Emma Henningsen, Sacred Heart Mission
On a cold Wednesday night in June, in a meeting room upstairs and to the back of Melbourne Town Hall, a group of volunteers met to learn about their role for the StreetCount 2018.
The volunteers came from different agencies in the homelessness sector – Sacred Heart Mission, Unison, Launch Housing, to name a few – volunteering their free time to complete surveys with people who were sleeping rough in the Cities of Melbourne, Port Phillip, Yarra, Stonnington, and Maribyrnong.
The volunteers – myself among them – sat on hard plastic chairs at foldable white tables as we waited to be briefed on the questions we would be asking participants.
While we waited, we talked – networked, for want of a better term. We put faces to many of the voices and email sign offs of workers from other agencies who are working together to end homelessness. We spoke about the programs we are working in, the organisations we work for, the work that still needs to be done.
It takes collaboration to end homelessness
The homelessness sector, particularly the crisis services, is based on referrals – referrals for transitional and community housing, mental and physical health supports, volunteer opportunities, English language lessons, job providers; the list is endless and as varied as the individual needs of our clients. Without the strong organisational relationships, partnerships, and linkages Sacred Heart Mission has – accessing support for our clients would be near impossible.
I reflected on all of this: how the sector works together and in particular how we again came together for StreetCount, which provides information about real people experiencing rough sleeping and street homelessness. It is not surprising to me workers from the homelessness sector would offer their time outside of work to support this process. They were all people in the field, who work with clients experiencing homelessness, recognise the value of data and evidence for accessing much-needed funding and Government support. We recognise the need to advocate and push for change, not only for our individual clients but on a greater systemic level.
The night of the StreetCount was the coldest June day since 2016 with some parts of Melbourne CBD measuring temperatures below 0. On that night, 392 people were found sleeping rough – 78 per cent were male, 22 per cent were female; 79 per cent were Australian born and 14 per cent identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander; 42 per cent advised that they were on the public housing waitlist; and 14 per cent had been transient for more than five years (StreetCount 2018).
Homelessness Week 2018
August 6 to 12, 2018 is Homelessness Week – a nationally recognised week coordinated by Homelessness Australia to bring attention to, and raise awareness of, the issues faced by people experiencing homelessness and the actions and strategies required to solve the homelessness crisis.
The theme for this year’s National Homelessness Conference, as part of Homelessness Week, is Ending Homelessness Together. This theme names what we as workers already do – we work together to facilitate the best possible outcomes for our clients. It is a theme that acknowledges no one person can do this alone and we are stronger together.
It was raining when we walked out of the volunteer information session and into the Melbourne night. I left feeling proud of the work we do, even while knowing there is so much more to be done.
We know ending homelessness takes collaboration so we are asking staff, volunteers, supporters and partners to support Everybody’s Home, a national advocacy campaign in the lead up to the Federal Election calling for: a National Housing Strategy; Investment in affordable housing; increased rights for renters; and increased rental assistance for those who need it most.
This article was originally published here.