A partnership between Homelessness NSW,
Domestic Violence NSW and Yfoundations

Kara Holmes from B Miles Women's Foundation

Leading Practitioner Award Nominee

Kara Holmes from B Miles Women's Foundation

Please give your reasons for nominating this person.

This nomination is for practitioner, Kara Holmes, a Clinical Psychologist who specialises in providing psychological treatment to women involved in the Specialist Homelessness Sector.
Homelessness, housing instability and mental health problems tend to share much common ground.  While two thirds of Australians living with a mental illness do not receive treatment, this proportion is much higher for those experiencing homelessness and housing instability. Psychological therapy can be difficult to access due to a combination of factors including financial hardship, transiency, unstable circumstances, a confusing mental health system, the limited scope of public health services, or reluctance to access services to due negative experiences in the past. To address this disadvantage for women, Kara works in collaboration with B Miles Women’s Foundation to remove barriers to therapy for women in recovery from experiences of homelessness, trauma and instability. Kara provides individual therapy, facilitates a Wellbeing Group, and designs other group programs when specific community needs are identified and funding permits. These services are available to women who are in contact with SHS and other housing and support agencies at no cost to the client. Since commencing the program in July 2015, 150 women have been supported.
The weekly Wellbeing Group is designed for women involved with SHS and social and community housing providers. Topics are focused on developing skills and strategies to improve mental health and wellbeing. For many participants, the groups have been a valuable source of support and learning at a time when living arrangements are challenging and future housing is uncertain (e.g. while residing in crisis accommodation, while waiting for property allocation, or when living independently and experiencing social isolation or difficulty coping).

Individual Therapy
Many women involved with the SHS sector are in recovery from traumatic experiences. While Medicare’s Better Access Scheme enables Australians with mental health disorders to receive up to ten psychology consultations per year, a ten session plan is generally insufficient to address the complex issues that tend to accompany trauma and homelessness. For many women, this program has enabled continuity of care and treatment throughout their transitions from homelessness to housing.

What outcomes were delivered as a result of this person?

Yes. The work is regularly evaluated and client feedback has always been very positive
2017 Evaluation
Has this program helped you to make positive changes in your life? 100% Yes
Has this program enhanced your wellbeing? 100% Yes
Has this program assisted you to develop skills and strategies to improve your mental health? 100% Yes

I felt as though the psychologist understood my point of view 90%
The psychologist showed warmth towards me 100%
The psychologist fostered a safe and trusting environment 100%
The psychologist was able to understand my problems and concerns 100%
Overall, I am satisfied with the psychological service I received 100%

Wellbeing Group Feedback
“The groups have helped me to feel safe and supported and have provided connection with others”
“I felt respected, trustworthy, supported and included in the group”
“The groups have been positive and uplifting. The education and empathy has helped me to understand myself better”
“Participating in this support has benefited me at times of possible relapse”
“The groups have helped me to bring about transformation and positive change in my life”

Feedback from participants about their individual psychological treatment;
“Speaking with the psychologist has been pivotal in helping me deal with the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Our weekly sessions have restored my confidence, helped me to analyse emotions and provided with me with the support to get back on my feet. This support has been life changing and I am so thankful for it. Having lost my job and spiralling into depression, I was financially not that great and emotionally ill-equipped to deal with it. The psychologist has helped me to reach the other side”
“Meeting with the psychologist on a weekly basis gave me the support and care that I urgently needed as I was in a very distressed and anxious condition, unable to function. I was facing homelessness and experiencing panic. My sessions with the psychologist helped me to find a dwelling place and now I can communicate better with the people who live around me”.

Reference statement:

Karen Verguizas, Program Manager, Samaritan Women and Children Services

We would like to add support to a nomination for Kara Holmes Clinical psychological services (individual and group) for the leading practitioner award in the SHS Good Practice Awards. 

Kara has delivered this service to our clients for a number of years now. Our service is a 50 person accommodation refuge in the Inner City and clients are accommodated with us here on average for 45 days. The clients in our service are women and thier accompanying children and their issues are inclusive of domestic and family violence, drug, gambling and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, various immigration reasons and trafficked clients - with the common thread being experiencing or at risk of homelessness. 

Presenting clients with a combination of mental health issues (ranging from minor to severe) in addition to experiencing homelessness means that having a practitioner who has worked in the sector for many years offers them someone with capacity to understand the negative experiences that they go through in their current accomodation, enables them to access the free service without causing financial hardship and eventually to learn that they are competent and capable members of society. 

We have always had trouble finding services where women felt safe and able to connect and share their experiences with other women in similar situations, in a place that is not utilized by males or people displaying complex behaviours that leave the clients feeling scared and traumatized on top of what they were already feeling. This niche service of individual and wellbeing groups currently has approxiamately48% of our clients attending and 90% referred which shows how amazing a service it is working out to be for our clients, it is easy to access and has a great success rate.