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”The rate of homelessness is growing in our region and across Australia. In NSW, it has risen by 20 per cent since 2006. It is an issue that affects us all and there are countless stories of people who find themselves homeless who never in their wildest dreams thought that they would be. People experiencing homelessness are not always rough sleeping on the streets. Homelessness includes people living in overcrowded dwellings, supported accommodation, boarding houses, tents and couch surfing.
There are many in our region assisting people experiencing homelessness; non-government organisations, church groups, academics, Government agencies and departments. We need to do more than service homelessness, we need to end it."
Professor Dave Adamson OBE
Research and Development Manager, Compass Housing Services
Hunter Homeless Connect Day
Compass Housing has a strong commitment to supporting the homelessness sector and for the past seven years, we have provided a coordinator for the annual Hunter Homeless Connect Day event which is held each year in Newcastle by the Hunter Homeless Connect Inc charity. The day links people experiencing homelessness, doing it tough and at risk of homelessness to vital services such as accommodation and housing providers, health and wellbeing, legal and financial assistance, employment and study. It’s a community coalition of government and non-government services and volunteers with in-kind and financial support from organisations, community partners and individuals across the Hunter.
My Connections Home
Compass also partnered with Hunter Homeless Connect Inc in the publication of a book, My Connections Home – Journeys through homelessness in 2017. The book explores the reality of homelessness and includes nine emotion charged profiles of formerly homeless Hunter residents, told in their own words. Each story details the circumstances that led their narrators into their homelessness, the endless struggles of living without a home, and most importantly the resilience and courage that allowed them to come out the other side. The book was launched by His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales at Hunter TAFE, Hamilton Campus on Wednesday 22nd March 2017. All proceeds from sale of the book go to Hunter Homeless Connect Inc.
Community Connections Directory
As COVID-19 impacted the world in March 2020, plans for the annual event were postponed. It was decided that the Community Connections Directory, a resource traditionally provided to guests attending the event, would be modified to include information on changes to services impacted by the social distancing restrictions. This project was facilitated by HHCD Coordinator and financial support was provided by Orica and the City of Newcastle so that the directory could be professionally printed and distributed throughout the wider community, assisting those who suddenly found themselves in need of support.
In March 2017, Compass hosted an event at City Hall in Newcastle; Ending Homelessness: The Big Ideas, where members of the community came together to hear a group of speakers present on various existing concepts in ending homelessness.
At the conclusion of the event, there was an overwhelming response in support of a Common Ground facility. A community collaborative, named the Big Ideas Homelessness Network was formed shortly after this forum.
Since the inception of this collaborative, many informal suggestions have been brought to the Network and have been considered, including the use of redundant buses and railway carriages, the development of new era boarding houses, assistance for people to live safely in their vehicles, provision of street-based lockers for possessions and encouraging private landlords as a social mission, to rent to people experiencing homelessness. Most of these were rejected for their failure to comply with a Housing First approach, and in the majority of examples, the Network has felt that they potentially maintain people in a status that would be defined as homeless by the ABS.
Consequently, after a two-year period of formal research, informal conversations and site visits to existing Common Ground facilities in both Brisbane and Adelaide, this remained the stand-out solution. The concept was presented to the Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils in July 2019 and after much discussion, the group provided their official ‘in principle support’ statement in March 2020. A formal document, Common Ground – A Regional Strategy, together with the statement of support by the Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils was then submitted to the Minister for Families, Communities and Disabilities, the Hon Gareth Ward MP on 3rd March 2020.
In addition to moving the Common Ground concept forward, the Network has achieved various other initiatives over the past few years, including the successful implementation of a homelessness community Pledge (with 6 local councils and 14 organisations signing up as founding signatories), the distribution of a homeless service resource card and the pro-bono development of a "Digital Vault" database, thanks to Pegasus which is currently in its testing phase with two local SHS providers.