Get Real: Talking mental health & disability

The Homelessness Crisis in Melbourne's South East: ermha365 Pathways team

August 16, 2023 The team at ermha365 Season 4 Episode 86
Get Real: Talking mental health & disability
The Homelessness Crisis in Melbourne's South East: ermha365 Pathways team
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This is an episode recorded during Homelessness Week 2023, live from Harmony Square Dandenong in Melbourne's south east at an event on 8 August co-hosted by Wayss and City of Greater Dandenong.

We speak with ermha365's Rosie Taylor, Practice Leader for Pathways and Dannie O'Leary, Mental Health Support Facilitator, Pathways.

Rosie and Dannie work with people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne's south east who are referred to Pathways from Monash Health and Councils and assist clients with support.

For more information on ermha365's Pathways program: https://www.ermha.org/community-connect/

If you have been affected by anything discussed in this episode you can contact:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
13 YARN on 13 92 76 (24/7 crisis support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples)

CREDITS
Produced, hosted and edited by Emily Webb, ermha365 Advocacy and External Communications Advisor with Karenza Louis-Smith, CEO ermha365.
Follow ermha365 on social media:
FACEBOOK - @ermhaorg
TWITTER - @ermha365
INSTAGRAM - @ermha365

ermha365 acknowledges that our work in the community takes place on the Traditional Lands of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and therefore respectfully recognise their Elders, past and present, and the ongoing Custodianship of the Land and Water by all Members of these Communities.

We recognise people with lived experience who contribute to GET REAL podcast, and those who love, support and care for them. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution so that we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.


ermha365 team:

Get Real is recorded on the unseeded lands of the and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge and pay our respects to their elders, past and present. We also acknowledge that the first peoples of Australia are the first storytellers, the first artists and the first creators of culture, and we celebrate their enduring connections to country, knowledge and stories.

ermha365 team:

Welcome to Get Real Talking Mental Health and Disability brought to you by the team at ermha 365.

Rosie :

Join our hosts, Emily Webb and Karenza Louis Smith, as we have frank and fearless conversations with special guests about all things mental health and complexity.

ermha365 team:

We recognise people with lived experience of mental health and disability, as well as their families and carers. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution to this podcast so we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.

ermha365 team:

Melbourne's housing crisis is worsening as construction all but stops in key suburbs across the city. A lack of building approvals means there won't be enough homes for our growing population.

ermha365 team:

Almost 110,000 Victorian households are suffering rental stress.

Rosie :

Rental stress is when someone is spending more than 30% of their income on housing.

ermha365 team:

We've probably got half the amount of properties online we normally would at this time of the year, but twice as many people looking it's pushing some people out of the private rental market.

Emily Webb:

So, rosie, we're sitting in beautiful Harmony Square in Dandenong and we're at an event for homelessness week and EIRNA 365 has a presence here, but first of all, can you tell me what you do at EIRNA? So I'm Rosie.

Rosie :

Taylor, I'm the practice leader of the EIRNA Pathways Programme, which is four programs which work with people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or living in low cost accommodations such as SRS.

Emily Webb:

And what's an SRS?

Rosie :

for people who don't know, it's a supported residential service and we have nine of those across Casey and Cadenya and they're privately owned businesses I guess you could think of it like a rooming house slash nursing home that they provide the support and care of anywhere from 20 to 40 individuals and our program goes in and supports those residents to link to community and provide activities Any of their health needs that aren't being met.

Emily Webb:

So we know that the issue of housing is a problem. It's a massive problem, but you've been working in this space for a long time, so you know the challenges. Tell me about what you're seeing at the moment, and is what we're seeing in the news accurate about the crisis in housing?

