Tackling homelessness in St Kilda

6 August 2018
Group photo of our former SKIOT team

Last year during Homelessness Week we highlighted that between February and June 2017, Sacred Heart Mission had 100 people sleeping under our veranda in St Kilda – an average between seven and 20 people each night, compared to two or three people the year prior.

A year on Sacred Heart Mission (SHM) has a new program tackling homelessness by connecting people sleeping rough with housing and support services and has already housed 17 people, and helped another person find work and accommodation, since December 2017.

CEO Cathy Humphrey says this skilled assertive outreach and engagement team, known as the St Kilda Intensive Outreach Team (SKIOT), includes two new outreach workers who, with existing staff, help people sleeping rough at SHM connect to safe, affordable and long-term housing.

“What began as a problem at our front door, turned into us advocating for a solution that involved rallying services together including local and state government,” Cathy says.

“This effort ended up with us receiving funds and resources to provide an enhanced service initiative, created and led by SHM in partnership with Launch Housing, that has proven to work.”

“SKIOT, which includes one Launch worker based at SHM, provides people with 12 months of support, which is an extra nine months of support per client.”

Made possible thanks to a $368,000 State Government grant, SKIOT is a proven example of how services can come together to assist this highly complex, highly vulnerable group of men and women.

As part of the SKIOT service model, SHM successfully re-negotiated two existing historic three-month short term case management roles to work longer and more intensively with people.

Operations Manager Anna Paris says, “We know when our services are designed to work with fewer people and for longer, this leads to real and longer lasting housing and wellbeing outcomes for people.”

“It breaks the cycle of rough sleeping. It is wonderful to hear from SKIOT workers how such a simple change has such a huge impact for people who come to our open access services in St Kilda.”

“In addition to having extra resources this project epitomises what Sacred Heart Mission is all about – working together, communicating, and developing evidence,” Cathy says.

To mark Homelessness Week 2018, 6–12 August, Sacred Heart Mission has again invited local council and politicians to visit our Dining Hall to see first-hand the work we are doing to both prevent and respond to homelessness in St Kilda.

Visiting our service during Homelessness Week will provide them the opportunity to meet workers at the frontline, as well as learn about how our programs and practices are ending homelessness.

Sacred Heart Mission has led this comprehensive response, which includes head-leasing and brokerage, in collaboration with Launch Housing and the City of Port Phillip. The team works across our open access services in St Kilda, Sacred Heart Central and the Women’s House, across the broader St Kilda locality, and follows through with support wherever people are housed, to ensure their housing is sustained.

The program is modelled on successful SHM programs, such as the Journey To Social Inclusion, the Women’s High and Complex Needs Housing Program, which includes elements of assertive engagement, outreach, service coordination, rapid housing, sustaining tenancies, and services partnerships. SKIOT is also aligned with other Melbourne CBD rough sleeper initiatives, which have together supported more than 200 people into housing.

SKIOT is part of Victoria’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan that aims to break the cycle of long-term homelessness.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Housing, Martin Foley

“Assertive outreach is one of our most valuable tools in the fight against homelessness and it’s fantastic to see Sacred Heart Mission and Launch Housing combining it with a ‘housing first’ approach to make a huge difference in my own neighbourhood of St Kilda.

“This program is not just providing a temporary roof over the heads of rough sleepers, but working directly with each person for a whole year, to provide them with the skills and support they need to find long term housing. It’s a great example of how we’re working together to break the cycle of homelessness in St Kilda.”



Holly Cooper
Communication and Advocacy Manager
Phone: 0424 137 763