A partnership between Homelessness NSW,
Domestic Violence NSW and Yfoundations

Program - Vincentian House at St Vincent de Paul Society NSW

Excellence in Ending Homelessness - Children and Families Nominee

Program - Vincentian House at St Vincent de Paul Society NSW

Please give your reasons for nominating this program.

St Vincent de Paul Society NSW - Vincentian House (VH) delivers high quality support to families and their children (and single women) experiencing disadvantage and homelessness, providing a range of tailored support designed to engage and empower. Purpose built in 2009, Vincentian House offers a child safe facility with; 23 self-contained units for families needing crisis accommodation; intensive case management; 24/7 staff support; and a suite of activities and programs for residents and community members, delivered through its Kids Engaged in Education Program (KEEP) and Day Services program. Utilising the principles of Child Safe practice and Trauma Informed Care, Vincentian House has considered the concept of safety in both its physical and psychological approaches to service delivery. The service provides two playrooms; computer rooms; a media room, disability access, social and group spaces, and security systems aimed to meet individual needs, promote accessibility and complement the self-contained units designed to promote and support cohesive family environments. The service also draws on strong, collaborative partnerships to help reduce barriers for women, children and families. Offering a unique framework of holistic support KEEP at Vincentian House provides a core focus on the experience of children, young people (CYP) and their families. KEEP strives to intervene early by addressing the developmental, educational and health outcomes of CYP to help prevent inter-generational homelessness and vulnerability. This model utilises CYP specific assessment and case management, alongside age-specific activities and programs to provide wrap-around, holistic support. Examples include after-school activities such as tutoring, homework and cooking classes, on-site child and family counselling and supported playgroups, parenting workshops and music programs. This is achieved through healthy role modelling, collaborative relationships, goal orientated case planning, building parent capacity, and improving community connections. KEEP is delivered through community partnerships, volunteer lead activities, staff engagement and philanthropic support.

What outcomes were delivered as a result of this program?

With 23 family units and 10 single women rooms at Vincentian House, 163 households were accommodated at Vincentian house in the 2016-2017 financial year, including 140 people between the age of 0-17. Of this accommodation, Vincentian House offers two programs; Specialist Homeless Services (SHS) and Supported Temporary Accommodation. Across 11 different KEEP activities and programs, there were 703 attendances of CYP or parents. The school holiday program which provides opportunities for free and fun educational activities to school-aged kids experiencing homelessness accounting for 40% of these. There was 685 attendances for the Vincentian House day services, supporting parent’s access to private rental, financial support, legal and employment support and facilitated mental health or emotional wellbeing services. Feedback from surveys with CYP included outcomes of 100% feeling safe, cared for by staff; felt the KEEP activities were opportunities to have “fun” and would recommend Vincentian House to ‘someone they knew that was having a hard time’. A welcomed outcome from these feedback include CYP’s reflections of self-identified learnings relating to pro-social behaviour such as ‘respecting’ and ‘helping’ others. Completed adult exit surveys indicated 100% felt they were leaving Vincentian House with a future plan and 97% felt safe whilst residing at the service.

Reference statement:

Jane Woolford

Save the Children is privileged to work in Vincentian House in a collaboration between the Vinnies KEEP program and Save’s Play 2 Learn playgroups program. Resident families attend a session in Vincentian House at the same time each week where they can participate in quality activities focused around key early childhood development milestones. This is a unique setting for the Play 2 Learn program and came about because of the openness of both KEEP and Vincentian House staff to explore and welcome a new approach to child-focussed activities. Vincentian House are genuine in their desire to increase the focus on the needs of each child despite the multiple issues affecting each of the families in their care. The staff have identified goals for parents and children and take the opportunity to incorporate these into the Play2 Learn program. They are always respectful of families and children in communicating issues of significance for each child prior to each session. This willingness by the Vincentian House team to collaborate in this way proves crucial for the Play 2 Learn team to best adapt their approach for each session. The collaboration therefore, allows for the two agencies to bring their respective specialised skills to the fore for the benefit of the family so that both the crisis issues and the development needs of each individual child are met. Save the Children is thrilled with the success of this program in a short time. This new approach has enabled us to take the learnings from this collaboration and build upon this model. In 2018 we are pleased to commence a new program across 40 family refuges in NSW strengthening the focus and capacity of staff in early childhood development.