Rosie :

Definitely we're seeing people who are experiencing homelessness for the first time. They may have lost their job, their relationship broke down and they're not able to afford the private rent like $500 a week and even on the disability support pension you cannot, generally speaking, afford that private rental anymore and some people who are experiencing mental health issues can't live with others in shared accommodation. So we're finding people are living in their cars. They feel safer in their cars in some instances rather than having to pay $2,500 a week in a shared comm situation and just don't feel safe there. A lot of people we're also seeing have pets and we're seeing a lot of couples for the first time a lot of big increase in couples sleeping.

Emily Webb:

And some of these people as well, people who are employed and are experiencing homelessness.

Rosie :

So what we've found is we generally don't work with people because you've got to be on a centering benefit for us, but the ones that we're hearing about that even don't come to us for support. They just have nowhere else to turn and they're having to go to our housing entry point, which is Waze, to try and get support for rent in advance or bond or something to help them to get into private rental.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, and this event today is co-hosted by Waze and the City of Greater Dandenong, and Waze is the housing entry point in the South East door, because I know at different places, different suburbs have those entry points. So what does Waze do?

Rosie :

So Waze is the housing entry point and they have a variety of programs. They have youth crisis, youth support, family violence programs, working with families, anyone who's experiencing homelessness. So they do have some transitional housing properties or some rooming houses, but because we've been inundated with so many people experiencing homelessness for the first time, it really is quite difficult to find the appropriate housing for people.

Emily Webb:

And so you know this homelessness week happens every year and you know it's raising awareness, trying to tell people about it. Do you think more people are attuned to the fact that this exists? Because I know when you're comfortable, when you've got your own place, you're like, yeah, that's terrible, but you know what can I do, or what you know what's the answer. What do you think are some of the things that really need to be addressed at the moment?

Rosie :

I belong to a few networks the Southern Homelessness Services Network. We're advocating currently with government. We had the houses on the steps of parliament, government. Everything that all the work that we do in our networks is advocacy, making it known the difficulty in housing that people are experiencing.

Emily Webb:

Is it a case of you know more housing available that are reasonable rents, more private housing, more social and affordable housing. Like if you could wave the magic wand, what would you do?

Rosie :

It would definitely be more affordable social housing. But with that comes support to look at perhaps some of those reasons as to why people are needing that. For some people it might be a supportive accommodation. So if I can get support to address the needs of the reasons why I'm homeless maybe it's I've lost my job or I'm experiencing mental health issues but if I have the support in the community to address those issues, then I might be able to look towards if there's ever such a thing again. Affordable private rental.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, god, yeah. Who knows about that? And the thing is it is these things don't exist in isolation, do that? It's not a case of here's a house, off you go, because it's all interlinked, isn't it? How are all these issues interlinked? I mean housing, mental health, poverty, you know, discrimination.

Rosie :

I guess it's we can put in the people who are coming over, from migrating over to Australia as well. We've got the cultural differences. It's just everything is interlinked. You experience mental health episode. You lose your housing because of that. You might be experiencing substance use issues. Your family no longer wants you living with them, so that could be either youth or you may choose not to live with your family anymore because of their issues. So it's, I really don't have an answer, one answer, but we've got to look at the whole thing and try and get in early. I think would be that probably the number one focus for me would be let's start at 13, 14, talking about those issues and understanding what homelessness is. There's lots of families couchsurfing, living with their families, but because they can't afford to their own place.

Emily Webb:

How important is, from what you know of your career and Emma's really big on this what's so important about having a place in the community and living the life you want and you're able to.

Rosie :

It's probably the number one thing to feel connected, to feel that you belong, to feel that you have to feel safe is probably the number one thing as well that you've got some friends or networks or something that you feel connected to the community with.

Emily Webb:

And you know you've been working in the is it fair to say mental health social services space for a long time 14 years and have you been at Emma that whole time?

Rosie :

Yes, yes, I have. I actually started off at Emma, walked in the door and I've never left because I have, I guess, the shared vision. We want to help people with their mental health. We want to help people to find a safe, secure housing.

