A partnership between Homelessness NSW,
Domestic Violence NSW and Yfoundations

Partnership - Together Ending Homeless Newcastle

Excellence in Ending Homelessness - Diverse Groups Nominee

Partnership - Together Ending Homeless Newcastle between Matthew Talbot Homeless Service, FACS, Nova for Women & Children, Mercy Foundation, Warlga Ngurra, Family Action Centre, Jenny's Place, Wandiyali, Samaritans, Hunter Primary Care, Micah Projects, Newcastle Council, Compass Housing, Pacific Link Housing, Wesley Mission, Sanatorium Health Foods, Good Brothers, Suspension Café and Rapid Relief Team Newcastle

Please give your reasons for nominating this partnership.

In recent years, Newcastle’s local media and the business community were actively raising concerns about the perceived increase in rough sleepers, regularly presenting the situation in a negative light.

The local sector came together to look at how to respond to the situation and identify the actual numbers and needs of this community. In addition, it was recognised that it was vital for the sector staff to develop skills to enable a better understanding of assertive outreach practice.

A community sector partnership was created consisting of 18 organisations working across the Newcastle. The overarching aim of this partnership initiative was for the local sector to come together with the goal of ‘Together Ending Homeless’. The group agreed on the following key priorities

• To survey and establish an accurate, ongoing register of the rough sleeping population in the Newcastle LGA and gain an understanding of their circumstances, vulnerabilities and support needs.

• Provide a benchmark using a reliable evidence tool for future projects.

• To identify gaps within the Newcastle service provision towards establishment of an improved service model in relation to housing priorities.

• To coordinate wrap around supports through case planning and case management meetings.

• To provide training in improved understanding and engagement with rough sleepers

• To bring together partners across the region working in homelessness in order to provide support and pathways to housing for the rough sleeping population in Newcastle

The Matthew Talbot Homeless Service took on a leadership role in coordinating the initiative with a dedicated ‘Project Coordinator’, a Steering Committee was formed to develop and endorse the priorities and actions. After reviewing a number of tools, it was decided to utilise the Vulnerability Index – Service Prioritisation Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT). The Mercy Foundation and Micah (Brisbane) were approached and agreed to support the Committee to achieve our aims.

What outcomes were delivered as a result of this partnership?

The Matthew Talbot Homeless Service coordinated the Registry Week initiative and became the headquarters and host for the sector training program. Fifty six (56) people attended the Sector Development training on Assertive Outreach.

The Committee developed a “Together Ending Homeless’ logo and media campaign
Raised awareness of homelessness
- 10 Radio interviews were done by 1233 ABC, 2HD, 2NURFM, Hunter Headline and KOFM
- 6 Online articles at Newcastle Herald online, Newcastle Star Online Newcastle City Council Online and Newcastle Weekly
- 8 Print articles in the Newcastle Herald, Newcastle Star and Newcastle Weekly
- 2 TV news presentations on NBN Newcastle

51 people volunteered to participate over three mornings (4am-8am). Everyone was provided with training, a branded hoodies, safety vests and mobile phones support during the street count.

46 x Surveyors made up of, 8 Community Volunteers, 8 staff from Government Departments and 31 from Specialist Homelessness Services

There were 53 individuals and families were identified over the three day sleeping rough survey across the Newcastle LGA.  Forty one (41) people agreed to complete the survey including 3 families.

A collaborative case management approach ensured that twenty six (26) or 56% of rough sleepers identified through the VI-SPDAT tool were housed within 3 months of the initiative with high priority people housed immediately where possible.

Reference statement:

Sandra Feltham

The Together Ending Homeless community sector partnership is now well established and strongly supported by this community sector. 

The sector has been increasingly aware that no one organisation can address the challenges across the homelessness sector by themselves. 

The best outcomes have been supported by effective partnerships based on clear, honest communication styles and a collaborative framework that seeks to ensure a housing first outcome for rough sleepers or people at risk of homelessness in Newcastle.  This collective impact approach has ensured that the Together Ending Homeless partnership is not just frontline SHS sector organisation

There have been a number of examples over the past 12 months and these are briefly outlined below.

The Registry Week initiative was underpinned by a collaborative case management approach that ensured that 56% of the rough sleepers identified through the VI-SPDAT tool were housed within 3 months of the initiative, with high priority people housed immediately where possible.  The VI-SPDAT tool continues to be used and supports an integrated case management approach across the partnership and timely referrals as required.

A significant vacant heritage building in the Newcastle City Centre required planned maintenance and was a hotspot for rough sleepers.  Key stakeholders within the collaborative partnership worked with the land owner and project managers to ensure that rough sleepers were fully informed of the plans to secure the site and were all offered support to access accommodation before commencement of works.

The Newcastle LGA has over 70 boarding houses.  In late 2017, due to significant and ongoing non-compliance with fire safety requirements, a large boarding house was issued an emergency order to close within 48 hours.  Some of these residents had lived on site for decades.  Once again, the collaborative approach ensured that in a difficult and challenging situation, the appropriate support partner was available on site and appropriate referrals were made , that no resident was made homeless and in some cases, their level of accommodation was improved and with better long term security.