From the CEO: Bevan Warner
Thank you for your commitment to end homelessness.
Like many, I was shocked and saddened by last week’s tragic events in Christchurch, New Zealand. Propagating the idea that one culture or ethnic group is inherently more deserving than another, lies at the heart of so much needless suffering in our world. It is an ugly notion that we at Launch Housing totally reject. A life of dignity is owed to all who inhabit his planet regardless of where they come from.
Unfortunately, in our work we encounter many people in our community who seek to categorise others. They do so from a frame of judgement that suggests merit is the natural or only pathway to success and that homelessness arises from the poor choices of individuals. They are wrong.
This frame excludes good and bad luck, random events and inherited wealth from whatever the ‘success equation’ looks like. It also excludes policy choices that government’s make that can propel people into homelessness.
To be very clear, categorising people into the ‘deserving’ and ‘underserving’ homeless is harmful. The problem with this form of judgement is that it allows housing stress to be dismissed as a personal failing and it suggests a tolerable level of homelessness in any first world economy is inevitable or to be expected. It is not.
Political leaders often claim that the first priority of government is defence of the nation. Protecting each and every citizen from external threats is clearly a first order priority for any government. But what then and what could be more important for government, than ensuring everyone has a safe and secure place to call home?
A safe and secure home is the foundation for a life with dignity. It is the foundation for a good and productive life. That is what we at Launch Housing care about and remain dedicated to achieving.
Recently, Launch Housing provided a submission to the Royal Commission into Mental Health to address the critical importance of stable housing.
We fervently believe that the Royal Commission must hear from consumers, who tell us that living with a mental illness, let alone recovery from a mental illness, is incredibly difficult without a home. Our submission placed safe, secure and appropriate housing at the centre of prevention and recovery.
Finally, we know we can’t deliver housing justice alone.
We need you to continue working with us to end homelessness. So, please accept my deepest thanks for your ongoing support.
If you have any feedback for me please do not hesitate to get in touch directly.
Chief Executive Officer
Maintaining kids’ education during homelessness
Learning disruptions can have lifelong consequences for children who experience homelessness with some exiting the school system without being able to read and write effectively.
Our Education Pathways Program (EPP) offers a range of practical services, including speech therapists, for children in crisis accommodation to reconnect with school. A recent winner of a VicHealth Award for excellence, this philanthropically funded program connects families in emergency accommodation to schools.
Meet Sandra: Service informed by lived experience
Our clients are the experts in their own lives. That’s why Launch Housing has a ‘Consumer Participation Strategy’ that focuses on incorporating the voices of people with a lived experience of homelessness in everything we do, including decisions that directly impact on our services. To ensure consumer voice is embedded into each part of our service delivery we have a new dedicated Lived Experience Service Development Worker, Sandra.
Meet our Lived Experience Service Development Worker, Sandra*:
What drew you to work with Launch Housing?
I was excited to see this position advertised which brings together my interests in community engagement and human centred design, and my strong passion for housing and social justice. As someone who’s experienced long periods of housing insecurity and rental stress, I am aligned with Launch Housing’s core beliefs, particularly that housing is a fundamental human right.
Tell us about your role.
My title is Lived Experience Development worker which is a long way of saying I work with a group of diverse people, the Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG) who have all been formerly homeless. My role is in consumer participation, we try to embed the consumer voice in everything we do. We’re designing with people not for people.
What is the value of consumer participation and lived experience in developing services?
You have to consult with the people who are using the service to design it for them, in a way they are going to engage with.
Photograph: Duncan Rawlinson, edited from original.
Consumer participation also allows our frontline workers to connect with consumers. It really mitigates the power differential which is significant when you are experiencing homelessness because there are so many points in the journey where you feel totally disempowered. There are a lot of barriers to accessing help and the easier we make it and the more humanised it is, the better.
What is the LEAG currently working on?
We are currently looking at premature deaths. Just the experience of homelessness reduces your life expectancy. This is without even considering other factors such as malnutrition, poverty, reduced access to education and health… So, in a new step for the LEAG, we are forming a working group to consult on this issue. We have also developed a working group for the Royal Commission into Mental Health, as well as bringing our focus to crisis accommodation.