Emily Webb:

You're not able to provide housing. Emma doesn't provide housing for homelessness, but there are other places that we can try, but it's very hard. So what support does pathways provide when you become aware of someone who's experiencing homelessness? And also, how do you become aware? Great question.

Rosie :

So we get a lot of our referrals directly from the councils and the council get those from community members who are concerned about someone, which I think has been a bit of a shift over the last three years. A lot of them want to help them and so we get the referrals directly from councils. From services Vic Poll, we do a lot of networking so that we're promoting our services. So if we get a report of a rough sleeper, we will go out very small team of two workers and go out there, introduce ourselves, see what's going on for them. We do make it quite clear that we don't have housing but, you know, have a chat to that person, what's led them to this situation and if we can provide services, supports, linkages. Some people have been disconnected from centre link and don't know how to get reconnected to their payment. So we work with the community engagement officer and get their payment starting again and then we can start working with them.

Emily Webb:

Once they start getting some income, they feel that they can perhaps, even if we don't have that housing, start working on some of the other issues that have led to them being homeless and I know that just from hearing some of the situations you've dealt with I mean, you've your intervention, the team's intervention has actually been quite life-saving and I just wondered if you could tell me some of these situations.

Rosie :

I remember hearing about someone who was sleeping rough in a tent in the outdoors and they actually had a very serious health condition yeah, and that's very common that most of the people we work with have significant health issues or unmet health needs, and we linked them to GPs. We provide transport to attend those appointments and, in particular, this woman she was a couple, they were living in a tent and she wasn't able to get to appointments. We nominated them for a transitional property and once they were located to services in Dandenong, we were able to get her to a CIGP and then, you know, linking with Monash Health Diabetes services as well, and so she was able to, because of our early intervention, have her foot saved.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, because it was like gangrenous.

Rosie :

Yes, yes, definitely, and she'd been walking around on the wet floor of her tent, which wasn't helpful.

Emily Webb:

It's the unseen things that are done in the community. What's your message to the politicians of Australia federal and state government?

Rosie :

We definitely need more short-term social housing so that we can accommodate people, to start working with them. Address the issues that have led to them being homeless and then hopefully they can get back into the community. Start working again. Address their health needs so that they feel good about themselves as well For people who look.

Emily Webb:

they may have their own accommodation, but you know they want to help in some way. What can people do in the everyday community? Just help fix this or advocate.

Rosie :

Definitely speak to your MP. That would be a starting point. I guess We've actually had quite a bit on Facebook, social media. There's a lot of concerned community members who actually want to help people and some of our success stories have been where someone was sleeping rough at Cranburn shopping centre and the community around them got involved and were able to house this person and their dog. We were involved, but on a very small scale. The community stepped in and actually assisted this person into housing.

Emily Webb:

Well, thank you, rosie, and thanks for the work you do, because I know that you're so dedicated and it's great.

Rosie :

Thank you.

Dannie:

My name is Danny O'Leary. I am the support facilitator of the mental health program in.

Emily Webb:

Pathways. I know that Pathways does a lot of outreach with people, especially who are experiencing homelessness and other challenges. So who are the people you work with, danny? Okay?

Dannie:

in my program I get referrals from the mental health wards at Casey and Dan in on hospitals and then I usually work with people short term three to six months who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to link them in with services in the community. So there could be they're having issues with Centrelink housing, linking with the community group, drug and alcohol support, peer support, other mental health services or just pretty much anything. Have a chat with them about their goals and see how we can assist them.

Emily Webb:

And I imagine that issues with secure housing and safe housing is an issue we know, but particularly for people who have mental health and other things is that? Can you tell me a bit about what the experience is on the ground, that you are seeing, so people listening can understand?

