Leading Practitioner Award Nominee
Sarah Walker from OTCP (On Track)
Please give your reasons for nominating this person.
Sarah Walker is the On Track (OTCP) Specialist Homelessness Services Manager
Sarah maintains that awards are not the motivation for the work she does, rather it’s the reward of seeing clients and customers access safe and stable housing, re-engage with their education, learn new skills or resume a career, as well as find the support and guidance to make life-changing choices.
It is with compassion and a clear focus on positive and real outcomes, that Sarah leads and effectively manages the OTCP services and the six joint working agreements that comprise the Northern NSW SHS Alliance; a cohort of diverse services, experience, and local grass roots knowledge including neighbourhood centres, Aboriginal Land Councils and domestic violence specialist services
Across Northern NSW in 2016/2017 the Alliance delivered three core and successful SHS programs and collectively provided quality services to 4,500 individuals and families at risk or experiencing homelessness.
Sarah is an innovator in the specialist homelessness sector with a passion for early intervention and prevention, evidenced by the positive implementation of pilot programs across the platforms of education, employment and crisis housing.
The education test programs were accessed by over 30 vulnerable people and contributed to the participants’ upskilling to secure further education and employment in their chosen field.
Sarah has worked tirelessly to encourage landlords and property owners to give young renters ‘a go’ by strengthening community partnerships with vital government agencies, non-government service providers as well as the corporate sector and primarily the property industry as a key driver of real estate engagement events.
Now in its seventh year, the real estate engagement program has raised awareness of the On Track organisation and other homelessness and government services within the local community to elicit positive housing responses from the real estate sector, resulting most importantly in accommodation solutions for numerous people experiencing homelessness.
As well as the critical programs of the Aboriginal Women's Domestic and Family Violence Service, Women's Domestic and Family Violence Service and Aboriginal Homelessness and Prevention Service, Sarah was instrumental in successfully implementing the Domestic Violence Response Enhancement (DVRE) initiative.
The real-time response program was designed to provide women and children, who suffered crisis domestic and family violence outside of regular working hours or on weekends, a safe sanctuary, someone safe to talk to and ensured basic needs like food and health requirements were met.
This new service received over 550 after-hours calls in its first year, 2016/2017.
What outcomes were delivered as a result of this person?
According to Sarah Walker evaluating the success of a program in this sector is a double-edged sword as an increase means more people are being supported, yet also shows more are in need.
The number of people at risk or experiencing homelessness supported by the Alliance, exceeded funded numbers by 56% supporting over 4,000 Aboriginal people and women and children experiencing domestic violence.
Sarah attributes these larger numbers to both more people in need with the housing supply crisis and availability of affordable housing in Northern NSW.
The Alliance has increased access to specialised and culturally safe services with 17 walk-in offices and outreach spaces for instant assistance.
The Domestic Violence Response Enhancement (DVRE) initiative, set up to support women and children leaving domestic and family violence, exceeded expectations addressing 550 call-ins in its first initial set-up year.
Demonstrating the need for crisis responses and the effectiveness of the new program in the district the Northern NSW DVRE program provided:
• 162 women / families with crisis accommodation
• 94 women after hours face-to-face support
• 51 women with crisis material aid
• 59 women transport to safety
Findings on the success of the real estate engagement program are based on longevity (7 years) and feedback from real estate agents now reporting higher awareness of OTCP’s and other government and non- government programs and services.
Anecdotally the work Sarah and her team are doing are changing lives and the receipt of a simple card saying, “thank you” is feedback that is highly valued.
Sarah Walker is the On Track (OTCP) Specialist Homelessness Services Manager. I have worked with Sarah for five years and we have both been in several different roles over that time. Sarah is an asset to the Homelessness Sector and she leads the OTCP consortium of six services that make up the SHS Alliance. She manages staff and programs with compassion and hard work. She focuses on outcomes, change and she uses a trauma informed framework.
She is always willing to collaborate and we have been on many interagencies and working groups. Her staff see her as an innovator in the specialist homelessness sector with a passion for early intervention and prevention, evidenced by the positive implementation of pilot programs across the platforms of education, employment and crisis housing.
A particularly successful partnership is the Real Estate Training aimed to encourage agents and property owners to gain knowledge and become willing to rent to a diverse range of tenants and to be able to see past the ‘problem’ and see the person.
I am pleased that Sarah’s organisation has put her name forward for this award.