What is your favourite part of your role?
Every day is different. There are some challenges working with people who have trauma. I really feel this role actually gives meaning and value to the hardships that I personally have faced and I love that my remit is to help others articulate the strength and resilience that we have forged from our challenges. I feel very supported, and happy to have the opportunity, with LEAG, to create positive change.
*Name changed by request.
Meet Eduard: Positive outcomes for young people
Eduard,* 19, has been a student at the Education First Youth Foyer at Kangan Institute, Broadmeadows since June 2018. Eduard moved to Australia from the Philippines to relieve financial pressure on his mother who had just gone through a separation.
After arriving in Australia, Eduard began living with his father who he had lost contact with when he was younger. Unfortunately, their relationship deteriorated quickly, degrading Eduard’s sense of support, safety and stability, and he was left to search for alternative accommodation as he tried to complete his schooling.
The only affordable accommodation Eduard could find was in a severely overcrowded share house, where up to four people lived in a room at any given time. He struggled to sleep and study.“Even though I had a roof… there were holes in that roof. It wasn’t a home,” Eduard said.
After a period of intense stress, Eduard sought the help of a youth worker from the Centre for Multicultural Youth who referred Eduard to the Broadmeadows Education First Youth Foyer.“When I started living here I met a lot of new friends, I received a lot of support.
“We get to go out a lot and do a lot of things for free. We also do volunteering too.”Eduard, who now has permanent residency, says stable housing has enabled him to look to the future and get his education back on track.“I want to bring my mum here. In order to do that I need to be a citizen and have a stable profession.”
Last year Eduard completed his grade 12 studies, along with his First Aid Certificate, barista training and received a Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate – he also secured three part time jobs. As of this year Eduard has been studying a Diploma of Nursing at TAFE to kick-start a medical career.
With the support and stability of the Foyer, Eduard has been able to establish solid goals and plan out his life.
*Name changed by request.
A space for women
Each Launch Housing site has a unique purpose, personality and dedication to their client group.
Tucked behind leafy tree-lined street in East St. Kilda is our women-run crisis site, Launch Housing East St. Kilda (LHESK). LHESK is one of the few housing services in Victoria that employs and accommodates only women as well as offers services to trans and gender diverse individuals who identify as female.
This unique site is funded by Launch Housing’s Client Support Fund – we are incredibly grateful to our supporters whose donations build this critical resource.
“More often than not these women do not know that the funds are from donors but we know that without these funds, we could not do the work that we do,” says LHESK Team Leader, Di Morton.
LHESK’s agile approach makes it an invaluable place for women experiencing homelessness and trauma as they connect with crisis accommodation and vitally important case management service from a feminist standpoint.
“Women supporting women is brilliant, and the property as well as the setup of this space is incredibly therapeutic for those who come here.
“There are very few female only services and as one it is critical that we specifically support women. Their needs are not like the needs of men and or children. We are able to identify and redirect women to the specific services which ultimately support them in gaining stable accommodation,” says Di.
The East St. Kilda site has a proud history of assisting women in Melbourne since 1995, and annually it helps more than 130 women. Fifteen rooms are available for women in crisis, including one that is pet-friendly as part of the new Pets in Crisis Accommodation Project at Launch Housing.
To help women obtain stable housing, LHESK connects clients to health services and other therapies as women who come to the site have often experienced a traumatic event such as domestic violence.
Di says the supports available have enabled many women to change the course of their lives.“Women have been reunited with their children and are now living in stable accommodation. Women have become drug free, have supports in place, engage in education, have had babies and are now living with a future in front of them which was not even close to possible without the support provided by LHESK.”
The LHESK team includes five skilled and energetic case managers, four after hours support workers, a coordinator, an admin/wellbeing officer and a passionate site manager focused on achieving the best outcomes of women in the community.
The small team work hard providing this critical service to women in the community, but are acutely aware of the greater, increasing need for their support which relies on the important contributions of our donors.