Dannie:

Experiences I think at the moment is prior to COVID. A lot of times I would get a referral from the hospital. I'd sit down with the client to an assessment. We would look at the type of housing they were hoping to be able to be housed in if that was achievable, discuss the options and then make a plan on how they could achieve that. So that could be in regard of me sitting down with them, helping them apply for private rentals or if maybe their income didn't support that is, sharing a share house or could be rooming houses, if they had a bit more needs and they were on disability pension, they could go to a supported residential service.

Dannie:

What I feel sort of is happening at the moment is that once I get the referral from the mental health ward and we assess, the housing is so difficult to find with the lack of housing, the price, the types of housing available for many people, that it's not productive time for me to sit down and say, okay, let's apply for these housings.

Dannie:

Now we pretty much go straight to ways. I assist them to go to ways and then we still look at options and I still look at sort of assisting them to apply for private rentals and things bottom very difficult. I had a client the other day who went to a rental inspection and there were 70 people there and they, if they're on low income, so you've got mental health issues, drug and alcohol and you know if they haven't got the greatest housing history then you know they're at a real disadvantage because with the number of people applying for properties people have sort of got the pick of the people they would like and a lot of the times the clients we work with you know are sort of lower down the list.

Emily Webb:

So yeah, no, that's so well explained. So really it is as bad as what we are hearing in the news. I mean, you're seeing it on the front line.

Dannie:

Yes, and I just have to say my, I love my role. So, one of the great role I love helping people you have so many great outcomes of. Just you know, just for now, about you know helping someone with central who's not getting rent assistance. And you know, because someone did impress a right button or they didn't tick a right box, and just assist him to send a link and explain and be oh yep, here you go. So that's so rewarding and you're just linking them with other services.

Emily Webb:

We ring the housing services and no one's got any housing and if you could wave I asked Rosie this if you could wave a magic wand, what do you think needs to happen? What would you say to politicians and people who can influence these decisions in making more accommodation, because the fact is there needs to be more houses and accessible housing? What would you if you had the power? What would you do?

Dannie:

They keep advertising the big build and I think you know, would like to know who decides where this housing is being built, because it seems like there's a lot in other places. Yeah, so I think we just need more housing, different types of housing that is suitable to people. Maybe the government needs to actually chat with people and, just, you know, work out what your housing is actually going to, to suit people, to sustain the housing, and I think sometimes if you put the monies in to prepare something and help with mental health and housing, then it actually pays off in the long run. Maybe prevention is better than trying to assist all the people when they're mental health and everything is deteriorated so much because of the housing stress and all the service stress.

Emily Webb:

You've explained a lot of barriers for people, but also housing. Stress, then, can increase people's mental health problems, can't they?

Dannie:

Yeah, definitely I'm finding at the moment with a lot of my clients if they have mental health sort of issues and challenges, but they're managed okay. But sometimes the stress of housing is sort of that straw, that sort of broke in the camel's back they jump to and you know, then they have ended up in the mental health ward where they might never not have been there before. They've, you know, managed quite well, and then you know they're referred on to me for, yeah, for example, I've had a client recently who got a notice to vacate and just with everything else going on, yeah, that was pretty much she didn't know what to do and, you know, not being behind in a rent, anything, no issue, and it wasn't for any. You know there was no untoward reason by the the owner either. It was just she ended up in the mental health ward due to that stress on top of other stresses and then got behind in a rent and then that, you know, snowballed and it's pretty stressful out there.

Emily Webb:

Thoughts on what housing should be. I mean, I think everyone should have a house and access to housing, and it's not, so you can earn heaps of money. I don't know.

Dannie:

Yes, I think that's a tricky one, because the housing is different to different people and a home is different. You know there is people that like to travel around in their caravans and yep. So, yeah, I think it'd be great if there's just more resources out there and more government assistance, or maybe lots of different housing to suit different people. But and it's on the house you guys haven't even thought of.

ermha365 team:

You've been listening to Get Real talking mental health and disability, brought to you by the team at Irma 365. Get Real is produced and presented by Emily Webb, with Karenza Louis Smith and special guests. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

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