates more collaboration and knowledge sharing around the legal issues that people face when in crisis. Often, there are legal solutions to the problems people experience, so being on-site means you’re available to assist straight way. ” – Katie, Justice Connect Lawyer

Launch Housing’s Rough Sleepers Initiative (RSI) provides an assertive outreach service to people sleeping rough in Melbourne CBD, and the Cities of Port Phillip, Stonnington, Yarra, Frankston and Dandenong. RSI supports individuals who often have complex needs, are vulnerable and the majority have experienced long-term homelessness.

Katie joins the assertive outreach teams once a month and offers advice on legal matters to some of the most vulnerable individuals in Melbourne.  Mark, the coordinator of RSI, said that the most prevalent issues rough sleepers face are public orders, such as public transport fines. He said these small fines quickly escalate because people experiencing homelessness don’t have the money to pay fines or don’t know what to do next.

Since Under One Roof began in 2015:

  • Referrals have increased by 25%
  • Over 90% of caseworkers believed clients have been able to achieve better results after seeking legal help.
  • Referrals to Justice Connect criminal lawyer have increased by 50%.
  • Almost 90% of caseworkers said their knowledge of the legal issues affecting clients had increased and they’re more confident asking clients about their legal issues.

By providing co-located legal services in partnership with Justice Connect, Launch Housing is able to give people with multiple and complex needs the opportunity to find and maintain more viable pathways out of homelessness.

Find out more about the achievements of the Under One Roof project in the latest reports from Justice Connect.